Written by Alex Irvine
Based on the story by Travis Beacham
and film directed by Guillermo Del Toro
When a novelization of a film comes, there are two purposes for the book. The first is to give fans of the movie something extra, some depth to the movie that adds to the story and the experience. The second purpose is to give people who have not seen the movie a reason to want to see the movie – a great story that can stand on its own, movie or not. This Pacific Rim book does both of those things.
When reading D-Rock’s review of the Pacific Rim movie, the first thing he offers up is that the story is not a fresh one and is derivative. Arguably, the last thing you will say when you finish reading the Pacific Rim book is that the story is derivative. This story is so much more than just robots fighting monsters.
This is a story that reinvents what the monsters we have seen in movies since World War II might represent.
The story starts off in the past, where Raleigh and his brother Yancy are fighting a giant Kaiju in their Jaegar robotic fighting machine. They beat the Kaiju, but at the expense of Yancy, who dies in the fight. One thing to pull away from this scene is that the Kaiju might not be mindless monsters, because this one knew exactly how and where to attack in order to find the pilots. It is a little plot point, but that is what makes this story strong – you can follow these clues to figure out the big twist of the story about the same time the characters figure it out.
Raleigh has quit the Rangers since his brother died and is just helping build walls. Meanwhile, the governments of the world have decided to quit putting money into the Jaegar program, choosing instead to just build walls and hide from the Kaiju. When we move back to the present day, there are only four Jaegar machines left and the head of the program – now surviving on its own without the government’s help – seeks out Raleigh for his skills to set out on one last mission to try to win the war.
If they fail this time, the world will die. Before the Jaegars were ever created, the world tried every manner of fighting they could think of, with nuking the monsters the last resort. This method killed more people than even the monsters would have and soon the monsters were able to even withstand a nuclear attack. The four final Jaegars are the world’s last stand, and the world won’t even support them.
That made this story about the few people remaining with faith in the program – all alone – trying to save the world of people who had already given up.
Here is the most interesting part of this book. The giant robots vs. monsters battles that everyone talks about are only a small part of the book. There is the giant battle at the beginning and then there is not another battle with Kaiju until you are almost 2/3 of the way finished with the novel. That is a smart decision because reading about the fights is not exciting if they stretch on and one. The Pacific Rim book really shows what these monsters are, where they came from, and why they keep getting bigger and stronger, something people might have missed if they just watched the movie once and only paid attention to the big robot vs monster fights.
This Pacific Rim book develops some great characters – Raleigh and his ability to move on after the death of his brother; Stacker Pentecost, the man who leads the program, and his determination to save the world that has since passed his program by; Mori, a girl who Stacker saved as a child and owes everything to him while also wanting to prove she can be a Ranger as well; and Newt and Gottlieb, the two scientists who figure out what the Kaiju really are, and who both cripple the final mission and then save everyone with their brains.
This book presents so many other great characters as well, with Herc and his son Chuck, and the black market dealer Hannibal Chau among the best.
Let’s talk about the writing. One of the keys to keeping someone reading, and not putting the book down, is to create compelling cliffhangers at the end of each chapter and Alex Irvine mastered that technique here. It was almost impossible to put the book down for the night when a chapter ended, because he kept the action moving and the story so strong.
With the interesting characters, the genius twist and turns of the story, the well placed cliffhanger chapter ends, and great pacing, the Pacific Rim book was just about perfect. It added enough to make people want to see the movie and included a ton of extra info (including classified documents in between every chapter about characters, missions, Kaijus and Jaegars) that adds to the already great movie.
It doesn’t get much better than this.