Carl explores the clash of titans in Greg Keyes’ movie novelization from Titan Books
There are many Movie tie-in books out on the market that do the property justice or even enhance the film’s narrative. The heyday of the great movie tie-in has long gone, dying out at the end of the 1980s. Nowadays, most are just quick cash-ins, designed to take money out of the customers pocket and into the authors. There are those that buck the trend, however. Take John Passarella’s sublime novel of last years ‘Halloween‘ movie. Not only did the book do the film justice. Not only was it a thrilling and enjoyable read but it enhanced the property perfectly and took the time to flesh out what was shown on screen and add to it with sheer brilliance.
Godzilla: King of The Monsters – The Official Movie Novelization | By Greg Keyes
Now we come to the novel adaptation of this years monster smackdown, ‘Godzilla: King Of The Monsters‘ written by Greg Keyes. Keyes has a good track record when it comes to writing novels. His published works include the best selling novels The Waterborn, The Blackgod alongside his Age Of Unreason tetralogy. He has also written novels for the Star Wars New Jedi Order collection entitled Edge Of Victory I: Conquest, Edge Of Victory II: Rebirth and The Final Prophecy. With this book, the New York Times Bestselling author gets to write about Toho Studios collection of giant monsters, The Titans to go alongside the recently released film.
Sadly, however, he has fallen into the trap. The same trap as many have before him. While his writing style and descriptive detail are as exemplary as you will find and that’s without question, the novel does the worst thing it could possibly have done. It rushes things. Instead of describing things in great detail and opening the reader’s mind and imagination, it presents the reader with barely enough information and plot before it surges headlong into the next part, the following scene without pausing for breath or allowing the reader to digest what is going on. And that’s a tragedy. Its a tragedy as Keyes DOES enhance the narrative at some points during the book. He delivers some enthralling written pages in the book that would have enhanced the film if they had been either filmed or left in the final cut of it.
Take the opening pages for example. We open on Godzilla, swimming under the ocean he calls home. We actually get a chance to know what the creature is thinking and feeling. He can hear all the sounds of the ocean. He can smell the pollution contaminating his beloved seas, the smell of oil slicks and the like dumped either intentionally or accidentally. We can understand his rage and annoyance at this. His sole purpose is to bring the world into balance and keep it that way. He has fought alongside mankind for centuries, man and beast working together in harmony, both centred on the same goal. And what has the human race done? Polluted his home, poisoning the oceans, killing its inhabitants. The song of the whale can no longer be heard. In its place is the churn of the propeller, the stench of the poison mankind is dumping into the seas. These two pages, in their way, bring a fantastic message to the world contained within the context of a monster story. And it works.
Later in the book, we come across other fantastic descriptive detail not bothered with in the film version. We have Kong, on Skull Island. He can hear the call of King Ghidorah, He can sense the rest of the Titans are making their way to him. He can hear the Skull Crawlers beneath the surface of his island starting to stir and attempt to make their way to answer the call. Kong DOESN’T care. He’s tired of all the violence, the call to battle, the challenge the other Titans present. He just wants to be left alone, in solitude, to live his life in peace. We get to see inside Kong’s psyche. And again, it works. These small but informative passages of the novel are a revelation. Kong doesn’t really care for Godzilla either, down the years Kong’s ancestors have fought the huge lizard king for whatever reason. But Kong doesn’t want that for himself. He will only fight Godzilla if he threatens his peace and his island. Things have moved on since the 1970s set events of ‘Kong: Skull Island‘. The Skull Crawlers are still around, are still a threat and Kong is constantly still fighting them. When we meet him in the novel, he is still healing from his last battle with them. And he’s tired of it. These little snippets almost save the book.
Where descriptive scenes not viewed in the film are presented to us, the book gains momentum and builds the much-needed intrigue. The escape of the other Titans has been written magnificently, bringing depth and clarity to the book for a brief period. Sadly though, after these pieces, the book resumes steaming ahead, rolling over events and moving too quickly for the reader to actually grasp the narrative. I felt while reading the book that Keyes had some input outside of the studio mandated direction of the novel. In fact, it even feels like two separate novels combined. It feels like Keyes is restricted in his writing of what’s actually in the movie like he has been told to just write a condensed copy of the screenplay for the novelisation but then allowed to write some of his own work into it to pad the book out. I can honestly say that Keyes’ own work, the padding if you will, is much better than the rest of the novel.
The film and this book do go hand in hand. Both plunge headlong into events, both plough through the storyline too quickly whereas a more restrained slower approach would have been better and served everyone well. But, with Keyes’ padding added to it, the book is better than the film. I completely loved the insights into the thoughts of both Godzilla and Kong. And, at times, the book is enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, the book isn’t bad, far from it. It’s enjoyable in its own right. Compared to some of the movie tie-in novels that are dropped onto bookshelves, the book is pretty good. A completely acceptable time-wasting little novel that will pass the time quite well without being rememberable.
They say less is more. In this case, a bit more would have made the book into a classic and so much better. And the King Of The Monsters deserves much better.
Until next time.
Godzilla: King of The Monsters – The Official Movie Novelization by Greg Keyes is published by Titan Books and is available to buy from all good retailers.
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Carl Roberts is one of The Future of the Force’s Senior Staff Writers and Books and Literature Correspondents. He loves Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Indiana Jones and Horror movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!