I don't mean to offend. It's probably going to happen anyway.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Monster Hunting

I came into the Monster Hunter craze late. By which I mean I started them the 16th of January. I've been hearing for a few years now how wonderful the Monster Hunter books are, but I hadn't gotten around to actually reading them. I suppose the fact that I finished the first book less than 36 hours after I got it is a fair indicator. The fact that I haven't paid full new price for a book in... I honestly can't remember now, but did for the next three is another indication.

I know most if not all my readers have at least heard of MHI before, and probably a hefty percentage of those have read them all, but for those of you who haven't, I cannot recommend them highly enough. Are they going to go down in history as great literature, to be shelved next to Shakespeare, Dumas, Austen and the like? No, but that's half the charm. Larry Correia doesn't seem to be worrying about keeping it 'capital L Literature', but is instead focusing on making a thrilling, fun, wild ride.

30 second version of what to expect. B movie monsters, mythological creatures, and occult legends are real, but secret. Private companies exist to fight them and protect the world, paid in bounties from governments around the world. Owen Zastava Pitt is shown the real world when his boss turns to a werewolf and tries to eat him. His survival nets him a job offer from the eponymous Monster Hunter International, the premier agency out there. He proceeds to kick monster behind for the next several books with a panoply of fantastic weaponry, all written as only a gun nut can write.

I was going to say something to the effect of the books being a touch formulaic, but I'm not really sure that they are. Beyond following a basic trend of "bad thing with hint of mystery leading to thrilling climactic final battle" the books are fairly varied in their structure, timing and tropes. There are themes that they share, from the straightforward literary to the more b-movie oriented, but each book feels like its own exploration of a really neat world, rather than a retread of a tired formula.

If you are not a fan of guns, I'd first ask what you're doing here, but then I'd say you might not really enjoy these as much. Not because the books are all about guns, but rather because they form a nice allegory for the gunny community and the mindsets common to it. There are major, neon flashing light type major, anti-authoritarian, anti-statist themes and tropes throughout, though I would certainly not say anarchic. They reflect the triumph of both individual and collective effort outside the mandates of government action.

Relatedly, I find that they don't seem to suffer from sequel syndrome much at all. All too often, an author will slave away for a decade perfecting their story before suddenly, the book goes bestseller and the publisher says "give us another one in 12 months" leading to rushed, 2d, lackluster, unpolished dross. The Hunger Games is rather an excellent example of this, with a smash hit first book that I view pretty favorably and sequels that I consider to be among the worst books I have ever read. MHI doesn't suffer this. The later books are a bit shorter, but they don't feel rushed or unpolished. In fact, it's moreso that the 700+ pages of the first book are long rather than the follow ups are short.

One last point that particularly pleases me about these books. The characters are all very much human. The hardened killing machines have real sides, without it being all macho quips. Julie Shackleford is simultaneously very female and one of the most effective hunters in the company. The government men are not just 2d statist thugs. (well, not all of them, but that reflects reality too). Even the main monsters are more interesting than "There is zombie. It is evil. Shoot it in the head." Those make good cannon fodder but are kinda crappy primary antagonists.

I highly recommend you hie off to your nearest purveyor of books and pick up Monster Hunter International. Find a day where staying up till 3AM won't ruin your tomorrow, grab a beverage of your choice, put on some rock music and get lost in some truly masterful storytelling.