One could call The Kaiju Preservation Society a pandemic novel because a) John Scalzi wrote it during the pandemic and b) the pandemic serendipitously leads the main character, Jamie, to a new job that sets the action in motion.
But the book is not about the pandemic. It’s about Kaiju, Godzilla-like monsters who live in an alternate Earth. This alternate Earth is rich in radioactive elements, and the Kaiju produce energy from their own internal biological reactors. This makes them a danger when, say, they end their lives with in nuclear explosion that thins the walls between Earths, but it also makes them an object of fascination for unscrupulous humans seeking new sources of cheap energy.
“So much of the way plant life and animal life on Earth works is through sunlight, which is just another type of radiation,” Scalzi tells me on the new episode of New Books in Science Fiction. “Plants photosynthesize, animals eat plants, other animals eat the animals that eat the plants and so on and so forth. But sooner or later it all comes back to sunlight. The only places where you don’t have that happen are in very specific places where, for example, there are sulfurous heat sources at the bottom of the ocean. And then things have evolved to take advantage of the energy source there. Well, in this alternate Earth, things like uranium and thorium in the crust are another possible energy source. It makes sense to me that life would evolve to take advantage either wholly or in part of that additional energy source. And then, of course, I just built out from there.”
Scalzi has contributed in myriad ways to the art of science fiction through many novels, his past leadership as president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the platform he provides other writers on The Big Idea, a feature that appears regularly on his website. His writing has earned numerous awards, including what was once upon a time known as the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the Hugo Award for Best Novel, Hugos for Fan Writer and Best Related Book, and the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.