Project Nemesis, by Jeremy Robinson, was one of my experimental reads. I’m not usually into stories where everybody dies (or so I keep telling myself), and this one was obviously going to have a very large body count, but the idea of a kaiju thriller, as the term has been coined, was… intriguing.
I ended up enjoying it so much that I got the entire series, including Project Maigo, Project 731, Project Hyperion, and Project Legion, and the side-story Island 731, which tells an important part of the overall narrative.
The main storyline follows Jon Hudson, director of a paranormal investigative agency, widely regarded as a joke at first, under the Department of Homeland Security. He and his crew are much more capable than they might seem, though, which is handy, considering how he stumbles onto a massive military and corporate conspiracy that is not shy about leaving disappeared bodies in its wake… oh, and a monster that quickly grows and grows to become a full-fledged kaiju, like Godzilla and such, which rains absolute devastation and slaughter upon everything in its path. This is Nemesis, which was created by cloning the DNA of an ancient monster, labeled a goddess of vengeance, and mixing it with the DNA of a young girl who was murdered, alongside her mother, by her own father. Toss in an insane army general and a cold-blooded warrior with an unusual form of nobility, and you have a basic setup for the first novel.
Said first novel was entertaining, though the continual cycle of meeting someone who dies, then following the main plot, then meeting someone who dies, then following the main plot, then meeting someone who dies… yeah, it got a little repetitive by the end. However, it was still an interesting adventure, and one which highlighted the good and bad points of both mankind and the monster. It was vivid, visceral, and deeply emotional, not to mention highly suspenseful. It was also surprisingly well-paced, thrilling, and riveting, albeit sometimes in a morbid way.
It’s just begging to be made into a movie! 😉
The sequel kept most of that up, and added in the characters of Hawkins and Lily, who have their original adventure in Island 731. It explored new ideas and wrapped things up pretty neatly, and dropped quite a bombshell at its conclusion. The overall plot began to take shape in the third novel, bringing in remnants from the side-story and setting up the main conflict which dominates the last two novels. From there on, things are mostly unending fireworks, which is thrilling, but I can’t help but think that the development of the characters, new and old, began to suffer at that point. They were being driven to physical extremes, yes, in the face of overwhelming odds, but people began to drive the plot less than the plot was driving them. Heck, some of them were all but written out, and that was before the finale’s big crossover.
On which note, while cinematic universes are a thing now, Robinson has officially created a literary multiverse. Drawing characters from several/most of his previous works, set both within and without the Nemesis-based universe, Robinson unites several of his protagonists in a war where all of their homes are under imminent threat. It’s explosive, but… well, imagine if you had seen only the first two Iron Man movies, and then saw the Avengers assemble for the first time just in the nick of time to fight Thanos. It’s a bit like that. The characters are entertaining, as are the fireworks, but the explosive climax does not leave much leeway for getting to know and care about them. Without being familiar with the rest of Robinson’s library, there’s just something missing, ya know?
Mind you, this experience does leave me wanting to read said library in due time, so I suppose it still works, in its way.
The themes were far-reaching, contemplative, and intriguing, ranging everywhere from the complexity of human nature, to the nature of good, evil, and freedom, to our role in the universe, to the value of human life within said universe. The action was thrilling and exciting. The monsters, large and small, were interesting, as was all the mad science on display. But easily the best part, in my opinion, were the characters.
Hudson’s wit, will, and determination were great, though he had a colorful tongue. His romantic interest, Collins, was a delight to read, especially as she was such a badass, and I loved their relationship, especially with how he respects her, completely, no matter how wildly attractive he finds her body. Now that’s a man! 🙂
Maigo, once she’s able to be her own character (spoilers), is likewise endearing, being small, but powerful, as she heals from a tremendous trauma, and becomes whole again through her relationship with her adoptive father, Hudson. And her surrogate sister, Lily the cat-girl, was just plain fun and cute!
Hawkins was strong and noble, Joliet was fierce and fearless, Watson was quiet and smart, Cooper was a stern force of nature, and Woodstock was a lovable surly old codger of a pilot!
Finally, the character of Katsu Endo was the first real example of the nuances found in good and evil, even before Nemesis. A strong, largely-silent warrior, he was entirely focused and driven towards his own ends, and loyal to an extreme. He exemplifies how people can do both good and bad things, and how the latter can forever isolate one no matter the good that one does later.
In short, every character had their own story. That’s why I was a bit disappointed to see so many of them become a bit diminished in the face of the plot. It began to feel like watching the cliff notes of a proper series, hitting all the highlights, but with significant gaps in how the characters developed.
Which makes it all the more odd, I suppose, that I am not sure if I am happy or disappointed with how few of the main characters die in the end. I mean, so many other people die, but this little nucleus of people emerges almost entirely unscathed, without one fatality among them? I mean, I didn’t want any of them to die at all, but, really? Plot armor, much?
One minor detail: they used an array of flying drones that concentrate laser fire. It was a genius idea, but they only used it once. Why? Because a hundred drones didn’t get the job done, but they did have a distinct effect on a giant monster. So, naturally, the answer should have been to up the numbers and maybe the power, too. If a hundred didn’t get the job done, then maybe a thousand would, or ten thousand, especially once the person controlling them knows where to aim. But they didn’t. They went to the trouble of introducing this idea and then immediately wrote it out.
On a personal note, I have to wonder if Robinson doesn’t like my religion for some reason, based on how he specifically mentions us, and only us, a couple of times, and how he seems to be slightly misinformed, and how he took the time to destroy our single most iconic building within his story.
Setting that aside, however, I rather enjoyed the series, for the most part. It may have eventually started trying to keep moving so fast that it actually lost a bit of steam, but even then, it was a fun, thrilling ride, and one which wove a compelling tale about the thin line which separates humanity and the monsters we call evil.
And I love the concept art inserts that show us all these monsters! 🙂
Of course, if this isn’t obvious yet, one should keep in mind that there are a number of violent, disturbing, sad scenes, with a very large body count, and it has a bit of colorful language, added to some weighty themes. The most tactful thing it does is skirt anything outright sexual, though Hudson seems to like camping in the nude for some reason. It is most definitely meant for a more mature audience, not little kids. In a cinematic format, I would definitely rate it R, or at least PG-13.
Fair warning! 😉
Rating: 8 stars out of 10. (9 for the first half)
(and since I have discovered the “insert gallery” feature, you can enjoy and get freaked out by the monster slideshow below! mwahahah!)