NOTE: As a friend and business associate of Larry's, I can't claim full objectivity. The disclaimer from my SOtBS review linked above applies here. I also received a free copy of MHI from the author.
Also, I'm not going out of my way to avoid spoilers, so be warned.
Now, without further ado,
You've all probably read the iconic opening lines of this book before, but I'm going to quote them again. Because it's the most badass opening to any book ever, and it makes me happy.
On an 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.What red-blooded American man hasn't fantasized about doing that? And immediately, we're presented with the irresistible hook that pretty well sums up everything the MHI crew does.
Monster Hunter International is the story of Owen Zastava Pitt. Originally a cubicle jockey toiling away in an accounting office, the surprise discovery of his insufferable boss' terrible secret lands said boss in a sticky street puddle 140 feet down and lands Owen in the hospital.
Owen gets a visit from a couple of government spooks who start revealing to him--and the reader--that monsters are real, and the feds have had a vested interest in keeping a lid on that fact since the Teddy Roosevelt administration. Larry deftly portrays the G-men as a former-college professor-turned-bureaucrat type and a classic Bond villain heavy whose personality can playfully be described as "murderlicious".
The two Monster Control Bureau guys lean on Owen with the promise to cap him if he squeals about what he saw or develops any symptoms of monsterism. Back at his modest bachelor pad, Owen receives another surprise visit--this time from Julie Shackleford, the resident hot librarian archetype at a private outfit called Monster Hunter International. Hey, that's the name of the book! :)
Julie fills Owen in on more monster lore and also makes sure she doesn't have to kill him for monsterism but shows way more finesse about it than the MCB guys. Then she offers Owen a job with MHI, which is also owned and operated by her family.
Having narrowly survived a savage mauling and threats of execution by two separate organizations, Pitt decides to make situations like that his new job instead of quietly going back to the cube farm, which should tell you everything you need to know about our hero ;)
At the remote MHI compound, Owen meets a motley band of horror movie archetypes. There's the jock, the final girl, the slut, the nerd, the gun-toting redneck (although "gun-toting" applies to basically everybody here).
Larry's use of stock characters is entirely by design, and he proves that archetypes can be used to great effect by giving each one an amusing twist. The nerd is an athletic black guy who's also a devout Christian. The stripper has a strong moral center informed by the horrific trauma of her past and the even more horrific fate that lies ahead. The jock...
OK. Grant is the one case where this book kind of drops the ball. He's a standard issue jock from every 80s high school movie--the guy whose posse the plucky team of geeks must out-ski to save the car wash or something. He also turns out to be a coward, which resolves the rather forced love triangle between him, Julie, and Owen.
But that's not really important because then the book's main plot kicks in and man, is it awesome!
While investigating a series of mysterious incidents that cut a bloody trail across the South, MHI gradually learn that an undead conquistador is leading a pack of master vampires on a diabolical quest to grant an army of Lovecraftian bug-demons dominion over our world.
I'll be honest. I tried to write the most intense, spectacularly apocalyptic final boss fight possible for Nethereal. But Monster Hunter International features a climax that easily gives Nethereal a run for its money. Which makes sense when you figure that Larry's first book has outsold mine by several orders of magnitude. The snobs who dismissed Larry as a writer of mindless gun porn clearly missed how fiendishly clever the final conflict of MHI is.
My final analysis: Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia is the gold standard for first-time authors who know and market to their audience. The slightly shaky character dynamics and graphic violence might turn some readers off, but who am I kidding? So many people already love this book that if you don't like it there's probably something wrong with your soul.
MHI is currently free for Kindle. And yes, it is literary crack. You WILL buy the second book.
Nethereal, the book that Larry found worthy of a Book Bomb! and a cover blurb, is available here: