June 2021 Books Read Standouts: Kaiju Score, Vol. 1 / Perestroika In Paris

 Kaiju Score, Vol. 1: A Monster Affair

    God(zilla), what a fun book. 

    Okay, so let’s say there’s a crimer, out there doin’ crimes, right? And one day, she gets the call that comes to all professional scofflaws if they manage to stay in the game long enough: the call from another crimestype, trying to rope her into One Last Job, the one that will allow her to get Out Of The Life For Good. This guy? Well he’s Putting Together A Team, and he needs her Special Set of Skills. 

    See there’s this vault, right, nestled away all safe beneath a museum, wherein is kept a cache of arts and such so deliciously valuable that it might as well be made of solid gold. It is, unfortunately, extremely well-guarded, as befits a prize of its ripeness. The location is not, however, unassailable, the vault not impregnable; it would merely take a distraction of sufficient potency to provide the time necessary for the team to ply their trade. And as luck would have it, Mother Nature will be kind enough to provide one in the shape of a GODDAMNED ACTUAL GODZILLA MAKING LANDFALL IN MIAMI.

    I mean. That’ll do it.

    Kaiju Score takes place in a world like ours, but they’ve got Godzillas; they’re actually pretty well understood from a natural science standpoint, and are accounted and prepared for to the extent that they can be, much like any natural disaster. So when a WALKING MOUNTAIN comes ashore to flatten the Golden Girls house and have a wee nap in the Florida sunshine after gorging on the school of fish it followed to the Miami coast, YOU GUESS IT, FOLKS: IT’S TIME FOR A GOOD OL’ FASHIONED ART HEIST.

    Straightforward heist-media isn’t generally my thing; it’s gotta be a wizard-heist (like the 15th ((and one of the best)) Dresden Files novels, Skin Game) or a planet-heist (like I feel safe in assuming the upcoming comic Planet Heist is going to be) or a time-heist (like the not-overthought Doctor Who episode Time Heist), but I’m familiar with the story-structure and this hits all the beats: Betrayal, and not from where you’d think! Something goes wrong! “I need more time!” DaneCookWhere’sTheVan dot gif! And the real beauty is that the crew doesn’t engage at all with the fact that there’s an omegafauna outside, except inasmuch as they would need to if their crimetimes were put at hazard by a hurricane or a dancing-plague or a world-spanning bloodwave or the roving, hive-minded giant pack of feral hounds known only as DOGSTORM. Them treating it like any other challenge presented by The Job grounds the world and invests you in the characters, allowing you–or at least me–to care about a story in a genre that doesn’t normally command my attention.

    Look, we all know how the non-superhero-comics dance goes, right: limited series with satisfying but open-ended conclusion in case four issues is all it gets, trade paperback collection labeled ‘Volume 1’ in case it gets a second one or picked up for full series. Due to that I can’t speculate on whether more will be coming down the line, or whether a second volume would take place in Germany and be titled Kaiju Score: Heist Nummer Zweist, as I suggested to my very alarmed, confused wife once she woke up a little bit and realized I wasn’t yelling because there was a fire or anything. But rest assured: If there is a Kaiju Score Volume 2, I will be waiting by my phone with bated breath for a call from a team who’s pulling off a job and needs a–I dunno like an action-linguist, or like they anticipate encountering a lot of cheeseburgers and need me to handle those so they can steal France or something.

Score: 8/10 Carefully-Planned Timetables Thrown Off By Big Ol’ Monster Poops


Perestroika In Paris, by Jane Smiley

    I was introduced to Jane Smiley by my beloved uncle Kevin, whom an unthinkable number of you were kind enough to GoFund after his cancer diagnosis earlier this year; seriously if you’re in the Venn-overlap of people who will read this and people who helped me help him in his time of need, I am in your debt, and though I’m not a member of an amoral noble house in a series of fantasy novels that have aged pretty poorly, I honor my debts.

    That bit of gratitude and vulnerability aside, Jane Smiley is a treasure in general and Perestroika In Paris in particular is a warm, sweet, funny book that I read out loud to my wife at bedtime for a month because it is soothing without being patronizing, strange without being performatively Quirky™, and sad without being depressing or maudlin. 

    LET US SAY that there is a horse, a racing-horse, a champion racing-horse descended from kings of horses and horses of kings. Such is our hero, Perestroika, by Moscow Ballet out of Mapleton, by Big Spruce, heir of Northern Dancer and Herbager and scion of Saint Simon; or just Paras, if, like your humble servant, you didn’t realize that horses apparently have fucking dynasties. You’d think it would be more of a sheep thing, what with Ramses. In any event: one fine summer, after a hard day of having more money spent on her mane shampoo than I’ve spent on Diet Coke this year, Paras notices her stall-door is unlocked and proceeds, as we have all dreamt of doing, to steal her trainer’s purse, get the fuck out of the Place du Trocadero while the getting is good, and become a feral foal of the Parisian streets, a local cryptid, beloved by all and feared by some, but not a local stray dog–wises in the ways of Paris–with whom she quickly forms an alliance in the interest of doing twice as much confusing damage. Eventually they meet a bird! And some mice! And a human child who should definitely be remanded to the custody of the state instead of  his impossibly old grandmother! But mainly: chaotic-neutral horse carnage, devoid of direction, thought, or fear of God. 

    Perestroika in Paris is a Big Lebowski of a book: there is a plot, but it’s happening at the periphery and doesn’t have much impact on anything until the end; the book itself is mostly just Stuff That Happens, like spooking an elderly greenskeeper, weighing in on the domestic squabbles of some ducks, and making a local baker think that she’s having a supernatural encounter instead of just getting bilked out of oats like a fuckin’ chump, and it is delightful. There is real emotion and sentiment, real human stakes at play, but they are seen through the lens of a horse’s big, weird face, and treated much as we would treat any strange creature doing something we didn’t understand because it’s a lizard, how the hell am I supposed to know how it’s feeling or what it’s interior life is like? I’m a horse, and I deal in horse-chaos. This is a book that does not require a single thought of the reader, not because it’s stupid but because it brings us to a place where thought is largely unnecessary, and in the midst of our lives we are free–but for a moment–to relax, kick off our iron shoes, hook a bag of oats over our faces and poop all over the grounds at the Eiffel Tower.

Score: 8/10 Trainers Receiving An Identity-Theft Alert On Equifax; Get It, Equi–‘Cause Horses–It–You Get It, Youuuuuuuuu Get It

herein are photos of ghosts

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