• The Good: Lighthearted, fun, nerdy, and full of banter
  • The Bad: Over-the-top antagonist; will age fast
  • The Literary: Plenty of references to classic science fiction

Jamie Gray is struggling in an dead end job as a food delivery driver in New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic. When he’s offered a grunt-work job that pays a lot more money to work with exotic animals, he jumps at the opportunity. He soon learns why he has to sign a non-disclosure agreement and why he’ll be away from home for a six-month stretch. The animals that he will care for are not of our Earth, but from an alternate dimension Earth where giant Kiaju roam an exceedingly dangerous jungle.

I think this book is best described by a quote from the author in the acknowledgements. “KPS is not, and I say this with absolutely no slight intended, a brooding symphony of a novel. It’s a pop song. It’s meant to be light and catchy, with three minutes of hooks and choruses for you to sing along with, and then you’re done and you go on with your day, hopefully with a smile on your face.”

Scalzi excels at lighthearted and fun sci-fi novels that showcase his enthusiasm for science nerds and science fiction. This particular novel is just that and delivers at the perfect time in our collective zeitgeist. You’ll love references to Neil Stephenson, Frankenstein, Murderbot, Jurassic Park, Twilight, Doom Eternal, and of course, Godzilla. Even better, there’s some science fiction in here too, using real science like the square-cube law to describe why kaiju can’t exist, but then pushing into science fiction territory with organic beings that evolved internal nuclear chambers.

I particularly enjoy the humor, the banter, the setups and callbacks, and the persistent thematic traits (I lift things) that endear the characters the more you spend time with them. There’s plenty of action and excitement, particularly towards the climax, but Scalzi gives the good feels too (yay friendship). The characters are diverse and the story feels inclusive (from a Westerner’s viewpoint), which is standard for Scalzi, but surprisingly hard for some authors to achieve. In fact, Scalzi has written several protagonists as gender neutral, never referred to as a specific pronoun, by he or she. Jamie is a gender neutral name, and looking back, it’s entirely possible that I just assumed Jaime is a dude, even though all the other characters just call the POV Jaime.

This one isn’t likely to go down in science fiction history. The antagonist is very mustache-twirly, but he’s easy to dislike, being white, rich, male, and entitled. Read this if you need some good in a world where there is a lot of bad.