Baen Books,: June 2012
Hardcover / eBook, Pages: 560
Part of The Monster Hunters Omnibus: http://www.baenebooks.com/p-1618-the-monster-hunters.aspx
Sample Chapters: http://www.baenebooks.com/chapters/9781451637847B/9781451637847B.htm?blurb
Owen Zastava Pitt is an accountant, albeit a very large and brawny accountant with a violent past as a bouncer who has a love of guns and shooting. This violent past comes in handy when – working late one night – his boss calls him into his office and Owen learns immediately his boss has become a werewolf. After a struggle that nearly kills him, Owen tosses his boss out of a window then passes out. When Owen wakes, he’s not alone, he’s in a hospital visited by federal agents informing him of what happened, that yes he did indeed fight and defeat a werewolf, and questioning him about the events. Another man, Earl, enters and passes Owen a card with the words Monster Hunter International which lingers in his mind after he leaves.
Owen learns that monsters are real and not only does the government have a secretive division dedicated to eradicating monsters and keeping their existence hidden from the public, but a paramilitary organization – Monster Hunter International (MHI) – wants to recruit Owen into its ranks. When he next meets his new employers, he is greeted by Earl and Julie Shackelford, one of the members of the family who founded Monster Hunters International. Of course Julie is stunningly gorgeous, loves guns as much as Owen does and is basically his dream woman come to life. Soon enough Correia* …rather Pitt joins MHI and goes through the typical training regiment the protagonist of military fiction needs to under go in order to become a Full Fledged Member.
You can take a look at Corrreia’s bio*, and aside from his name and Owen’s name, it reads exactly as does Owen Pitt’s bio, both brawny guys who love guns, among other things. So yeah, Monster Hunter International can be very much seen as a Gary Stu story of gun porn, wish-fulfillment, and some of the other predictability inherit in a ”chosen one” fantasy.
Correia admits to being a fan of B-Movies featuring monsters and that love for such films transfers well to the page he clearly had a lot of fun writing the book. Who wouldn’t want to throw their boss out the window, beat up his dream-girl’s annoying boyfriend, have carte-blanche when it comes to fighting monsters, save the world and get the girl of his dreams on his arms after beating the Big Bad? These audacious elements blared out to me while I was reading the book and I didn’t care because I was having fun reading it.
Monster Hunter International was clearly a book that I was able to enjoy despite (and maybe because of) some of the bombastic elements that if thrown together without some skill, I would have easily dismissed. Another element that helped to make the novel enjoyable was how Correia depicted Owen interacting with his newbie squad and in particular the defacto head of MHI, Earl Harbinger. Where some of the character interaction felt a little less genuine were some of the scenes when Owen and Julie interacted.
In today’s genre landscape, werewolves, vampires, and demons are made out to be sexy creatures of seduction who can offer dark fantasies of lust. Not so in Correia’s world, these creatures are the monsters that scared us as kids, the creatures that gave us nightmares from B-movies and the bad guys we wanted to avoid having devour us. Here, the members of Monster Hunter International meet these creatures head on with shotguns, grenade launchers and all sort of (meticulously overly detailed) weaponry to protect the innocent.
Cinematically, think something like They Live with its over-the-top well, everything, and Big Trouble in Little China for it’s unabashed embracing of insanity and you might be approaching what Correia’s doing in Monster Hunter International. In terms of recent books I’ve read that are similar, at least in some of the ingredients and a bit of the execution – Myke Cole’s first Shadow OPS novel Control Point. I’m not comparing them apple to apple here, because I think Cole’s novel was a stronger novel on a lot of fronts, just that Cole and Correia are hitting some of the same notes, even if they are in a different key.
By all accounts, this wouldn’t be a novel I’d been drawn to reading, but some enthusiastic readers in the SFFWorld forums (http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?p=687598), and a $6 price tag on an eBook of the three book omnibus (http://www.baenebooks.com/p-1618-the-monster-hunters.aspx) convinced me to give Larry and his writing a shot. I’m glad I did because I found the book to be entertaining in a summer-blockbuster sort of fashion. Maybe like the Van Helsing film which starred Hugh Jackman, but smarter and better.
I suggested earlier elements of gun porn in the novel, in that a great deal of space is dedicated to describing in lavish detail the various weaponry Owen and his fellow monster hunters employ in their conflicts. I could have done with less of a focus on every flintlock and barrel dimension of each weapon, but all in all, Monster Hunter International is one of those “check-your-brain” at the door books. Correia’s got me hooked for the next two installments, at the very least.
*This is indeed a complement in that the elements in the book, on their own merits, might seem ordinary, and even throwing them together might seem audacious, but somehow, they work. At least for me…
© 2012 Rob H. Bedford