Agog! Press (2007)
Reviewed by Adam Bell (this review was first published in September 2007)
Giant monsters. To say it in such a simplistic fashion, it sounds like an overused theme. However, Daikaiju 2: Revenge of the Giant Monsters, edited by Robert Hood and Robin Pen and released by Cat Sparks’s Agog Press, refuses to settle down into simplistic monster stories. Instead it shows us haunting tales that sometimes lead us to question ourselves and our need for monsters.
I haven’t yet read the original Daikaiju anthology but have read a number of stories from it, collected elsewhere. These, and people’s comments on the original anthology, left me with high expectations for this sequel.
Overall, Revenge of the Giant Monsters, presents us with a selection of interesting stories. Many of these stories are haunting and manage to create an alien air around the monsters, while still retaining enough of a sense of familiarity that we can connect with them. On the flip side, some of the stories were not as interesting as my expectations had led me to hope for.
So what will you notice when you first pick up this book? Well, if you strip out introductions and author bios, then Chris McMahon’s “The Eye of Erebus” takes up almost a quarter of the volume. This is a monster story in an anthology about monsters. To top it all off, the monster in this story is the largest in the book. An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth and humanity rejoices as it manages to divert it from its destructive course. However, the asteroid is more than it seems and the situation rapidly becomes more complicated. The monster in this piece is possibly the most alien of those in the book but McMahon still manages to capture us with not only humanity’s story but also that of this strange creature. In the preface, the editor mentions that a shorter version of this story was offered by the author and I think they would have done well to take up that offer as the pacing is a little slow at times but, all up, “The Eye of Erebus” is a good read.
Opening to the start, Robin Pen kicks of the anthology with “Where Have All The Monsters Gone?” This piece reads more like a second preface than a story (and was possibly meant to) but unfortunately, by this point, I just wanted to get into the fiction and I found this piece a little slow.
Moving onto the rest of the fiction, David Bofinger’s, “See Me Through Your Eyes”, follows and sets the pace admirably. The haunting air that pervades this anthology starts in this tale of a rapidly growing octopus as it struggles to understand and adapt to its own development and the events that are taking place around it.
“Breaking the Ice”, by Maxine McArthur, is one of the best stories in the anthology. It opens with Kaoru in hiding from a group of bullies. However, when his phone rings and gives him an opportunity for revenge, his dark and light sides are forced to compete for his soul. The monster in this story is intimately connected to humanity but still manages to come across as incomprehensible (in a good way).
“Daqinshan”, by Kylie Seluka, is written in a similar vein – it tells the story of a man who becomes a giant monster but in doing so is irrevocably changed. Xiao is a sympathetic character as a man but when he merges with a nearby mountain to become a monster he is faced with the decision as to how to use his newfound strength. At this point he becomes truly interesting.
James Cooper’s “From the Sea It Shall Rise”, is also a well-written piece that presents us with a truly alien monster – one fundamentally different in structure to us but also dead and so truly beyond comprehension. When another of its kind comes to recover its body from a museum, Cooper manages to create a feeling of empathy despite our lack of similarity to the monster.
Taking a different angle, Tony Plank presents a story of an undeveloped alien species in “Curiosity Unveiled”. As this species approaches Earth, humanity’s response raises the question of what is the difference between a monster and the unknown?
I also enjoyed “Kadimakara and Curlew”, by Jason Nahrung, an exploration of a giant monster’s incursion into aboriginal lands, and “Attack of the 50-Foot Cosmonaut”, by Michael Canfield, which sees Jack trying to discover the truth behind his father’s death. Even beyond these stories, Revenge of the Giant Monsters, includes a number of enjoyable piece.
There is no story in this anthology which isn’t good. However, some of the pieces struck me as being that little bit too ordinary – missing out on that spark which takes them to the next level. This is a shame because they share the pages with some very strong stories.
Daikaiju 2: Revenge of the Giant Monsters, is a solid anthology that could have done with just a little more whittling down. And now I think it’s about time I went and read the first one.