Mark Jacobson - One of the preeminent, and funniest novels of the post-nuclear era. The remarkable friendship of the monitor lizard Gojiro and the Coma Boy. This novel follows their quest to discover their identities in a world in which niether belongs


Mark Jacobson, Gojiro, Grove Press, 1997

read it at Google Books

Gojiro is a triumph of storytelling that firmly established itself as one of the preeminent -- and funniest -- novels of the post-nuclear era.
Its star, of course, is Gojiro -- the giant lizard -- made famous by a wildly successful cycle of B-movies and now come to exuberant literary life. Once a normal monitor lizard, he was transformed by an atomic test after World War II, gaining consciousness as well as five hundred feet and fifty tons. Meanwhile, in an Okinawa hospital, Komodo -- the world-famous Coma Boy -- reawakens for the first time since the Hiroshima blast nine years before. Together, the lizard and orphan venture forth to discover their identities in a world in which neither belongs. The story of their journey from Radioactive Island to the mansions of Hollywood and the deserts of New Mexico, Gojiro is geek love on a truly epic scale and a bible for the world that was born out of the Manhattan Project.

This remarkable first novel combines the manic energy of monster movies and comic books with a serious and sad look at the post-nuclear world. At center stage are two friends. One is Gojiro, a 500-foot-tall lizard who has swollen to his extraordinary size--and acquired the shrewd brain of higher life forms--as a result of an atomic test. Then there's his comrade Komodo, a human victim of Hiroshima. A mystical and telepathic bond unites them; they make a home for themselves and other radiation victims on a volcanic island in the middle of a "roiling petrochemical sea." But Gojiro becomes a movie star, setting out with Komodo for Hollywood at the strange request of a film producer (whose father was involved with the Manhattan Project tests that produced Gojiro). They soon uncover a plot to test new atomic weapons that, in the best comic book tradition, threatens the world. The plot is fast-moving and fun, but the bulk of the book consists of long, philosophical dialogues between the austere youth and the wisecracking monster--whose hipster jargon is a perfect imitation of the late rock critic Lester Bangs. The novel's beauty lies in the way these often hilarious conversations strike a poignant note while the "mutants" try to come to grips with the horrors of their lives. - Publishers Weekly
Transformed by post-World War II atomic testing into a gargantuan and sentient behemoth, the former monitor lizard now known as "Gojiro" forms a quasi-mystical bond with a Japanese survivor of Hiroshima--a bond which leads them from their island retreat to the glitter of Hollywood and ultimately into a search for the essence of life itself. Bursting with ideas, full of broad humor and epic comedy laced with an underlying seriousness and compassion, this first novel represents speculative fiction at its literary and imaginative best. It is highly recommended. - Library Journal 
Late at night, far down the dial, is when he usually appears--all 500 feet and 50 tons of him--striding through swamps and cities, destroying everything in his path. The tacky special effects and the stiff, dubbed-over, Japanese voices are what give Godzilla his hokey punch. Yet, if people proclaim that inside each of them is a book, why can't monsters have their own autobiographies too?
In "Gojiro" (Japanese for Godzilla), the giant lizard gets to narrate his story. Imagine Moby Dick rising from the depths to tell his side of things, and you have an inkling of what awaits the reader of this marvelous book.
The novel begins with a black dot high in the sky over Hiroshima. As a small family of father, mother and son pause in their outing to gaze up, the air suddenly explodes.
Nine years later, the boy emerges from a coma to find his parents dead. Komodo (a Japanese rendering of Coma Boy) feels himself magnetically drawn to an atoll in the Pacific called Radioactive Island.
Through atomic tests on the island, a lowly lizard has become king of the monsters. What happened to his body also affected his brain. His consciousness has expanded. Inside the island's radioactive cloud cover, Gojiro's mind is flooded with transcultural awareness and voices, as though his mind has become an enormous satellite dish transmitting everything from "I Love Lucy" reruns to the screams of a woman being attacked in a distant city.
Unbeknownst to Gojiro, his brain actually is picking up the life-experiences and thoughts of his own globe-flung movie fans. These \o7 zardpards\f7 (lizard partners) are trapped in the very sorts of worlds where, on the screen, they have seen Godzilla become their hero.
Komodo is Gojiro's only whisper of relief. After helping the giant lizard unplug the cerebral circuitry linking him to the world, they embark on a quest to America in a modern retelling of Beowulf and Grendel--with Pynchonesque rocket-fuel prose.
Their journey takes them from Hollywood to the atomic proving grounds in New Mexico, where the fate of each character was sealed in the bomb bay of a plane named Enola Gay.
The story occurs inside the kitsch universe of a B-grade movie. Characters are glimpsed half-revealed, as blurs, so we are forced to find our way through the debris of confusion, much as Coma Boy wakes to an alien world and Gojiro finds himself no longer sunning on a rock but throwing boulders at cities.
Flying to America with the now-older Komodo masquerading as a professor, Gojiro shrinks to an inch in size and hides in his friend's pocket. As they land in Los Angeles, Komodo sticks Gojiro on the front of his shirt and is waved through customs, "just another Izod wearer."
As Komodo and Gojiro drive through Los Angeles, the monster wonders why he feels no need to destory the city. "It was the sprawl that did it, that L.A. whizzing by: the overwhelming sameness, the diffuse repetition. It dulled all passion, doused every fire.
"Ever spreading, the city was an amorphous sweep without a vital organ or center at which a predetermined destroyer could aim. There was no Empire State (Building) to climb, no Eiffel Tower to snap in half; in what amounted to the perfect defense against exactly the attack the monster envisioned, the town had no cherished emblem of itself beyond its very vagueness."
The two companions travel across a Styrofoam-littered America, where, to remind them of home, radium glows inside every clock. The boy searches for his identity, while the monster tries to separate himself from his quadricameral mind--the terrible force compelling him to see hundreds of generations into the past, as well as hearing thousands of lives in the present.
Random characters encountered during the quest turn out to be the same \o7 zardpards\f7 that Godzilla heard calling for help on Radioactive Island. These haphazard figures are marks on a compass pointing to the atomic attack that began the book and . . . perhaps, one day, might close the Book on us all.
Later, Gojiro sees his fans watching one of his movies at a desert drive-in theater. "What does a Hero really need . . . but Need?" he reasons, then scrutinizes those letting him provide the mythic heroism their lives lacked. "My fans," Gojiro mumbles as he watches a gear-gnashing low-rider choked with Mexican teen-agers saunter by. "He didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. It was absurd, watching these poor deluded souls, seemingly from every nook and cranny of the demographic dart board, come like lemmings to sit silhouetted before his elephantine visage."
In "a sandy, comet-made bowl where dinosaurs perished" comes the showdown with Brooks, the physicist who created Gojiro out of nothingness and cast Komodo's parents into it. Komodo's discovery of the actual blackboard equation used to unleash the bomb precipitates an explosion of stereopticon images. - Stewart Lindh
I’m amazed at how much reading I’ve done this summer. In addition to books I’ve already mentioned here, I’ve also read quite a few others, more than I’ve read in a long time. Enough in fact, that I can do a weekly Fiction Friday post for a month, at least, if I can just keep up with blogging.
The last book I read before heading off to Chicago was Gojiro by Mark Jacobson. I will say up front this was both one of the strangest and one of the best reads I’ve had in a while. The story is told from the point of view of the radio-active behemoth himself, only instead of unintelligible roars, this Gojiro is a hip-talking, Jack Kerouac-like philosophizer addicted to fine grades of plutonium. His companion is Komodo, the Coma Boy, a young man who’s life was obliterated by the Heater, that nuclear weapon of Armageddon that ripped Gojiro from his natural place in the universe and transformed the Monitor Lizard into the King of Monsters.
The plot circles around Gojiro’s attempts at suicide and Komodo’s desire to save his one true friend. The two victims of nuclear disaster live together on Radioactive Island, along with the Atoms, children malformed and mutated by radioactive energy. Gojiro is tired of his life as a freak, and can’t abide the suffering that abounds in his quad-cameral brain. Somehow, he’s hooked into the universe, receiving messages and please for help from fans around the world, and he has no idea how to answer them. He’s also tired of being ripped from his position in the natural order of things. He was never meant to be a monster, let alone King of Monsters, and now, bereft of the comfort of his species, it takes everything he has just to hold it together.
Only he’s not holding it together. If not for a sacred promise he made to Komodo and his pesky invulnerability, the big green ‘zard would snuff himself in an instant. Komodo knows this, and is doing everything he can to keep his friend going. They strike upon a deal – in a year’s time, if they haven’t found a way to relieve Gojiro’s depression and pain, the great lizard will be allowed to kill himself, and Komodo will help ease his way.
That’s when the note shows up, a letter from the mysterious Sheila Brooks, daughter of Joseph Prometheus Brooks, the scientist who invented the Heater. A critically acclaimed film maker and all around nut-case, Ms. Brooks desperately needs Gojiro’s help. She wants to make a movie, entitled “Gojiro Vs. Joseph Prometheus Brooks in the Valley of Decision,” and suddenly Gojiro finds he must once and for all confront the man responsible for his tortured existence.
It’s a long strange acid trip of a book, and the first few chapters may seem rather slow until you get into the rhythm of the language. Gojiro has a slang all his own, and it takes a while to decipher what he means. On top of that, there’s a great deal of philosophy in the book on the nature of species and their interconnectedness and the place of the individual within the whole.
I bought this book waaaaaaaay back in the 1990s, probably 1993, when I was still in grad school. I’ve had it on my shelf ever since then, just gathering dust. I finally reached a point this summer where I determined that I either needed to read the book or get rid of it. I made a deal with myself to read the first two chapters, and then decide. Fortunately, the I found it slow at the start, I was hooked enough to keep going and eventually I reached a point where I couldn’t put the book down. In fact, on more than one night, I stayed up waaaaaaaaaaay to late because I just didn’t want to stop reading.
So Gojiro has earned a permanent spot on my shelf, I’m happy to say. I’ll get rid of some other namby pamby book if I need to clear things out. This one’s got too much style, too much plot, too much mind-boggling entertainment for me to give up. - Helen E. H. Madden


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