The novel is adapted into a 3-D storybook in Godzilla Saves America: A Monster Show-Down in 3-D, illustrated by Tom Morgan and Paul Mounts.
In response to the reappearance of Godzilla in 1998, the United States government decides to put together its own G-Force under the name Project Valkyrie, led by General Jake Taggart. Recruitment head Colonel William Krupp and psychiatrist Dr. Irene Markham decide that they must use teenagers due to the nature of the experimental aircraft G-Force is to use: Raptor One and Raptor Two. They claim that older pilots will not be able to adapt to the new mechanics. They design a videogame called BATTLEGROUND 2000, which monitors players’ performance. Those achieving highest scores are recruited.
As G-Force trains, a cloud of asteroids on a collision course with Earth is discovered by two scientists from Lowell Observatory, Dr. Ramon Reyes and Dr. Chandra Mishra. The “Reyes-Mishra Asteroid Swarm,” as it comes to be called, could end all life on the planet. Some connect this with a prophecy by Nostradamus: “In the year 1999, in the seventh month, from the sky will come a great King of Terror...” (Prophecies, Century 10, Quatrain 72).
Scientists develop a plan called Operation EarthFirst, which will use nuclear weapons to vaporize the asteroids in space. Before this is set in motion, small pieces of the asteroids fall to Earth, most burning up in the atmosphere. A few small pieces, though not causing any major destruction, grow into gigantic monsters. One lands in the Gulf of Mexico near the Yucatan Peninsula, where an asteroid is supposed to have crashed 65 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs. It releases Varan, who swims to the shores of Mexico. Another that hits Natoma, Kansas, produces a swarm of Kamacuras, or giant mantises, who spread across the state, devouring crops, trees, livestock, and people. They also appear in South America.
The military establishes a makeshift base in Kansas, spending out jets and tanks to destroy the Kamacuras. At first, they are too numerous to completely eradicate, though after a while they are contained and eliminated.
Meanwhile, a news crew in Mexico tracks the movements of Varan and unsuccessful strikes by the Mexican military. It romps through the country until it reaches Galveston, Texas, where G-Force confronts it and is able to kill it (or at leas drive it away, badly wounded, into the Gulf of Mexico).
In Alaska, Rodan awakens, its appearance foretold by a shaman who saw it in his dreams and identifies it with the Thunderbird of Native American lore, and flies first to Canada, and then on into South Dakota. Although an attack with cruise missiles makes it fall into Lake Oahe, it later emerges and makes a nest on Mt. Rushmore, where it lays an egg. Dr. Max Birchwood, kaijuologist for Project Valkyrie, observes the hatching of the egg at a safe distance. Though ordered to alert the military when Rodan takes flight again, Dr. Birchwood believes the creature came to a southern climate just to lay its egg. He watches as Rodan returns to its home in the North Pole.
Lori Angelo, a member of Project Valkyrie, is tormented with nightmares about the coming of a golden three-headed dragon. She also sees Mothra in her dreams, warning her about the imminent danger. This eventually leads her to steal an aircraft and fly to California.
Godzilla awakens in the waters off Japan, and swims toward California. However, the U.S. Navy and Air Force launch an attack that includes fuel-air explosives, which release burning chemicals that damage Godzilla so badly he can’t regenerate quickly enough, and Godzilla seemingly dies.
But then, as Lori watches, Godzilla emerges onto to the shore of Oakland. She also sees a vision of Mothra, claiming that Lori is her herald, and should communicate to the world that neither Mothra nor Godzilla are enemies of humanity, for they will defend against the three-headed dragon. As Godzilla strides on into Piedmont, California, Apache helicopters attack him. They knock him down, but as he begins blasting them with his radioactive rays, they retreat.
Lori returns to Project Valkyrie, Dr. Markham realized that her dreams and escape were the result of being contacted by Mothra, due to similar occurrences around the country and a second brainwave recorded on her EEG chart.
Now reunited, G-Force confronts Godzilla in Colorado. The attack is interrupted when a helicopter of reporters comes too near, and Raptor Two takes the hit of Godzilla’s atomic ray to save them. Raptor Two goes down, and Raptor One is forced to retreat. Although Toby, the pilot, ejects safely, Lori is nowhere to be found.
The nuclear missiles sent by Operation EarthFirst destroy the swarm of asteroids headed for Earth, although an object of an undetermined nature continues to head toward the planet. Dr. Mishra, having gone aboard the space station Mir, believes that the thing is some sort of malevolent alien, though he has no evidence to back this up, and the scientific community pays no heed. That is, until the being becomes observable. Scientists monitoring it dub it as King Ghidorah, after a New Age prophetess who claimed to predict its arrival.
In Kansas, a group of storm-chasers witnesses a Category Four tornado hit Godzilla. Confused, the monster tries to battle it, flailing and shooting his atomic rays at it. Unable to move the gigantic beast, the funnel cloud disperses, to the amazement of the human onlookers. The footage is broadcast over TV, making Americans shift their thinking of Godzilla from a malevolent creature to a force of nature.
But as Godzilla heads north, the military fears he will come upon Chicago, so they set up a trap for him in Indiana. Miles of electrical fences are erected, and tanks try to keep Godzilla on a path that will lead him to explosives and chemicals. However, Godzilla, seeming to sense the trap, crushes the tanks and smashes through the fence, disappearing into Lake Michigan. Months later, in December, he emerges from Lake Ontario and treads through New York.
King Ghidorah, on its way to Earth, destroys the Mir space station. It is then drawn to Paris by the city’s lights, where it turns monuments and historic sites such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, and the Cathedral of Notre Dame, into ruins. French fighter planes try to stop it. Though unsuccessful, they spur the creature to fly back through England, where British fighters also unsuccessfully attack. It continues on across the Atlantic, unstopped by U.S. naval forces who also try to halt its progress.
On January 1, 2000, G-Force waits in Manhattan, ready to attack both Godzilla and King Ghidorah, both of whom are headed there. Robin Halliday and her crew, as well as Nick Gordon and his crew situated in the Empire State Building, witness the coming of Mothra and the reappearance of Lori, who lands on the Empire State Building. She reveals that Mothra has guided Godzilla there to battle King Ghidorah, who arrives over Manhattan, destroying Yankee stadium and various other locations in the city.
In Central Park, Raptor One attacks King Ghidorah, with little effect. The only wound is an undetonated Tomahawk missile that pierces the monster at the base of its central neck. It flies on and meets Godzilla at the World Trade Center, where the two clash. Mothra watches the battle. King Ghidorah wraps its middle neck around Godzilla’s throat. Godzilla, unable to breathe his radioactive ray in defense, begins to suffocate. However, Raptor One arrives, and Kip sees the undetonated missile. He shoots at the monster until the missile explodes, severing the central neck. On approach, King Ghidorah’s electric bolts send Raptor One to the ground, though all the crew eject in time. Released, Godzilla’s ray knocks one of the Twin Towers on top of King Ghidorah, who then flies off as another atomic ray hits it. Mothra follows the dying creature out to sea. With a roar of triumph, Godzilla dives into the Hudson River.
Cerasini negotiated with Random House and Toho after the success of Godzilla Returns, arguing that without using other monsters, the audience would drop off. He gained the rights to the monsters with certain stipulations. Each of the monsters who appear (aside from Godzilla) have completely different origins than in their film roles. One of the monsters he used was Varan, which he considered an overlooked monster. He wanted to explain why Varan is able to fly, which no one had ever done. Scientists speculate that the monster can separate hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water, expelling the oxygen and using the hydrogen to glide through the air. It is not explain whether Varan was an animal mutated by the asteroid, or was simply awakened. Kaijuologists speculate that it may have mutated due to pollution in the Gulf of Mexico. Another, the Kamacuras, are mutated by a strange substance in the asteroid fragments, instead of an artificial nuclear storm. Rodan is speculated to be a Pteranodon mutated by nuclear waste released by Russia.
- General Jake Taggart – head of Project Valkyrie
- Colonel Bill Krupp – in charge of recruitment for Project Valkyrie
- Dr. Irene Markham – psychiatrist for Project Valkyrie
- Dr. Max Birchwood – kaijuologist for Project Valkyrie
- Kip Daniels – weapon systems officer for Raptor One
- Pierce Dillard – pilot for Raptor One
- Martin Wong – co-pilot for Raptor One
- Tia Shimura – navigation and communications officer for Raptor One
- Lori Angelo – combat controller for Raptor Two
- Tobias Nelson – pilot for Raptor Two
- Carl Strickler – Ph.D. student in astronomy and orbital mechanics at the California Institute of Technology
- Dr. Jacob Bermeister – NASA astronomer
- Dr. Ramon Reyes – astronomer at Lowell Observatory
- Dr. Chandra Mishra – astronomer at Lowell Observatory
- Nick Gordon – science correspondent for the Independent News Network (INN), witnessed Godzilla attack in 1998
- Robin Halliday – an intern-turned-reporter for Science Sunday, a program of the INN from Avalon, Pennsylvania
- Dr. Kajiro Tanaka – archivist for G-Force Japan
- Brian Shimura – reporter for INN, witnessed Godzilla attack in 1998
Cerasini describes in detail the use of vehicles and weaponry against the various monsters.
- Raptor One – similar to Bell/Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor plane, but twice as large, with a wingspan of 175 feet and length of 100 feet; slower than conventional jets (top speed – 250 mph); equipped with dozens of cadmium missiles, Maverick air-to-surface missiles, laser-guided smart bombs, two standard cruise missiles, and 4 Avenger cannons with 30mm armor-piercing depleted uranium shells; covered with reinforced carbon-carbon, windows made of new kind of heat-resistant Teflon made to withstand Godzilla’s radioactive breath
- Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II planes (designed to take out tanks and armored vehicles, hosting armor-piercing depleted uranium shells, Maverick air-to-surface missiles)
- F-111 bombers (using napalm)
- M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks
- Huey helicopters
- F-16A Fighting Falcon fighter jets – equipped with 4 AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and fuselage-mounted Vulcan cannon with 500 rounds of ammo
- CF-5 Freedom Fighters – armed with 32 AIM Sidewinder missiles and 20mm M39 cannons
- torpedoes launched from submarine
- F-14 Tomcats equipped with fuel-air explosives
- Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters
- Cessna A-57 Dragonfly fighters
- F-15 fighter planes
- AGM-109 MRASM cruise missiles
- AH-64A Apache helicopters – equipped with two “quads” of Hellfire missiles and two rocket pods with nineteen rockets each
- Patriot anti-aircraft missiles
- Vought Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems – each with 227mm rockets
- Dessault Super Entendard tactical strike fighters – with two Exocet anti-ship cruise missiles; one carries a Aerospatiale ASMP stand-off missile with a tactical nuclear warhead
- Rafale fighters
- F-18 hornets
- British Tornadoes
- modified Tomahawk missiles, tipped with Teflon
Before anyone asks, no, Godzilla 2000 the book has nothing to do with Godzilla 2000: Millenium (1999) the movie from two years later. Orga never makes an appearance. Instead, the book is pop-lit author Marc Cerasini's direct sequel to his 1996 novel Godzilla Returns. While his first book was practically a novelization of The Return of Godzilla (1984), on his second Cerasini strikes out on his own, crafting a more original story with a glut of monsters striking the Americas and culminating in a slam-bang climax as Godzilla faces off with King Ghidorah on the streets of Manhattan with Mothra playing backup. In a sense, this is Cerasini's equivalent to Ciencin's Godzilla vs. the Space Monster, which would come out the next year. Much like that book, Godzilla 2000 is a treat for giant monster fans, with plenty of kaiju catastrophe to satisfy monster-smash appetites. Just don't expect the homo sapiens cast to make as big of an impression.
Before diving in, I'll issue a fair warning to those afraid of spoilers. In order to effectively critique this book, I will be discussing the plot developments in some depth, regardless of their importance. If you the reader wish to partake of this book with those details unspoiled, I suggest skipping to the end of this review. Otherwise, all plot elements are fair game.
While some of the characters from the previous novel do make cameo appearances (most notably Nick Gordon and Emiko Takado), Godzilla 2000 mostly tells a story far removed from Japan and INN newsgroup. Instead, the second novel moves the setting into America and takes apparent inspiration from an 80's sci-fi movie called The Last Starfighter (1984) . After Godzilla chases after the Dr. Nobeyama's bird call into the Marianas Trench, the United States government decides to start training prospective members for an elite anti-kaiju team called G-Force, especially candidates to operate their Super-X-ish vehicle, the Raptor. They go about this by designing an arcade game (named BATTLEGROUND 2000--yes, it's all in caps) based on the Raptor's controls. The arcade game, which to civilians appears to be nothing but a game, of course is actually testing the nation's youth, and the teens with the best scores (and no criminal records) will be gathered together to begin training as G-Force. Naturally it is a socially awkward, insecure teen named Kip Daniels who excels at the game the most. As G-Force is begin training, enormous monsters begin appearing all across the Americas--Rodan in Alaska, Kamacuras in Midwest America, Varan in Mexico. Meanwhile, a group of asteroids big enough to destroy the earth is discovered heading our way, and a female member of G-Force named Lorelei (or Lori for short) is contacted through her dreams by a mysterious, magical being known as Mothra, warning her of the coming of a space dragon that will devastate all life on earth. Oh, and there is another team of reporters zooming around, mostly following Varan, and they are sort of important, too. Then, of course, there is Godzilla. He has stuff to do, too.
Godzilla 2000 has a very busy plot--arguably too busy. Eschewing the comparatively focused plot design of Godzilla Returns, Cerasini seems to be trying to toss in as many monsters and as much action as he can, not all of which really need to be there. Rodan's role is particularly unimportant, and inconsistent. In this book, the soaring saurian also happens to be an Eskimo Thunderbird who chit-chats with an ancient shaman in his dreams before appearing, thus creating an anticipation for the monster's purposeful presence. Rodan seems to be intelligent at first, and the fact that she (yes, it's a female Rodan) appears conveniently at the time of King Ghidorah's approach seems to suggest that she is going to help fight the terror dragon. Unfortunately, once she shows her horny head, Rodan acts more or less like a stupid animal, flapping around, eating planes, and eventually laying an egg on Mt. Rushmore. (The sequence in which she is discovered to have laid the egg is particularly confusing; four hours earlier she had been hiding in a lake and no one could find her, then suddenly she bursts out of the water and miraculously has a nest on our president's noggins, which Cerasini informs us she has been working on for twelve hours. How she was secretly building a nest while resting on the bottom of a lake that the military has been closely observing is anyone's guess.) In short, despite my affection for the pterodactyl monster, and despite some very exciting action sequences, she shouldn't be in this book.
The other monsters have more defined roles, although just about all of them somehow manage to disappear and reappear when needed for the plot. Though Cerasini tries valiantly, I never bought that these enormous monstrosities could hide from the military so effectively, winking in and out of the story whenever Cerasini found it convenient. Still, Cerasini's versions of the famed daikaiju are quite awesome. The Kamacuras in particular are turned into a horrifying swarm, thousands of them spawning from a mutagenic substance delivered by meteorites. Their attack on small-town farmers, swallowing people whole and chomping cows in half before getting blasted apart by bombers, makes for some of the most gripping reading in the entire book. Cerasini even works in what appears to be a nod to the classic nuclear bug movie Them! (1954), with a mute, orphaned little girl traumatized by the Kamacuras' assault. (Details such as why the meteorites mutate mantises and not more common insects, like ants, flies, or even centipedes, and why the monsters aren't spotted before growing as big as a barn, are never explained.)
Varan, meanwhile, has become a man-eater ala any number of Gamera's monster opponents, and his purpose here, story-wise, is to become practice material for G-Force before they have to take on the Godzilla. The giant flying squirrel lizard manifests some entertaining new powers as his flight is explained as an ability to bloat up like a balloon, filling air sacs with hydrogen to allow him to fly.
Cerasini handles Mothra pretty well, even if she has little to do except pull the strings in the background, guiding Godzilla and providing a convenient excuse for why Dr. Nobeyama's bird call doesn't work anymore. (The bird call isn't dealt with until page 268, over halfway into the book, and then only with a quick dismissive paragraph; despite being the salvific device from the first book, predictably it is barely mentioned here.)
The human characters, meanwhile, get much less attention than they did even in the first book. Much like with the monsters, there are just too many of them. In addition to Kip and Lori on G-Force, there are also Toby, Martin, Pierce, and Tia on the team, not to mention their leaders Krupp and Taggart, as well as psychologist Markham. A lot of attention is also given to the largely suicidal reporter team of obnoxious Robin Halliday, down-to-earth Linda Carlisle, and Mike Timko. None of the human characters are particularly deep, but neither are any of them as annoying as Nick Gordon was in the first book. Despite G-Force being a bunch of teens, they are a likable enough bunch, if inconsistent and unbelievable. Kip, for example, has misgivings about fighting Godzilla. He doesn't want to hurt Godzilla, despite all the lives Godzilla has destroyed, and yet Taggart never throws him off the team. (For some reason, Kip has no such misgivings about taking out Varan or King Ghidorah.) Lori, meanwhile, exhibits increasing mental instability, possibly even spiritual possession by Mothra, and yet she too is not removed from the team, even after she steals a plane from G-Force and flies away to watch Godzilla attack San Francisco. Those in charge of G-Force seem to be absolute idiots.
(As a side note, some might argue that Kip's reluctance to kill Godzilla comes from the mental manipulations of Mothra, who was warning Lori not to attack Godzilla. However, Cerasini makes it clear that Mothra can only communicate telepathically with females.)
Nevertheless, there is a whole lot to like in Cerasini's sophomore Godzilla effort. After priming his kaiju claws on Godzilla Returns, the author seems significantly more confident here, and he includes plentiful fun nods to Toho films that fans of the movies can pick up on, including a pilot named Myron Healey (the actor from the American version of Varan (1958)), a Captain Kubo (perhaps inspired by actor Akira Kubo), a sequence in which a man mistakes chunks of Godzilla's flesh for rubber (!), and even a scene in which Mothra and Godzilla appear to talk with each other, much like a similar sequence in Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster (1964). The method used to dispatch King Ghidorah, meanwhile, apes Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) pretty closely, albeit with a twist. Although some of this is certainly derivative, the similarities usually come across more as homage than creative bankruptcy, much more so anyway than Godzilla Returns, and the book proves quite entertaining, especially with Cerasini's phenomenal attention to mechanical and military detail, which is even better this time around. Cerasini always seems to know all the names of the vehicles, the kinds of engines or propellers they use, the materials used in weapons, how they are operated, the number of people who operate them, what the officers would say, and more. His descriptions of the monsters and their attacks are also as effective as ever, with many memorable passages. Unfortunately, by the time King Ghidorah shows up there has been so much destruction already that the space beast's attacks have much less oomph, not the least because Cerasini himself seems tired of describing all the mayhem.
As usual, Bob Eggleton provides another great cover painting, although I think it is slightly less effective than many of his other works; Rodan doesn't look too detailed, and KG looks a bit awkward anatomically speaking. Inside, the art at the beginning of chapters are the official Toho symbols for the monsters, changing depending on the monster that appears in that particular chapter, thus helping to build more anticipation in the kaiju lover.
Godzilla 2000 is by no means earth-shattering (even if the asteroids in the story are threatening such), but it is highly entertaining reading for lovers of the genre and the monster characters. As I've come to expect, the human characters receive less attention than the action, and meaningful character arcs are nonexistent. Still, Godzilla 2000 delivers a lot of what Godzilla fans love, and Cerasini writes monster mayhem better than any other Godzilla prose author I've encountered. As long as you're not expecting anything more than that, then this book is a roaring good time, and a nice improvement over the first.
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