About the Author
Read an Excerpt
IT'S BEEN FIVE YEARS SINCE Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim stomped onto the big screen, popularizing the term "kaiju" amongst large swathes of Western theater-goers, and inspiring me and the team at Ragnarok Publications to create an anthology dedicated to a Japanese film genre featuring giant monsters. With the support of 444 backers, we successfully crowdfunded that anthology and released Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters into the world. Plenty has changed since then but with Pacific Rim: Uprising and a bevy of other giant monster movies on the horizon (including a film adaptation of the beloved arcade game Rampage and the long-awaited showdown, Godzilla vs. Kong) now seemed like the perfect time to unleash a sequel of our own.
Editing a project like Kaiju Rising II: Reign of Monsters is gratifying on so many levels. It's an exciting exercise brainstorming what authors might best fit the overarching theme of the anthology while still managing to deliver their own unique style. And once the submissions start rolling in and you get to read original fiction by your favorite authors before anyone else will? Talk about sublime! I knew the anthology would be good, but it wasn't until I started to read the submissions that I realized just how good. I held some expectations for what the stories of Kaiju Rising II might offer, but authors, beautiful beasts that they are, have a tendency to surprise you.
Rewinding a bit, let me just say that one of the things I love most about the first book, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters, is the degree of diversity in the content of the stories. It's a feature that is frequently mentioned in reviews, and I whole heartedly believe it's the anthology's greatest strength. I'm glad to say that Kaiju Rising II: Reign of Monsters only builds on that (hopefully earthquake-resistant) foundation. It's a leaner predator than its big sister, more King Kong-sized than the Godzilla that is Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters, but the stories printed on the following pages still manage to span an assortment of genres — action, horror, post-apocalypse, alternate history, and science fiction. We've got stories of love and loss, revenge and redemption, duty and sacrifice, conservation and annihilation, all united under the aegis of kaiju. In the true monster movie tradition, our kaiju range from villains to victims, creatures of instinct, forces of nature, and in the words of Jurassic Park's Muldoon even a "clever girl" or two.
All books are a team effort, but none more so than an anthology. I've already touched on the incredible stories written by our amazing line-up, but I'd be remiss not to mention the hard work by those who made Kaiju Rising II: Reign of Monsters a reality. Alana Joli Abbott, my co-editor, really knows her craft, and her abilities have covered for any of my own shortcomings. Tan Ho Sim's awesome cover art is a perfect match for this anthology, and I'll be proud to display it on my bookshelf. Frankie B. Washington has all the experience needed to illustrate kaiju, and his interior art evokes the essence of each of these stories. Without the determination and marketing expertise of Melanie Meadors, it would have been a much steeper hill to climb to reach our funding goal for the Kickstarter campaign. Shawn King's design sensibilities are second to none, and I'm astonished one of the big traditional publishers hasn't snatched him up yet. Outland Entertainment's fearless leader Jeremy Mohler deserves credit for deciding to take a risk on this project, and I'm eternally grateful that he did.
But perhaps the greatest member of the team is you. Yeah, you. Whether you backed the Kickstarter campaign, bought a copy after, borrowed this from a library, or stole it from your friend (don't give it back, just convince them to buy another copy) — we couldn't have done it without you. Without a reader, there's no audience, and it doesn't matter how good the book is or how much time and effort was sunk into it. So, thank you, even if you skipped ahead to dive straight into the stories like I would in your position. If you're a fan of kaiju I sincerely believe you will appreciate what these authors have achieved. If this is your first exposure to the genre, I hope Kaiju Rising II: Reign of Monsters can be your gateway drug to a wider, weirder world.
And with that, I am honored to introduce Kaiju Rising II: Reign of Monsters. The Age of Monsters has arrived, and the Reign of Monsters has begun.
N.X. Sharps March 6, 2018CHAPTER 2
THE GHOST IN THE MACHINE
THE JUKUNG CUT THROUGH THE waves like a spear, the outboard motor purring as Keoni kept his hand on the rudder and his eyes on the horizon. And then the interminable blue and green of sky on sea was broken by the surf-lapped outcroppings of the atoll.
The ring-shaped island was a near perfect circle, the weather-worn tips of the exposed reef dusted with the accumulated sand of crushed sea-shells in some places, while in others a few determined plants sprouted. But the real life lay beneath the waves, where the reef descended like a calcified cliff towards the seabed, which was why the Redmonds fished these waters and were never short of food. And the desalination plant aboard the David Redmond that formed the nucleus of the sea-borne community meant they never went without fresh water either.
The wind tousled Keon's thick mop of sun-bleached hair while the burning disc high in the sky warmed his skin, and the sea spat its salt-spray into his face.
He looked every part the hunter, his lithe, muscular body toned and tanned, his steely gaze focused on the approaching atoll. At fifteen he was almost a man, but his skin was as yet unblemished by the scars that would one day mark him out as a hunter of Redmond tribe.
The only clothes he wore were a pair of baggy breeches and his favourite leather waistcoat, but then he didn't need anything more. The only other item he wore was his shark's tooth talisman, suspended from a leather thong about his neck. In fact, it was on this very atoll that he had found the tooth, all those years before. Remembering the lucky find, Keoni unconsciously put the talisman to his lips and kissed it.
As the outrigger drew closer to the island formation, Keoni caught sight of the natural opening that gave access to the lagoon at the heart of the atoll. Even from this far out he could see the distinct difference in colour between the waters surrounding his boat and the unplumbed sapphire depths of the lagoon.
Some said that there was no bottom to the Great Blue Hole, others that it led to the depthless dark domain of Dakuwaqa himself. But whatever the truth, Keoni knew that within the Blue Hole was where the hunter would find his prey.
As he steered the boat towards the break in the atoll wall, the youth cast a glance back over his shoulder at the receding ship-city. Parts of the David Redmond were still visible beyond the horizon, but then the floating city was huge. An agglomeration of ancient vessels, moored together to form a many-tiered floating platform a thousand metres across, at its widest point, and twelve tiers high in places. The mountainous platforms were supported by the jostling decks of the rocking ships, with Chief Turi's tented apartment lying on the topmost tier. The great, calico-white awning shone like a beacon in the light of the climbing sun.
Keoni could scarce imagine a bigger settlement anywhere within the bounds of the Coral Sea. But then he had never travelled further than the outlying trading post of Ovation and the pirate-port of Prelude.
Easing off on the motor, Keoni carefully brought the outrigger to the entrance to the lagoon, before cutting the engine altogether.
A coconut bobbed between the hull of the canoe and the starboard float. "Must be my lucky day," he mused.
Fishing it out of the water, he reached for his machete, lying alongside a steel box, beside a pile of oilcloth, ready to cut it open and enjoy its bounty. As he did so, the tarpaulin moved.
Warily taking hold of one corner of the tarp he yanked it back. Lying there, in the bottom of the boat, blinking in the sudden sunlight, was the slight form of his sister.
"Kaimi? What are you doing here?"
"I should ask you what you're doing here!" Kaimi countered, shielding her eyes from the blazing sun with a hand.
"You know what I'm doing."
"Are you mad? Father says you're not ready."
"I'm ready!" he snapped back at her.
"Father said you must wait until your sixteenth birthday. I knew what you were planning," she went on accusingly. She was younger than him by four years, but the way she spoke to him now, she sounded more like their mother, the ancestors keep her. "That's why I stowed away. Someone has to talk sense into you or father will feed you to the fishes!"
"I have to prove myself," Keoni said, thin-lipped.
"You dishonour the gods by coming here!" His sister gave a dramatic sigh. "What are you hoping to catch anyway?"
"Toki!" Keoni replied, with a measure of embarrassed pride.
"Toki? You would dishonour Dakuwaqa by killing one of his children?"
"They prey on us, so why shouldn't we prey on them? No one has ever brought a shark back from the sea. When I do, the elders will have to accept that I am as great a hunter as any Redmond has ever known!"
"You sound like that idiot Tamati. The toki do not prey on us," his younger sister chided him. They only attack when we enter their territory. And if you brought one back, dead, to the David Redmond, even if that were possible, I think Chief Turi would exile you from the tribe!"
"Well I don't," countered Keoni.
"Well I do."
"Well we'll just have to wait and see then, won't we?" Keoni said, using an uncapped flare to light the stick of dynamite he had taken from the box in the bottom of the outrigger.
He quickly let go of the dynamite and it entered the water with a plop, its fuse still fizzing. The flare followed it a split second later.
The siblings watched as the dynamite sank into the blue depths, quickly vanishing from sight, although the pinky-red glow of the sputtering flare remained visible much longer. They both heard the muffled boom of its detonation and felt the surge of the sea beneath the boat as the shockwave rose to the surface. A great column of water burst from the submarine sinkhole before raining back down again in a sudden deluge that drenched Keoni, Kaimi, and the boat.
"You idiot!" Kaimi shouted as she pulled her soaking hair out of her eyes. "Are you trying to kill us?"
"I have to do something to shake Toki from the comfort of his sea bed," Keoni said.
Water sloshed about in the bottom of the boat between them.
"So now what do we do?" his sister grumbled, peering over the side of the jukung at the fathomless depths beneath them.
And so they waited.
"HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN now?" Kaimi asked for the umpteenth time.
"I don't know!" Keoni snapped. "About thirty seconds since you last asked? Just shut up, okay?"
It had been several minutes since he had dropped his dynamite lure into the ocean, certainly longer than he had thought it would take to stir his prey from its lair, and he was suffering the comedown from the adrenaline peak he had experienced at coming out to the atoll, without his father's permission.
Since dropping the dynamite into the sea, he had remained standing in the boat, but now his legs ached from maintaining his balance and, disgruntled, feeling that his plan had all come to naught, he sat down on one of the bench seats that crossed the hull.
Kaimi lounged with her head lolling over the side of the boat. "What's that?" she asked.
Keoni stood again and moved to the edge of the boat. He looked down into the water, between the hull and the canoe's portside lateral support float. He could see beads of light twinkling in the dark depths far below. And it was then that he saw the grey shadow beneath the waves, moving at speed towards the jukung.
The shark rocketed out of the sea with the force of a torpedo, its gunmetal grey, bullet-shaped head all gaping jaws as it exited the ocean.
Kaimi screamed while Keoni scrabbled for his spear, not because he thought it would serve him well against the Great White, but just because he didn't know what else to do. The terrifying selachian cleared the waves for a moment, a moment that slowed in Keoni's mind as his adrenaline-heightened senses took in every detail, from the remora sucking fish clinging to the monster's pale belly, and the scars striating its flanks and muzzle — the legacy of previous submarine battles — to the soft, pinky quality of the flesh inside its mouth, the rolling rows of serrated teeth, and the creature's oblivion-black, soulless stare.
And then it was dropping again, the intimidating mass of it blotting out the burning white disk of the sun for a moment, casting a great shadow across the outrigger. Keoni was aware of Kaimi screaming as the fish hit the water again, sending a wall of water crashing over the boat, as it landed a mere hand's breadth from the outrigger's port boom, and setting the vessel rocking.
The young hunter's blood was pumping now, his whole body shaking as he raised his fishing spear, ready to plunge it into the shark's eye-socket the moment it broke the surface again. But when the tentacles burst from the boiling sea in the shark's wake, Keoni was paralysed into inaction.
The rubbery appendages writhed above the surface of the water, as if tasting the air.
Keoni had set out that morning to catch a shark and prove himself a hunter, but now he found himself facing the proposition of dealing with another leviathan born of the deep ocean, some colossal squid!
Kaimi's screams shook him from his reverie. "Get us out of here!" she managed to articulate between her howls of horror.
For the briefest moment, Keoni wondered if he could take on a fully grown giant squid and win, but when he saw how far away it was and how long the writhing, suckered arms must be, he thought better of it and ran to the back of the boat, scrabbling desperately at the outboard's starter cord.
His first tug summoned nothing more than a throaty belch of engine fumes from the outboard.
"Come on, Keoni!"
He turned and saw the panic writ large across his sister's face. Following her horrified gaze, he expected to see the writhing limbs moving through the water towards the boat, but what he saw instead froze him to the very core of his being, despite the heat of the blazing sun beating down upon him.
As brother and sister watched together, more writhing limbs emerged from the sea at the centre of the atoll. They were coloured with rippling patterns of pink, orange, and yellow, and there were far more than was normal for a giant squid.
Suddenly several of the tentacles whipped out across the water, elongating with elastic fluidity, and shot past the outrigger. Kaimi screamed again as the muscular appendages struck the water. The surface of the sea became a seething turmoil as something was dragged, thrashing with all its might, back to the surface.
Keoni gasped. With the appearance of the strange tentacles he had momentarily forgotten all about the Great White. It suddenly surfaced again beside the outrigger, threatening to smash the port boom to matchwood as it fought to free itself from the tightening tentacles. The huge fish twisted and turned with such force Keoni worried that, even if it didn't destroy the outrigger with its desperate thrashing, it would swamp the boat with seawater and sink it just the same.
The shark snapped its jaws open and closed, as if in a feeding frenzy, but still it could not free itself from the clutches of the tentacles. Inexorably it was dragged backwards through the water towards the centre of the atoll, where the water was darker.
The sea frothed and foamed as the shark continued to fight the tentacles — a fight it could never hope to win.
But if witnessing what he had thought was the apex predator of the Coral Sea being captured by this half-seen tentacled leviathan wasn't shocking enough, what happened next expanded Keoni's understanding of the truth of his world in ways he could never have imagined when he set out that morning.
As the shark was hauled in, the tentacles began to rise out of the water, impossibly high for a giant squid, or even an overgrown octopus.
It very soon became apparent that no mutated squid had caught the shark, but something much, much bigger.
As the tentacles rose, Keoni saw that they surrounded a vast mouth that made the monster look more like a gigantic starfish, or some impossibly large anemone. The writhing limbs were there solely to feed food into the gaping maw, and as Keoni stared dumbfounded at the leviathan emerging from the Great Blue Hole, he saw the frantic shark disappear inside.
The strange creature was already taller than the outrigger was long, and yet still it continued to rise from the ocean's unplumbed depths, the roots of the tentacles fusing into what at first appeared to be a serpentine body, until it broadened out into a vast trunk-like structure, and Keoni realised that what he had taken to be the thickness of the creature's entire body was in fact only its neck. And still it continued to rise.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Kaiju Rising II"
Copyright © 2018 N.X. Sharps and Alana Abbot.
Excerpted by permission of Outland Entertainment.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
FOREWORD Robert Hood,
INTRODUCTION N.X. Sharps,
THE GHOST IN THE MACHINE Jonathan Green,
WINTER MOON AND THE SUN BRINGER Kane Gilmour,
RANCHO NIDO Guadalupe Garcia McCall,
THE DIVE Mari Murdock,
WHAT EVERYONE KNOWS Seanan McGuire,
THE KAIJU COUNTERS ML Brennan,
FORMULA 287-F Dan Wells,
TITANS AND HEROES Nick Cole,
THE HUNT, CONCLUDED Cullen Bunn,
THE DEVIL IN THE DETAILS Sabrina Vourvoulias,
MORITURI Melanie R. Meadors,
MAUI'S HOOK Lee Murray,
SOLEDAD Steve Diamond,
WHEN A KAIJU FALLS IN LOVE Zin E. Rocklyn,
ROGUE 57: HOME SWEET HOME Jeremy Robinson,
THE GENIUS PRIZE Marie Brennan,