Thursday, April 9, 2015

Monster Hunter International, by Larry Correia



I decided to do a series of book reviews as a run-up to the Hugo awards, and can think of no better place to start than with Larry Correia. If you don't understand that, let me explain:....ummm, no; that would take too long. Let me sum up: Larry Correia will ultimately be regarded as THE person who returned integrity to the Hugo process, and in doing so, saved the award from oblivion.
But I will no longer discuss his work in other matters; this is a book review.
I will, however, make two negative observations:

Negative Observation Number 1: I don't like names that are spelled funny. I don't read the names in Michael Hooten's Bardic Chronicles; in those, the characters have long multiple names with NO vowels at all, except for the occasional 'Y' thrown in like a pasty on a 1950's exotic dancer. (I saw it in a Doris Day/Rock Hudson movie.) And Larry's name is spelled funny for the opposite reason: It ends with three vowels in a row. He could have changed it, pre-publication, you know, and no one would have objected. Was Corrigan or Carson or Carroll too much to ask? It's too late to do anything about this, everybody knows how to spell it NOW, but really: This could have been avoided.

Negative Observation Number 2: I think my youngest biological son has a Monster Hunter tattoo. I don't LIKE tattoos. I know he has the bumper sticker and something on his dashboard and a hat, but the tattoo is a little bit much. My fault, actually, because I introduced him to MHI when he was still in high school. It's too late to do anything about the tattoo, as well.

And now to the book:

On one otherwise normal Tuesday evening I had the chance to live the American dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteenth-story window.



There's no WAY that you aren't gonna love that beginning, unless you have some sort of moral objection to throwing people out of windows. And yes, I guess that there are people like that, and they get to do things their own way, but for the rest of us: SHAZAM!

And it just gets better after that.

Our hero, Owen Zastava Pitt describes himself as a huge, ugly, muscular accountant. (By way of an AMAZING coincidence, so is Larry, except for the ugly part; I'd have to go with ruggedly handsome as a person, and self-deprecating humor as an author.) The reason he gets to throw his boss out the window is because that Tuesday night in question just happens to be a full moon, and Owen's boss just happens to be a werewolf, newly turned. And he has chosen to eat Owen's heart.
Owen remonstrates.
That doesn't work.
Owen allows himself to retort.
With 5 rounds of .357 from a Smith & Wesson snub-nose.
That also doesn't work.
Nor does the next five rounds, into the werewolf's head, after a speed load while running away.
An aside to discuss ammunition selection: The .357 in a snub-nose is not my personal preference. I also carry a S&W (Model 642) snubbie for personal protection, but I have chosen the .38+P over the .357. Make no mistake, I love the .357, but two factors mitigate against its' use in a snubbie. First, the short barrel length means a good bit of the power of the cartridge is lost to a bodacious muzzle flash. Second, the increased power of the .357 means a much greater perceived recoil in a small-frame revolver. However, for a huge guy like Owen (and Larry), the recoil may not matter all that much, and the increased muzzle flash can actually act as a secondary defense in very close quarter encounters.
Actually, the main purpose in this aside is not so much to comment on the particular ammunition choice, but to introduce the fact that throughout the book, Larry makes NO STUPID FIREARMS STATEMENTS. That is a WONDERFUL relief to guys like me, who have some working acquaintance with fire arms, but Larry takes it even further than not being stupid: he is SMART about firearms. He addresses the ballistics properties of silver bullets; he knows that a handgun is NOT a good primary weapon in a firefight; and he knows when to use a shotgun and when to use a rifle. And finally, he incorporates some wonderfully desirable firearms into the book that are practically characters in their own right, such as Owen's 12 gauge shotgun with a silver-edged bayonet, the Abomination.


In the world that Larry creates, monsters are real, and many of the monsters are a problem. And there are companies that are in business to eliminate that problem, drawing bounties set up by (who else) Teddy Roosevelt who had personally experienced problems with monsters. And the bounties have a great name: PUFF. I am SO not going to tell you what the acronym is for, because that would just spoil it, but Larry is great with acronyms; in a later book, we get to read about Special Task Form Unicorn, or STFU.

After Owen's startling introduction into the world of monsters, he wakes up in a hospital, suffering from some outrageous werewolf wounds. His greeting committee consists of two suits from the government, who threaten him with death, if he : a) turns into a werewolf, or b) tells anyone what really happened. However, in one of those awful need-to-know scenes, they refuse to tell him anything else. The snarl-fest is interrupted by a Bogart/Cagney tough-guy type, who introduces himself as being the alternative to government handling, gives Owen a business card, and leaves.

I am almost done with the scene by scene narrative, but I have to give you one more example of why Larry's writing is so great:

Owen is at home recuperating, when the tough guy (Earl Harbinger) shows up at his door with a beautiful woman (Julie Shackleford) on his arm. They are there to interview Owen for a job at their company, Monster Hunters International. . Owen immediately falls head over heels in love with Julie. He is convinced that she is The One because she is beautiful, smart, wears glasses, and packs a 1911 for self-defense. Here's the great part: In the course of the job interview, Julie starts with the same line the government agents have taken about the need-to-know, and we are prepared to accept this approach, because countless other books and movies have shown the hero taking on danger in complete ignorance of the relevant details. Suddenly, though, EARL STARTS ANSWERING QUESTIONS! There's a brief, cute scene with Julie trying to keep the interview going, but being ignored by Owen and Earl who are happily discussing monsters. It's great! I didn't want Owen to keep going on without knowing what was up, and neither did you, but we were prepared for the reveal to come later. Larry doesn't MAKE us wait until later, because he doesn't need this paltry bit of mystery to keep the tension up. He has a LOT more story on tap.

Okay, that's all I'm going to tell you about the story. If you wonder about whether a particular character dies, all I can do is point you to the fact that this is a SERIES and let you draw your own conclusions.

The book is funny. The dialogue is great. There's a love story, lots of bizarre characters in even more bizarre roles, and good guys of all race, creed, and hair style treated with respect and sympathy. As mentioned earlier, I gave the book to my youngest son while he was still in high school, and my decency standards are set pretty high. Larry is quite consistent with a Heinlein level of appropriate language. He may mention that a certain character emits swear words while being beaten/shot/stabbed/ thwarted, but doesn't find it necessary to provide us with examples. The book works on so many different levels, but mostly because it emphasizes the significance of self-sacrifice for team mates.

Here's how much we enjoyed this book: we checked the Baen release lists at least every week to see when the next installment was due. Kids at Christmas? Yeah, I'll have to accept that label. Fortunately, Larry can write other things well, but MHI holds a special place in our house because it was our introduction to good monster hunting.

I just wish I could do something about that tattoo...

5 comments:

  1. I'm on Book 5 myself, and yes, this series is great for all of the reasons you talk about, and a boatload more.

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  2. So, i was in Barnes & Noble and saw MHI. I almost didn't buy it. In the '70s I learned to hate Horror as a genre. So I didn't want to read it, but I read that first paragraph. And laughed. When I had read the first chapter I was hooked. And there's a sense in which MHI isn't really Horror. It's more like Adventure or Military SF or Military Fantasy and I love it.

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    1. I absolutely cannot abide horror. The Walt Disney movie, Darby O'Gill and the Little People, had a banshee it it, that gave me nightmares at the age of six. I'm 61 one now (for a short time only) and I still don't do horror. But you are right: MHI is more adventure, probably because it includes the power to strike back. With big honken guns, with which monsters can be blown away. I LOVE big honken guns!

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  3. The names in my books are not hard. You just have to forget all the rules of English phonetics.

    But I am so stoked to have a link to my stuff in a post about Larry. It's a great honor, Pat, even if it wasn't entirely complimentary :)

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