On one otherwise normal Tuesday evening I had the chance to live the American dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteenth-story window.
Unless you hate guns, urban fantasy, and pulpy one-liners, you’ll recognize these opening lines to the Monster Hunter series. John C. Wright ranks them high in the pantheon of SF book openings, and not many people can successfully argue with John C. Wright. Certainly if they make you groan rather than grin or guffaw then the series is probably not for you.
Since I’m not quite to the Hugo nominated-then-declined Monster Hunter: Nemesis, in keeping with the current Castalia trend of looking back at the first book in a series, I thought I’d take a look back at the first in this series.
Monster Hunter International won’t challenge you intellectually with its deep exploration of the human condition. Elementary students of the future won’t be analyzing the monster symbolism, or discussing how Lord Machacho is an allegorical representation of corporate greed in 21st century America. You won’t be wowed by the rich prose and literary pyrotechnics…but you will be wowed by the pyrotechnics!
The story is at once a loving ode to firearms, a reverent paen to non-ironic heroic badassery, and a worshipful hymn to rip-roaring action.
Let’s talk for a moment about the action. There are so many memorable and fun set-pieces in the first book: the opening werewolf office brawl and the vampire freighter fight the best among them. Correia knows how to write in a way where the action is exciting and over-the-top, but still manages to stay somewhat grounded in reality — as far as that is possible when dealing with hordes of the undead. Depending on how you feel about Owen Pitt’s narration, the steady stream of tongue-in-cheek humor will either be a big part of the appeal or a grating annoyance. For the most part, the jokes all landed for me. In a world where someone has already made Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, how Monster Hunter hasn’t already been made into several movies, a TV show, and a Broadway musical shall ever remain a mystery.
The plot is simple and familiar: accountant kills werewolf, gets hired by international monster hunting agency, receives strange visions from old Jewish man who lives inside his head, and must save world from cursed conquistador and his Artifact of Doom. Also included are redneck elves dwelling in trailer parks, headbanging orcs who love heavy metal, and a smidgeon of time travel.
At over 700 pages, MHI goes on for way longer than it should. Call it action fatigue. As often happens to me in these kinds of books, by the time we get to the third act final showdown, I was ready to throw in the towel.
That’s also partly due to the characters. They are likable, with clear-cut personalities, but they simply aren’t developed enough at this point in the series to engender any kind of investment on the reader’s part.
If you like entertaining fun-as-all-hell books about beasties being blow up, and you haven’t read Monster Hunter International, I question your manhood.
RATING: Four Stars for gun porn, the funny, and the fights.