Wednesday, May 15, 2019
The Bookwyrm's Review of Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International
Author: Larry Correia
Length: 726 Pages/ 24 Hours (Audio)
Publisher: Baen Books
Release Date: August 1st, 2009
Narrator: Oliver Wyman
Series: Monster Hunter International, Book 1
Genre: Urban fantasy
This has been one of those reviews that has been a long time coming. I first read this book years ago, but at the time, I was kind of the average reader and didn't take the time to do book reviews. since then, I have come around 180 degrees, trying to get reviews in of everything I read and listen to. I just did a relisten to this one, which was my introduction to Larry Correia and his wild imagination, and decided it was about time to review what for me is one of my favorite urban fantasy series. On that note, lets get this started.
Owen Zastava Pitt is just your typical office drone, (well, maybe not typical, since he's built like an NFL offensive lineman) working as an accountant in a cubical farm in a corporate accounting office. Unfortunately for him, he has the worst boss in the world. By worst, I mean, he turns out to be a werewolf that decides Owen will make a tasty snack at work one night. His boss is in for a surprise, though, since Owen, while an accountant, is also the son of a Special Forces soldier, and has trained his whole life to deal with crazy situations. Owen ends up badly hurt while dealing with his out of control boss by all means at his disposal in a crazy fight scene.
Waking up in the hospital five days later, in pain and massively scarred, Owen finds two federal officers, Agent Meyers and Franks, in his hospital room, who tell him what he fought was a werewolf, and telling him if he was infected, they will put him down. While they wait for the test results, another man, named Earl Harbinger comes to see him, and leaves his card, telling him after he gets out of the hospital, give him a call. When the test comes back negative, the feds leave, with an admonition to not talk about what really happened. This is Owen's first run in with the US Monster Control Bureau, who's main job is to keep the greater population unaware of the supernatural.
The meeting with Earl in the hospital leads to Owen being offered a job with Monster Hunter International, or MHI, the premier monster hunting company in the world. Moving to Alabama to MHI's headquarters, Owen joins the latest class of potential hunters, all of whom were recruited after encountering some sort of supernatural baddy. Owen's upbringing helps with the training, as he is familiar with all the weapons, and he goes through the grind of learning how to kill monsters that are stronger, faster and more ruthless than humans.
As they near the end of training, several newbies are tasked to help with a mission MHI's main team has to go on, since they are shorthanded. Proceeding to a ship off the coast of Georgia, which a French hunter team has disappeared on, The MHI team inserts onto the ship, and all hell breaks loose. After a grueling battle, in which they are all almost killed multiple times, they discover that something evil was being transported on the ship, guarded by seven master vampires, something that is supposed to be impossible, since master vamps are loners.
What follows is a crazy race against time, as Owen is having visions of what the evil entity is, and he is being helped by the ghost of a hunter killed years ago in an attempt to control an ancient artifact. This includes dealing with a former MHI hunter who almost destroyed the world to get information about where this is all happening. Unfortunately, MHI isn't the only ones looking for him, and that ends up with Owen and his team on the run from the Feds as well. This leads to a confrontation with an unexpected menace, a master vampire with a close tie to MHI, and more clues to what is afoot.
After some more twists and turns, betrayals and missteps, MHI is facing down the end of the world as the big baddy fully reveals himself, and they must try and stop him before he brings an end to time itself, all while releasing eldritch horrors from the void that would give Lovecraft nightmares. Racing the clock, they face down the evil ones in a climactic battle that threatens the survival of the world if they fail (or at the very least, the threat of the Feds nuking Alabama). Owen and company must face down a threat from before history or all is lost. The finale was as breathtaking as any ending you're likely to read.
CHARACTERS AND WORLDBUILDING
While there is some strong worldbuilding throughout the book, the characters are where this book really shines. Owen Pitt is and excellent, well rounded character. For all his exceptional natural abilities, he still struggles with his flaws and failures, with self doubt. He comes across as a real person, stuck in extraordinary circumstances. The secondary characters are also get a lot of attention. From Owen's fellow hunters like Tripp Jones and Holly Newcastle, both survivors of monster attacks, to Julie Shackleford and Earl Harbinger, born into monster hunting, they are given a surprising amount of character growth and backstory. They too are also allowed to have successes and failures too, just like real people. Its a change of pace from the usual flawless monster hunting tropes. Even the villains have realistic, within the story, motivations, and their actions are consistent within those. not your usual mustache twirling Snidely Whiplash villains.
The dialogue is crisp, with humor and serious intermixed throughout. The banter feels like the kind you'd get in a Alpha personality environment, with a lot of cutting humor throughout. the worldbuilding felt very realistic, with the hunters and government agents acting in believable ways throughout, especially considering the adversarial relationship they have.
I have seen a few complaints that the book is "gun porn". I am assuming the author's very detailed descriptions of the various weapons, of which there are a lot, used throughout is what they are referring to. The old adage of "write what you know" is probably in place here, since the author is a lifelong firearms user, and has actually been a gun seller. This results in lots of detailed descriptions of various firearms and even their many accessories, and the proper application in various shooting situations, which as an Army veteran doesn't bother me in the slightest, and just increases the realism.
This was the first book I had ever heard Oliver Wyman narrate, but it was certainly not the last. He has great voice, and has an amazing talent for creating various characters using various pitches, accents and cadences. He is as adept at voicing an old polish ghost as he is voicing a young southern female American hunter or an ancient master vampire. his narrative pacing is some of the best I have ever heard, and that is with over 1000 audiobooks listened to. He is a reason to buy an audiobook version of a book.
I have to say that I was not familiar with Larry Correia when I first got the book. This was my first experience with his writing, and I was very happy with the level of detail and effort that went into creating realistic characters dealing with fantastic situations. I can happily recommend this series to anyone looking for an action packed urban fantasy with great characters and plotting. Try it out in any format, you won't be disappointed.