4 of 5 stars.
I like a well executed absurdist tale. A little Donald Barthelme or Bohumil Hrabal can say big things about the state of a man, or an institution, or even all of mankind. That is what this story does with monsters in various stages of recovery.
Godzilla and his cadre of mega-sized associates have historically been used to represent the threat of the atomic bomb. In this short tale, the monster along with King Kong, Reptilicus, Gorgo, and Gamera are violence-addicts with a tinge of PTSD. Godzilla is dealing with his demons and urges one day at a time with the help of his sponsor Reptilicus. Gamera is completely off the wagon and causing trouble. Kong is practically ripe for a psychiatric institution as he acts out his baser instincts on Barbie and Ken dolls. Gorgo manages to deal and not deal at the same time. She’s not hurting anyone but herself at this point.
[Godzilla] calls in to his sponsor. Tells him he’s had a bad day. That he wanted to burn buildings and fight the big turtle. Reptilicus tells him it’s okay. He’s had days like that. Will have days like that once again.
Once a monster always a monster. But a recovering monster is where it’s at. Take it one day at a time. It’s the only way to be happy in the world. You can’t burn and kill and chew up humans and their creations without paying the price of guilt and multiple artillery wounds.
Godzilla thanks Reptilicus and hangs up. He feels better for awhile, but deep down he wonders just how much guilt he really harbors. He thinks maybe it’s just the artillery and the rocket-firing jets he really hates, not the guilt.
Appropriately told in 12-sections, Godzilla is troubled throughout and “Off the Wagon” by Step 5. His situation devolves quickly as truths and ambiguities start to emerge. The addiction, violence and destruction that is Godzilla is also equal opportunity, ready to prey on all hapless victims.
This short story is included in Creatures: Thirty Years of Monsters, an anthology edited by John Langan and Paul Tremblay and is recommended. My previous encounter with the work of Joe R. Lansdale, “On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks”, was interesting but written very differently from this one. It’s always nice to get a broader perspective of an author by reading multiple works.
[Check out my other reviews here.]