Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review: Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia, book 1 of Monster Hunter Nation

Owen had an odd childhood. His father, convinced of various end of the world scenarios, brought him up to be a solver, a warrior and a fighter through and through. Owen had other plans. He wanted to be normal, to distance himself from all that – so he became an accountant. As normal as it was possible to be

And the plan worked. Until his boss turned into a werewolf and tried to eat him.

In the aftermath he was recruited by Monster Hunters Inc. A private company of dedicated hunters who go into the dark and blow it up. Then shoot it until it stops moving. Then shoot it some more. Then cut up the remains and burn them to ash. And they get to play with the best toys.

And never was he more needed. An ancient threat has returned, guarded by some of the mightiest vampires in the world and capable of literally destroying time itself. But they don't know where it is – or how to stop it. The only key they have is Owen, tied to monster, to try and shed some light on its plans before the world ends.

In the meantime Owen has to adapt to his new life, with his new companions, deal with daily evil – and contend with the growing antagonism of the federal government that has little time and less patience for independent monster hunters.

And of course there's a woman. She's beautiful, strong, courageous – and she's a complete expert with all kinds of firearms. What more could Owen want?

Do you ever read a book and think you've learned something about the author? Usually I get this when I read a paranormal romance with lots and lots and lots (and oh dear gods lots) of graphic sex scenes and then feel I know every last kink the author has (Laurell K Hamilton, I'm looking at you).

Well in this case I read the book and felt very very sure that the author can probably orgasm at a gun show. There is a LOT of gun facts and trivia in this book. Guns and ammo are described in loving, drooling detail at great length. And while it most certainly is very much in character, it does bog down the book in places and make you think that someone needs to tell the author that not everyone is really into the shooty things as much as he is. In general, I think this book suffers from excessive description. It's not all as bad as the gun love, but there are a lot of things that are overly described

Which brings me to a comment on the pacing. It isn't awful – every time I reach the point of “yeah we should be moving on now” we do just that. The problem is I do reach the point of “we should be moving on now” a few too many times.

However, despite this, the story runs well. These are speedbumps, not road blocks. The story always kept me going and kept me fascinated. I often didn't know what was happening next and I was surprised more than once. In many ways it had such a different feel from a lot of urban fantasy that I couldn't predict at all what was going to happen. Many a time I thought a character was dead – and was wrong, similarly I thought there was no way a character would die – and off he goes. I didn't think he and Julie would become a couple, I wasn't sure how they'd win the battle – and the monsters never ever failed to be anything less than frightening, dangerous and lethal.

It maintains tension, theme and plot throughout and has few distracting sideplots. Despite the pacing it is a very focused book, a very narrow book and a very on point book

I do like the unique take on many of the creatures we see in Urban Fantasy. Despite the dubious class statements made, it is a different take on elves to have them as stereotypical trailer park dwells, with the elf queen watching Wheel of Fortune and the other elves watching pro-wrestling. Meanwhile, the orcs are noble and loyal and loving and honourable. It's a unique element and it's nice to see a twist now and then.

It is refreshing to have a protagonist who is not classically good looking and, yes, fat. He's huge and muscular and fit – and fat, it's always made clear. That's very very rare in the genre. The main character is mixed race and the book also has a racially diverse cast. To quote from it “Holly had taken to calling us the rainbow coalition team, since we had one white female, and males of the Black, Asian and Other categories. All we needed was a lesbian and a guy in a wheelchair and we were ready to salve even the biggest liberal's angst”.

Which says a lot about this book really – both in terms of racial diversity and in terms of commentary. There are some strong, powerful, likeable characters of colour (who survive!), the main protagonist is mixed race yet some of the commentary is problematic and demands the side-eye. I also think there's a strong streak of “the government can do nothing right, private citizens with no rules, yaaaay” libertarianism going through here

The female characters are warriors and unabashedly so. Julie, the prime love interest, is lethal, dangerous and a better shot than Owen. There's never a second's doubt to how powerful she is, how strong she is, how capable she is, how completely lacking in Spunky Agency she is and simply how lethal and incredible she is. Though she does have to be rescued by Owen. Twice. Yes, there is some super-damsel here.

Holly is a former stripper turned hunter – and she looooves some explosives. She's merciless, tough as nails, ruthless and very scary. I like her, I like her a lot.

Despite the rainbow comment, no, there are no GBLT people.

The relationship between Julie and Owen is a trifle skeevy in places, albeit, prettytame by urban fantasy standards. Owen is more than a little pushy when she expresses no interest and threatens him with severe bodily harm if he asks personal questions. Part of his dislike for Grant is also based on him being Julie's boyfriend (though he is a very unlikeable person, it has to be said). It's relatively tame compared to some but there is an element of continuing to pursue after the no has been received.

This book had a lot of unique elements, sufficient to keep me interested and pulled into the story. And the story was good, it had its flat moments but in general it pulled me back in, kept me interested and kept me going. There was a lot of well maintained anticipation and while I didn't stay up all night reading, I did push my bed time a little juuuuust to finish this bit. Just this bit. Honest.

I will be looking at the next book and I expect to enjoy it – but after the grand epic conflict in this first book, will the second one be anticlimactic?