Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia
Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls! Monsters and Monster Hunters! Welcome to the Heavyweight Championship of the WOOORRRLLLDDD! In the red, blue and white corner, he's big, he's mean, he's a German made killing machine! America's number government mandated killer! You know him as Agent Franks, aka Frankenstein Monster! And in the black and red corner, brought to us by a secret government task force bent on creating domesticated monsters that kill on command, from beyond the borders of the reality and from before time, give it up for the Hordes of Hell! Are you ready for a fight!?!
I hope the answer was yes! Because if you pick up this book you're getting one! Monster Hunter Nemesis is the 5th book in the Monster Hunter series by Larry Correia. Mr. Correia started out as a independent writer, part time shooting instructor and accountant (wait... This sounds familiar Correia.). His first book Monster Hunter International was actually independently published, hit Entertainment Weekly's best seller list and got him a contract with BAEN, when the book was republished it hit the Locus bestseller list. A number of his books since have been on the New York Times bestseller lists as well. Additionally Mr. Correia has written a lot of short stories. Including one I love involving a trailer trash elf and a ninja warrior orc who team up to save people from evil Fey in the American South. Yeah, you heard me and it was awesome! Look guys, if ninja orcs and gangsta gnomes are wrong? Then fuck you! I don't wanna be right!
As I said, this book is the 5th in a series. If you haven't read the others, do so. Honestly, read them first because otherwise you will have no idea what the hell is going on. Which is going to be a point against this book. While I enjoyed seeing the characters and threads from other books woven into this story, if you haven't read the other books you have no damn idea who these people are or why you should care. That said the story does stand on it's own and a new reader should be able to pick up on the basics without reading the other books (that said read the other books). The Monster Hunter series is a damn good series in my view but at this point the books no longer stand on their own. The action is well written, the fight series intense and interesting. The world slowly revealed over the books is a interesting on that provokes rampant speculation on just what is going on and frankly I really like a lot of the characters (Trip is best monster hunter. That is all.). Some readers do find themselves disliking Owen Pitt, but for those of you who do... Good news, he's not a view point character here. No, this book isn't about Owen. This book is about Agent Franks.
Beware for in this book you will see the secret origin of Agent Franks, aka the Frankenstein Monster. Told via flashbacks from the 1st person viewpoint of Franks himself. In between these flashbacks we get the story of Agent Franks being on the business end of what he's so often handed out. A government cover up and monster hunt. Since it's a 1st person narrative (really just about all of Correia's books are, it's an interesting quirk really) we get the chance to peer into Agent's Franks misshapen skull and it's an interesting view. Franks is the most inhuman character yet to get an in depth treatment in this story. He's just human enough to understand but you'll be cruising along when Franks reminds you that he is utterly and completely inhuman. Let me be clear here, I don't mean lacking in social skills or autistic or anything like that. I mean inhuman in his views and understanding of how the universe works. Which is more terrifying because you start to realize as the book goes on, that he maybe completely right in how he views the universe. Correia does a good job in getting Franks voice right and in making him distinct from Owen or Harbinger. Franks does not sound like either of these men, he does not share their beliefs or their connection to the human race. At the same time we are given things help us empathize with Franks. He does honestly want to protect humanity from monsters, even if he's a little indifferent to individuals. He does have a real friendship to Agent Myers and a sense of loyalty and duty driving him to put himself in danger for people who don't even like him very much. There are also little things, like Franks being able to recognize beauty but not having any emotional response to it and being frustrated by that. He gets that humans are moved by things like sunsets and paintings but he looks at this and doesn't feel a damn thing. This... This sticks in his craw a bit and I found it kinda interesting (there's more here but then we're in spoiler turf).
Contrasting Franks being inhuman and somewhat regretting it is the biologically human but completely monstrous Stricken, leader of Secret Task Force Unicorn. Secret Task Force Unicorn (introduced in Monster Hunter Alpha) is a even more secret government agency where we stick monsters who might be able to live in human society without you know... Eating people. Stricken is the asshole in charge of this and frankly the monsters he leads have more humanity then this pale jackass. Hell, a number of the monsters who were eating people in prior books have more humanity then this guy! He's full of contempt for his fellow man, has an utter disregard of human (or other) life and sees the system of law and government as just another club to beat down anyone who doesn't give him what he wants. The whole time he's talking about how no one else understands what it takes to protect humanity from monster but him. Honestly given how his way of protecting humanity involves murdering a number of the men and women in charge of protecting us and framing our best weapon for the deed so he can be the sole owner of all the supernatural and paranormal assets in the US government and have total control of the information... Well... Let me put it this way. Hey Stricken? I don't believe a damn word to fall out of your pasty white noise hole dude. I will give the guy this, he's really good at playing a situation and getting people to do what he wants and he never, never gives up. These are important traits for a villain, especially one in government work.
I also want to take a moment to point out the other members of STFU (God that gives me the giggles, I will admit it) who help present a more human face to the organization. Despite one of them being a werewolf, this would be Heather Kerkonen. Heather is a hot redhead, a former police officer and a werewolf working for the government so she can be exempt from the bounty we place on monsters (this might sound cruel. Let me point out that Heather is the 2nd werewolf we've met in 5 books who doesn't engage in mass murder as a hobby.). Her origin story was written back in Monster Hunter Alpha (I told you, you had read the other books) and we see her now some time later halfway through her term as a government killing machine. She's stuck working for Stricken. She knows Stricken is the kind of guy who gives assholes a bad name. So when the order to kill Franks comes down, she does what every good person of the canine persuasion should do, she digs in and starts sniffing around. In addition to this is Beth Flierl (how do you even say that?) her team lead and completely human type person who wants to clean up STFU. They make a good side story with some nice intersections and some really good fights.
I've been asked to go over how this book and this series treats women by a friend. Since this is a good friend of mine and he asked me instead of demanding, let me take some time to go into this. This is part of why the review took so long by the way. Correia is very clearly a male writer more comfortable writing other guys. Or at least it seems that way. Most of his view point characters are male. I'm not gonna throw rocks at the guy because when I write my own stuff, I'm way more comfortable writing men then I am women. That said Correia does give women the helm every now and again and he treats his female view point characters with the same respect he treats his male ones. Additionally, there are a good number of recurring women characters in this series, from Julie, the heir to Monster Hunters Inc, who is shown as a great shot and has rescued the main character a number of times. She is shown to be better at things then her male counterpart, who is better at other things. To Heather as I mentioned above. There's also Holly who I imagine would be the character who draws the most protests. This is because she used to be a stripper and the character doesn't shy away from that part of her past. That said, it is her past. She never strips in the book, nor is she ever shown as less competent a hunter as the men. For that matter her sexuality is never allowed to dominate her character. She is not a vamp or a prize for the men in the group to fight over (to be honest she doesn't actually have a romance plot, that's given over to Julie and Owen in the series). That said, I am cheering on the Trip/Holly ship. That said, with the exception of Holly so far, Correia does suffer from a need to pair up his characters. Even the bloody vampires get paired up if they survive a book (which is rare, our heroes are really good at killing things what go bump in the night). I could go into his other series, The Grimnoir Chronicles, where a number of women characters are shown to be more powerful then the men, but I don't want to waste space. I've never met Correia, and honestly I'm not sure we've get along if we did (he's a libertarian, I think that system simply doesn't work in the real world) but if he is sexist, he's doing really good job keeping it from his books... Which frankly is all I ask for. I really don't care that he has different politics then I do. All I ask that he make entertaining books that aren't gonna beat me over the head with his beliefs. Which he does. So I'm happy. Mr. Correia on the astonishingly unlikely chance you ever read this, this Marine thinks you're doing okay. Now lets move on.
This book also serves an important function in the series. Starting to tie the various elements of the series into a coherent mythology. The revealed facts up until now have been very interesting but at the same time... A little conflicting. This is a universe where there are Lovecraftian creatures, Elves, Orcs, Oni, Trolls, Dragons, Fey, werewolves, vampires and Judeo-Christian Demons. Add in that modern technology can blast them... Or you can ward off most of them if your faith is pure enough (earlier in the series we see a Mormon character stand off a vampire). It's an awesome setting but it's a little schizophrenic and with Franks help this books starts bringing it all together into a coherent understandable framework you can sum up in less then a paragraph. Which was at this point in the series kind needful. It also does this while giving a hell of a floor show, which is always a plus.
Let me talk about the action in this book. It is amazing. This is a book written by a man who understands the joys of the old 80s action movies. Fuck this book could go action scene for action scene with 90% of them! We got gun fights, fist fights, monster brawls, blade action, bombs! You are spoiled for choice and it is written with good attention to detail and pace. It doesn't drag, it doesn't go to fast. You are allowed to enjoy the sheer spectacle unfolding before you while not being forced to drag your feet. This man can write action! The dialogue is pretty good to, the various characters have different voices and word choices, so I'm never for example reading Heather lines thinking they belong to Franks. That said while the dialogue is done in a professional and workmen like manner, it's nothing special. I really think that past books did a better job of that. This may be a consequence of letting the terse and laconic Agent Franks take such a center position in the book. But it won't detract from your attention.
Additionally, wow, this series has gotten really self referential. I figure someone who hasn't read at least up to Monster Hunter Alpha would be completely and utterly lost here. I honestly find that a problem. It's an increasing problem in fantasy books where publishers have been pushing more and more for long series that never end. I understand why, sequels have inbuilt audiences and new books are risky but man... I'm starting to get a little tired of everything having to be a 12 book series. That said I'd read this over the Wheel of Time any day of the week (send your hatemail to email@example.com)... No I'm serious there guys, I stop reading Wheel of Time around book 5 or 6.
While I wouldn't say this series is dragging, there are some plot points I would like to see resolved already! Unleash the demons and the end of the world or don't Correia but stop teasing me about it!
Monster Hunter Nemesis gets a hardcore B, due to be being inaccessible to anyone who hasn't read the last 4 books. Beyond that it's a good solid action fantasy book with nothing to be ashamed of.
Oh... You're wondering why I didn't address the other thing? Well...
Next up! I alienate half my audience with a sidebar over the whole Hugo thing. After that I go back into nonfiction. Stay tuned!