MY DECISION to buy a digital copy of Monster Earth was made upon reading just the opening line of the book’s description on Amazon: Welcome to a world where the Cold War was fought not with the threat of nuclear destruction, but with Giant Monsters!
The actual sentence ended with a period. I’ve added the exclamation point to reflect my excitement.
I love the growing trend of alternate histories in fiction, and I love giant monsters. Put them together and you’ve got one heck of an intriguing premise, especially if you’re canny enough to go all-in and flesh out the premise with enough historical detail to make it feel real.
Editors Jim Beard and James Palmer have done just that with Monster Earth. In the opening story, an elderly former newsreel cameraman recalls the Japanese invasion of China in July of 1937, specifically, the day human warfare changed forever as Japan unleashed a giant, tentacled sea monster on the citizens of Peking. If you know your history you know that Japan really did battle China’s National Revolutionary Army in July of ’37, in the vicinity of Peking, in what’s known as the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, which kicked-off the second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).
And that’s exactly how it happens here, only with a monster leading the charge.
China strikes back a month later with a giant Foo Dog during Japan’s massive invasion of Shanghai—another actual battle adapted here for Monster Earth—and it’s right around this point in the story that you realize you are in very good hands with these writers. Beard and Palmer have assembled a team of authors and tasked them each with re-writing a slice of history to include all-new and original beasties that have just one thing in common: They are all gigantic.
From China we traverse the century with stops in Pearl Harbor, Los Angeles, Boston, Alcatraz Island, Vietnam, and the Arctic Ocean, visiting familiar territory in some very unfamiliar ways. Nations gather monsters in this fictional world the way nations gather weapons of mass destruction in ours. It’s the arms race of the 20th Century as depicted in metaphor, with everything from a 747-sized bird to a hairy behemoth nicknamed “Johnson” taking the place of nukes. And at every step, as humanity comes to depend more and more on its monsters for a defensive edge, you get the sense that it’s all going to somehow get away from us and blow up in our faces. That eventuality is strongly hinted at in the opening story.
If you’re wondering just how anybody could possibly capture such monsters, much less get them under control, no worries. It’s all explained. And the funny thing is, it seems feasible.
In case I haven’t made the point clearly enough, Monster Earth is a really fun, pulpy read. The kaiju battles are spectacular, and quite violent. The book left me wanting more, so I was quite happy to learn that there is a follow-up collection of stories entitled Betrayal on Monster Earth. I’ll be telling you about that one soon.