Monster Hunter International, by Larry Correia

When I returned from my palate-cleansing reading jag, this book was on the top of my SF/F reading pile. I’d ordered this book after reading an interview with Larry Correia, and his description of having an average accountant as his protagonist intrigued me.

Funny—if I’d picked this book from the shelf, I probably wouldn’t have opened it after reading the quote that says, “If you like late-night monster flicks you’ll love this book.” See, I’m leery of horror/monster movies, because I hate the ones that revel in victimization and butchery, particularly when it’s based upon happenstance (e.g. innocent victims of circumstance.) You know the type: movies that exist only to titillate/scare watchers (often considered great date movies, however).

Good characters make all the difference

But I do love “monster” movies where characters are proactive and creative in fighting back. If there are sparks of dark humor, all the better. When they have the right character chemistry, they become cult movies with one-liners you can’t forget, like Tremors, The Lost Boys, or From Dusk Till Dawn, which is all about levels of evil (just when you think you’ve met evil, you’ll meet Evil, and then real EVIL). Perhaps these don’t qualify as horror/monster movies for some, but since I need to see serious monster-ass-kicking by plucky and conflicted characters—they work for me.

The same thing that elevates a forgettable monster flick to cult status, is the same thing that makes Monster Hunter International work: the characters. In this case, Correia’s main character Owen Pitt is surprisingly multi-faceted and starts out as a regular Joe whom we immediately sympathize with. Owen is an entry-level accountant in a huge corporation of white-collar professionals that does—well, we don’t know what Hanson Industries does, but we recognize its fourteenth-floor cubical farm. Correia describes the familiar soul-stifling environment so well, with “blue industrial carpet, motivational posters, Dilbert cartoons, and some dead potted plants.”

Owen wants what most college graduates want: a career and job security that will eventually help him support a family (if and when he meets that perfect girl). He also has a spiteful boss, who picks on him because he’s the newest accountant in the department. To counter his oppressive job, Owen also has hobbies—he’s a gun nut, a sharpshooter, and in the past he’s boxed/fought to make extra money for college. Who knew those hobbies could come in so handy? Particularly when, one evening when he’s working late, Owen’s boss turns into a werewolf and nearly kills him.

As Owen recovers in the hospital, he learns there are shadow government agencies dedicated to protecting citizens from monsters. But just like the agencies they mirror, these organizations have the ineptness, inefficiencies, and unnecessary bureaucracy we’ve come to know and love about our own government. Enter the privately-owned M.H.I., sort of a paranormal Blackwater, which offers Owen a job.

A voice readers can relate to

One of the things I really liked about this book was Owen’s voice, which Correia uses throughout the book in first-person. I’m tired of the female first-person snarky voice, which has become so popular lately. To me, snark is a witty form of self-absortion, with narcissism thrown in, that helps the character put down others with a dash of humor. Even when it’s toned down, it can’t hide the underlying egotism of the character. Strangely, our society now almost expects this from female characters, but we don’t easily accept it from male characters (unless it’s balanced with stoic masculine traits). Correia hits the right tone. While Owen can be a smart-ass at times, his self-deprecation, shyness, and awkward social skills keep him sympathetic.

If you want a smooth-reading story, likable characters who rise to heroism under stress, and monsters that seem to have no weaknesses to exploit—here’s your book. What fun.

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