Book Review – Pacific Rim

Novelization by Alex Irvine, story by Travis Beacham.
Publication date: July 9, 2013
Page count: 325
Published by Titan Books in mass market paperback format.

From the back of the book:

When legions of monstrous creatures known as kaiju started rising from the sea, a war began that would take millions of lives and consume humanity’s resources for years on end. A weapon was devised to fight the kaiju: Jaegers, massive robots controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. But even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless kaiju.
On the verge of defeat, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes – a washed up former pilot named Raleigh Becket and untested trainee Mako Mori – who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past.
Together, they stand as mankind’s last hope against the mounting apocalypse.


I have to admit, at first glance I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy this book, as giant fighting robots really aren’t my thing. But I settled myself in a comfy chair, opened the cover, and soon found myself immersed in a plot that was intense, fast paced, and compelling. Fair warning, spoilers lie ahead, but out of respect for those who haven’t read the book, or seen the movie directed by Guillermo Del Toro, I’ll try to limit them to the first part of the plotline.

Raleigh Becket is a cocky hero who’s entire world shattered when he lost his brother and co-pilot, Yancy, battling a fierce kaiju named Knifehead. His psyche scarred by feeling his brother’s death through their neural bridge, Raleigh leaves the Rangers and Jaegers behind, and fills his days with work on a defensive wall he knows in his heart is pointless. Five years later, and he’s still wandering from site to site, taking his chances on the highest reaches of the Wall, the zest and joy torn from his life the same way his brother Yancy was torn from their Jaeger, Gipsy Danger.

Enter Stacker Pentecost, Marshall in command of the Jaegers and their Ranger pilots, come to bring Raleigh back into the fold. He’s got an audacious plan to finally end the threat of kaiju attacks once and for all. Although the attacks themselves have grown more frequent and more deadly for the Rangers and their Jaegers, the governments of the world have withdrawn funding for the program, choosing instead to huddle fearfully behind the Wall and placing their hopes for survival in its concrete and rebar construction. Pentecost has done all he can to keep the program limping along, seeking private sector funding, but he knows it’s just a matter of time until the last of his Jaeger forces are destroyed beyond repair.

Mako Mori, adopted daughter of Pentecost and the last survivor of a long line of sword-makers, challenges the somewhat jaded Raleigh into not only reliving his brother’s death, but into moving past it to help her come to terms with her own demons, and make the newly retro-fitted Gipsy Danger the kaiju-slayer she once was. As Pentecost struggles with his many secrets, including just where he found the private funding for the Jaegers, he most shepard not only his Rangers, but also the two perpetually bickering lead scientists under his command, Drs. Newton Geiszler and Hermann Gottlieb.

Aside from a slight continuity hiccup (on page 49, it’s mentioned that Raleigh had never been inside a Mark V Jaeger, as none had existed when he was in the program, but the very next paragraph says he’d fought alongside one – Stryker Eureka – in the battle just prior to the one that took his brother’s life), I quickly discovered that I simply could not put the book down without wondering what came next. The kaiju reminded me of many a Saturday afternoon spent sitting right in front of the television as black and white giant monsters ravaged Tokyo. Each kaiju battle left me on the edge of my seat, rooting for the Jaegers and their heroic Ranger pilots as they gave everything they had, including, all too often, their very lives.

This was a rolicking adventure from start to finish – which I won’t detail here, no matter how very tempted I am! A classic Good-versus-Evil tale of alien invasion, noble heroes, and even the predictable primary military response of nuking the kaiju in the beginning of the attacks couldn’t spoil my enjoyment of this novelization, and I can only hope that when I see the movie on the big screen, Del Toro does it the same justice that Alex Irvine has in printed form.