Monster Hunter International   Leave a comment

Correia, Larry. Monster Hunter International. New York, Baen, c. 2009. 713 p. $7.99

Modern urban fantasy is the thing these days, and it permeates all genres of fiction. Vampires, werewolves, and ickier things that go bump in the night are everywhere you look. If I had a brain, I’d jump on the bandwagon with Charlaine Harris, and Janice Davidson, and Emma Bull, and Charles de Lint, and Jim Butcher, and Larry Correia. They are all terrific writers, and I’ve even met a couple of them, which convinces me that they are also terrific people. Maybe I should get over to the Poisoned Pen book store in Scottsdale tomorrow night and meet Larry, too. Coincidence that I decide to write this review and then find out he’s in Phoenix this week? Raise your hand if you believe in coincidences.

My copy of MONSTER HUNTER INTERNATIONAL is pretty beaten up. I would like to add it to the Phoenix Public Library collection–a fate that befalls many of the books that come my way, but I have just used it too hard. We don’t add books that have creased spines, stained edges, and a front cover that is curling back on itself. It’s not about content in the library–these days it’s all about looking good. That’s what happens to a 700 page book when it gets read. It takes a while to finish it. In the process the book gets handled, opened, dropped, folded, mutilated and it winds up looking like its hero–a big tough ugly galoot. So, I was going to donate it to the Friends (of the Century Branch Library)–some other fantasy reader would find it in the book sale corner and enjoy it, maybe as much as I enjoyed it. Then I thought, what the heck? I liked the book a lot. Let’s write a review before giving it away.

Owen Z. Pitt begins his career as a monster hunter by getting attacked by a werewolf. Unlike most people who get attacked by werewolves, he doesn’t die. In fact he manages to kill the thing before succumbing to his own wounds. Ordinary people die, but heroes have a way of surviving when ordinary people die, and make no mistake, Owen is destined to be an epic hero. For one thing, he’s a goon. Six foot ten, four hundred pounds of bone and muscle, smart–Owen walks around with a .357 magnum concealed on his person–even when he’s going to his day job as an accountant. Something about being a goon  is a big help in also being a hero.

Would you believe that all those monsters that you don’t believe in do really exist? Would you believe that they are causisng havoc all over the world, and that there are both government agencies and private corporations dedicated to fighting and killing them? Of course you would. You believe in aliens and the Men in Black, don’t you? After he recovers from being mauled by a werewolf, Owen gets recruited by Monster Hunters International (and also by an old Jewish ghost of a monster killer from a previous generation).

The allure of fighting monsters for fun and bounties might have been enough to sign him up, but he also meets Julie Shackleford, a beautiful gun-toting Amazon. Throw in the prospect of true love, and his fate is pre-ordained. (Turns out that is truer than I thought when I coined the phrase–must be nice to be born the Chosen One of Prophecy!) Before he knows it Owen is fighting for his life against vampires, gargoyles, wraiths and other-dimensional horrors. He meets elves, orcs, and ghostly guardians. He winds up trying to save the world from the Cursed One and the Old Ones who come from another plane of existence.

Neither H.P. Lovecraft nor Yog-Sothoth is mentioned by name, but you know this book falls right into the Mythos tradition. H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard were penpals. MHI is Lovecraftian horror as written by Conan’s scribe, with a touch of Bram Stoker thrown in. Vampires really are the in thing in modern fantasy!

What I really liked about Monster Hunter was the fight scenes. Correia, who according to the biographical note in the back of the book is a real-life gun nut and combat instructor writes the best battle scenes since Howard died. He takes you into the whirlwind of battle, and while you are reading those scenes, it’s almost like an out-of-body experience. You, the reader, will feel that heart-pounding excitement that only comes during the most intense combat or sports experience. If you’ve never actually been in a fight that mattered, you won’t know what I’m talking about–how the world narrows down to the next swing of your fist, or pull on the trigger. Or maybe you do, if you’re the kind of person who goes to action thrillers and loses yourself in the over-the-top combat scenes the movies can produce these days.

But, read MONSTER HUNTER INTERNATIONAL and you will get some idea what those experiences are like. It’s a hell of a tale, and if Correia can keep writing like this, he may become the Robert E. Howard of the 21st century.

–Ken St. Andre, Phoenix Public Library

Posted November 18, 2009 by atroll in Uncategorized

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