Write Like Hell: Kaiju, ed. Sentinel Creatives

Front cover of Write Like Hell: Kaiju, ed. Sentinel CreativesRanging across genres, locations, and time-periods, this anthology provides a variety of perspectives on the question “How might humans act if giant monsters were real?”

This anthology contains twelve kaiju tales, united by the presence of some immense creature or creatures but spanning genres from horror to romance.

  • ‘Big Bloody Ben’ by Adam Gray. When a woman’s body is found completely exsanguinated, Captain Wilbur Stopforth of the Metropolitan Police is drawn into the hunt for a freakish threat. Gray skilfully blends police procedural with a well-rendered giant monster, providing a reasonable arc from rational disbelief to staunch action. While some readers might find certain inaccuracies jarring (for example, captain was not a rank in the UK police force), those not bothered by a movie version of Victorian London are likely to find this fast-paced monster horror.

  • ‘The Bone Fields’ by Mitchell Lüthi. While searching for his second, missing longship—and the crew and plunder on her—Halvor land on an island unmentioned in the tales of previous viking raiders. Lüthi takes the standard pulp trope of a mysterious island inhabited by strange horrors and sets it against heroic but nuanced Norse warriors, creating a pleasing blend of Conanesque fantasy and historical drama.

  • ‘A Boy and his Monster’ by Andrea Speed. Having a life of hiding a strange secret and having that evasiveness destroy each burgeoning relationship, Toshi risks revealing it on his third date with a new boy. In a significant deviation from the usual plots of kaiju fiction, Speed adds a vast monster to one of the classic romance tropes. While this tale is therefore more hopeful than some, it does have the same underlying potentiality of vast destruction so offers something even for readers who usually skim the mushy stuff.

  • ‘January Through the Years’ by André Uys. Still mourning her husband’s death during World War 2, a young woman discovers a strange lizard in the Kent marshes near her home. Setting his story over the course of a series of Januaries, Uys portrays both the growth of a kaiju and the changing relationship with the woman who discovered it, skilfully balancing accessibility with a sense of the alien.

  • ‘Cipactli’ by Scott Miller. When the high priest’s bully of a son disappears, Tepin discovers that cruel jungle and the advancing Spanish might not be the biggest threat to his tribe. Focusing more on universal human behaviour than the flashy horror of human sacrifice, Miller paints Mesoamerican legend from the viewpoint of a child.

  • ‘Honengyo’ by C. L. Werner. With his clan destroyed, Shintaro Oba should be killed on sight; instead Lord Torogawa asks the swordsman stop the monster that is attacking his coastal villages. Werner blends the classic kaiju trope of a vast monster rising from the sea with samurai fiction creating a Gojira movie where the aircraft and science are replaced by catapults and religious rituals, and the politics might be as vicious as the creature.

  • ‘The Whaler’ by Justin Fillmore. An old man tells the tribe’s children of the British whaler that was shattered on the coast and of the tribesperson who had joined its crew. Foregoing extremely detailed descriptions of every part of whaling but keeping the arrogance Ahab showed, Fillmore creates the experience Moby Dick could have been if it were gritty fantasy instead of an exploration of the human condition.

  • ‘One Monstrous Pandemic’ by Leon Fourie. After encountering rumours of monsters while on military service, P.K. has searched across the world for proof; now he feels on the verge of finding it, but also that some alien presence is closing on him. Evoking a plausible image of South Africa under lockdown, Fourie builds his tale from flashback and conversation, his hints proving the adage that the monster is often more frightening when the audience doesn’t see it.

  • ‘Starchild’ by Erik Morten & Samantha Bateson. In a far future, the crew of a living spacecraft race to the rescue of another of their kind. Set in a world where habitats have been built on stellar kaiju, this story is the closest to kaiju as friend rather than threat in the anthology. However, Morten and Bateson maintain a clear otherness, adding to the constant sense of threat present in all space disaster stories.

  • ‘Dominion’ by Tyron Dawson. Already reeling from their recent eviction, Oskar and his family find their hope of a new home teetering under the assault of a vast and ancient beast. Focusing on an ordinary family already facing mundane disaster, Dawson explores the role of hope in surviving a kaiju attack. Whilst less action-oriented than some of the other stories, this is still firmly action rather than mood portrait.

  • ‘Kaiju Noir’ by Matthew Fairweather. In a town walled away to protect it from huge roving monsters, a grizzled private investigator ventures into the illegal food trade in search of a missing professor. Fairweather dials the violence and class divisions of crime noir up to eleven, the offstage threat of immense predators making this extreme seem plausible rather than parody.

  • ‘Cthulhu vs. Kaiju’ by Mitchell Lüthi. The military has found a way to bond lesser kaiju with skilled operators to make a weapon against those that threaten humanity; but are they enough to protect against the Dread Lord of R’yleh? Lüthi replaces the ordinary sailors of “The Call of Cthulhu” with the cast of Pacific Rim. While this story does fall within the wider Mythos, it is much more monster-on-monster action movie than cosmic dread.

Overall, this anthology feels well-balanced. While each of the stories is shaped by actual giant monsters, each takes a different perspective on how kaiju might impact humanity avoiding the book becoming simply a chain of fight scenes against immense horrors.

Thus, while not every reader will love every story, the anthology offers a broad enough range that any reader intrigued by the idea of “a world where giant monsters exist” is unlikely to be disappointed. Similarly, those readers who like to devour books in a single sitting.

This also extends to the characters. Although the tone centres strongly around the fast-paced action of classic kaiju, the protagonists are diverse rather than classic action heroes, including sympathetic tribal viewpoints, historically accurate female vikings, and caring fathers.

The only real issue, and it is not a large one, is with the occasional error that has slipped through proofing. Depending on reader sensitivity, these might break immersion; however, the stories are engaging enough that this is likely to be a brief surfacing.

Overall, I enjoyed this anthology. I recommend it to readers seeking a range of interesting perspectives on giant creatures.

I received a free copy from the publisher with a request for a fair review.

5 thoughts on “Write Like Hell: Kaiju, ed. Sentinel Creatives

  1. Something changed in me over the last 10-15 years, I can no longer accept the other-worldy fantastical in my reading. At nearly 60, now, the impossibility of such things leaves me incredulous, while years ago I’d have gladly engaged such phantasmagorical stories. For better or worse I’ve crawled into a cave called plausible only. Improbable works too. But the need for reality, of physics, astrophysics, chemistry and the evidence thereof has turned me mundane. How sad is that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is a theory in publishing that the sorts of books that are popular at any one time share a reaction to the reality of that time. For example, a resurgence in bright fantasy, cozy mysteries, and light-hearted space opera seems to have happened at the same time that real-world politics became grimmer.

      So, potentially your change in reading habit is not a loss of wonder but a need for logic and reason to counter the irrationality of modern politics.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A rational theory. Thanks.

        I believe this trend started about the same time as my Stoic, Existentialist interpretation of the Absurd Universe dawned, spread and consumed my understanding of Life, the Universe and Everything. And that’s one genie that will not be put back into her bottle.

        Until then, it’s my guess that I believed *anything* was possible: Magic, future/past fantasy lands and peoples, aliens and alien planets and fantastical futures of humanity.

        That belief has since died, replaced with sad, mundane reality. A terminal disease I’d as soon have not contracted.

        Like

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