Sunday, March 29, 2009

AGE OF THE GODS by Guy Tucker

I should tell you that I haven't read this book since 1996, and that's not going to be changing anytime soon. So this isn't going to be a proper "review"; rather, it is a collection of the impressions the book left on me. And believe me, it left quite an impression.

I remember unkind words said about this volume by more than one person way back in the days when it was new. It was never an opinion I shared. My suspicion is that those folks either had their own agendas or they let their view of the author color their view of his work. It'd be hard to argue that Guy Tucker could be a polarizing figure in some quarters. That doesn't change the fact that AGE OF THE GODS is possibly one of the most important English language works on Japanese science-fiction.

Guy Tucker could write passionately and intelligently about the Japanese sci-fi genre, and he did so with an insight perhaps unusual for a Western fan. Did I agree with everything he wrote in the book? Not at all. I rarely did when it came to anyone's reviews of genre works, and I also remember feeling some of his conclusions were off-base. That doesn't mean I thought they were valueless, since sometimes, it can be educational to read a well-reasoned dissenting voice.

AGE OF THE GODS, however, had problems. It was a book in desperate need of a proper editor, and it didn't get that treatment. It meandered at times and suffered from passages that felt either phoned in or incomplete. There were the inevitable mistakes that crept into the work as well. The most glaring was the assertion in its pages that Hiroshi Miyauchi had committed suicide! Well, that wasn't the case - Miyauchi had in fact just been a regular in the series CHORIKI SENTAI OHRANGER, and is still hale and hearty to this day. The confusion arose from the arrangement of the credits in THE WAR IN SPACE (1977) and Tucker's lack of knowledge of the superhero genre. It was a simple case of mistaken identity, but it was very unfortunate considering the ultimate fate of Masaya Oki (the person Tucker had meant).

The flaws in AGE OF THE GODS do not detract from its overall importance as a truly seminal work on tokusatsu. That's why it is such a shame that it only exists as a small press book while lesser works were afforded far wider distribution. In his remembrance of Guy Tucker, August Ragone reports that Guy intended to revise AGE OF THE GODS. To me, that just compounds the tragedy of Tucker's untimely passing. I would dearly have loved to see him reshape that manuscript into a more solid and fully realized form, and deliver on the promise of the masterpiece that was on the verge of happening.

I have read that August Ragone is going to revise AGE OF THE GODS himself, in the hopes of interesting a publisher in bringing into back into print. I wish him the best for success. AGE OF THE GODS deserves better than to be consigned to obscurity.

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