Saturday, January 21, 2017
REVIEW: Mayday: A Kaiju Thriller (e-book) by Chris Strange
About 19 years ago, enormous monsters that were later dubbed “Maydays” appeared all over the world. Over the course of 9 years, they killed 1.1 billion people. Nothing anyone did seemed to have any effect on the Maydays, until Professor Nikolai Volkov unleashed his newly invented mind control technology. Humans still couldn’t harm Maydays, but now they could at least control them. Volkov decided to combine entertainment and punishment and created Volkov Entertainment Incorporated, a company specializing in broadcasting “Mayday vs. Mayday” battles.
The company has been doing pretty well for the past 10 years. Then something shocking and supposedly impossible happens: Yllia, one of the Maydays, dies. Jay Escobar, head of Volkov Entertainment’s Investigative Division, declares that Yllia was murdered. But who could murder a Mayday? Nukes couldn’t put a scratch on them, and even other Maydays are only able to do a little damage.
Mayday: A Kaiju Thriller was one of my impulse buys. The premise sounded interesting and the excerpt seemed readable, so I figured why not?
The beginning read like a hardboiled detective story. About halfway through, the story morphed into a sci-fi thriller that reminded me of Jurassic Park (the movie more so than the book), complete with deaths, severed body parts, and the booming footsteps of enormous and deadly monsters. I loved the book’s premise, the Mayday battles were loads of fun, and the Maydays themselves were each unique and fascinating.
I wish I’d gotten a chance to see Yllia as a living being, since she was probably my favorite of the bunch - my mental image of her looked a lot like Mothra. Serraton was another Mayday whose design I liked: a slim and agile snake with legs, a lot like a Chinese dragon. I don’t think there was a single Mayday I didn’t enjoy reading about (in the sense of getting to see them in action), although I liked Tempest (spider-like), Nasir (squat and humanoid), and Grotesque (crocodilian, with poison-filled pustules along its back) less than Yllia and Serraton.
The mystery could have been better, since I figured out a large part of it only a third of the way through. However, the action helped make up for the weak mystery - even if Escobar and the others had managed to figure things out faster, they’d still have had their hands full trying to keep from being killed by the Maydays.
That said, one of the book’s biggest weaknesses was Escobar. Everything was written in first-person POV from his perspective, and I really, really disliked him. He was overconfident, misogynistic, and unnecessarily violent. His inability to dial down his general jerkishness hurt his investigation and led to the deaths of maybe thousands of people. I frequently found myself wishing that someone else had been the main character. Healy would have been great, or maybe Priya. Healy seemed like a decent enough guy, and he was certainly steadier and smarter than Escobar. Priya’s POV would have removed a few of the book’s surprises, but I’d still have preferred her determination and anger over Escobar’s...everything. I really hated that guy.
I saw one review in which Escobar was referred to as “self-aware,” but that was only later on, after several people had had cause to tell him that he was a ham-handed investigator and terrible human being. And the thing was, he didn’t change his ways after he realized how awful he’d been - he just made more conscious use of his terribleness. I couldn’t really blame him for killing one particular character, but shooting another character he’d hoped to interrogate further was just plain stupid.
One bit that really bugged me was when Escobar was trying to distract Tempest. The best thing he could come up with to keep Tempest’s attention was to comment on Tempest’s lack of a penis and apparent inability to have sex (either due to a lack of a partner or a complete physical inability). Those two long paragraphs didn’t seem to have much of an effect on Tempest’s emotional state, but they did say an awful lot about Escobar.
The mystery was interesting, even though I was able to figure out a good chunk of it early on, and the Maydays and Mayday battles were wonderful. I just wish the book had been written from some other character’s POV.
At one point, a character bit a chunk out of Escobar's left hand. Later, Escobar broke what I assume was his right wrist. I don't recall Escobar ever getting proper treatment for his left hand (no time), so it bugged me that he kept using what I assumed was his bitten hand to hold his broken wrist against his body with no mention of his hand hurting. Even if the pain in his wrist was overshadowing the pain in his hand, his bitten hand would have still been difficult to use, and I'd have expected that, at least, to be mentioned. Other than that, though, I didn't notice much in the way of errors.