Baen, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4391-3285-2
Monster Hunter International is the first book in a series revolving around a group of organized bounty hunters of the same name, who get paid for killing the spooks that threaten the good folks in this world. If they don’t get paid, they may be paying for any mistake with their lives. What better way to introduce the internal working of the MHI by having a newbie join the group, undergo training, and rise up the ranks, right?
Owen Zastava Pitt is an accountant who hates his boss and his job, and the hatred comes to a head when he works late one night and stumbles upon the boss in the middle of chewing on human body parts in the office. The boss transforms into a werewolf and tries to chomp on Owen for dessert, but Owen puts up an amazing fight and ends up sending the werewolf out a 14th story window and down. The MHI eventually recruits him, and he even gets the girl – the daughter of the MHI boss – when he’s not usurping the current golden child’s spot in the MHI (this fellow, Grant, was Julie’s boyfriend until Owen comes along) and getting special powers to help him rise up the MHI ranks. Owen, by the way, may be an accountant but he is built like a tank while at the same time moving in “unbelievable” speed, aims and shoots like a professional, spent time in the military and underground fighting circuit, knows everything, speaks and understands a dozen or so languages fluently, takes down monsters even without prior training… oh, and his brother is in a rock band. If you look up Mr Correia’s background and photo, you may come to the reasonable conclusion that Owen is Mr Correia, only with extra steroids and even more extra inches in the pee-pee department.
So anyway, our hero Larry isn’t just super amazing and awesome, he is also visited in dreams by a mysterious figure who gives him inside information on the rise of an Old One, aided by the Cursed One and some Master Vampires in what seems to be a plot straight out of HP Lovecraft’s imagination. This only makes him more special to MHI, naturally, despite the fact that there is nothing about Larry that marks him as psychic, religious, related to aliens, or whatever that would attract dream buddies like he does in this story. So, will Larry eventually rise to the top and penetrate the trophy female in triumph with his virile overflowing testosterone overload? Of course he will, darling.
Monster Hunter International does have its charms despite being so obviously an exercise of self-gratification on the author’s part. I don’t begrudge Mr Correia this one bit, mind you. In fact, I’m full of admiration that he manages to build a bestselling series out of this whole exercise of literary equivalent to violently humping one’s reflection in a full-length mirror. There are plenty of gratifying violence and gratuitous bloodletting, which gets my two thumbs up. Hey, if you want to charge people to come see you pull yourself, may as well go big and spray it everywhere with style, that’s what I always say. The characters and many plot twists are all clichés and anyone who has read or watched a story of some new kid joining a big organization and making it big eventually will recognize many elements in this story.
But the trouble here is that the story has slightly over 700 pages. I love my share of B-grade flicks like anyone else, but there has better be something good if the author wants me to sit through what could easily be a book version of a Troma Entertainment take on Men in Black. Here, however, plot twists soon starting come out of nowhere, and the characters can’t take two steps without being drawn into a prolonged fight scene. I can only take so many prolonged fight scenes before things start to become annoyingly repetitive and I get this feeling that the author is just wasting everyone’s time because he is too busy enjoying himself in this one-man self love happy hour. Or not-so-happy eighteen hours – that’s the amount of time it took me to slough through this book. I do like the author’s cheerful verve when it comes to swagger and violence, but I can only watch one guy play with himself for so long before I get bored and crave a less repetitive kind of diversion.