While it promotes itself as a B-movie action flick, Monster Hunter International manages to be both silly and serious, combining fantastic action and laugh-out-loud jokes with fun characters you’ll care about.
Despite me thinking Larry is totally the man, I was worried about whether or not I would enjoy MHI. It wasn’t for lack of writing (in fact, MHI has probably one of the best opening paragraphs of any book ever) or even for lack of an idea (people hunting monsters like vampires and werewolves in a modern setting. Dresden?), but because of its own advertisement. Frequently touted as a “B-movie in book form,” MHI convinced me it was going to be a “popcorn” novel, one high on fluff and just fast adventure but lacking anything that would stick or prove substantial. And, while I love corny movies to death, they don’t require the same kind of investment as books. If I’m going to make an investment of several hours of my life, I want to know that the payoff is worth it.
Well, MHI managed to convince me otherwise from its off-putting advertising. The book is indeed packed with copious, gratuitous, and bodacious amounts of action, killing, and just general bad-assery. However, underlying it all is a surprisingly solid story, packed with characters I actually cared about and was curious to see how they would survive their next near-death experience.
Owen starts the book by killing a werewolf with little more than a pistol and his bare hands. Shortly after he is recruited by the titular Monster Hunter International, a group that kills monsters and is paid a bounty by the government for each kill. Sounds like a dream job, right? Especially if you are a gun-nut and are a huge brawler?
Well, things quickly spiral out of hand. Without spoiling anything, Owen (our viewpoint) finds himself wrapped in a centuries-old plot that would involve not just the destruction of the world, but of time itself. These baddies aren’t messing around. They go big or they go home.
The overarching plot provides a solid backdrop for a rather entertaining band of characters. While they do stray a bit into cliché or two-dimensional from time to time (and it seems everybody has some deep dark secret that is only revealed in a time of crisis), the dialogue and personalities of the characters are so well realized I easily forgave any faults I lobbied. Plus, as stated before, this is a B-movie (er…book). Clichéd characters fit in here perfectly alongside the insane action, cheesy one-liners, and a world where the guy always gets the girl. Even when she (of course) has a total jerk for a boyfriend who hates you. Cliché, remember?
But it works, and it works so well.
I first found the viewpoint character to be a bit annoying. He seemed like Dresden but less witty (and without magic), and he bugged me. However, given time I realized that he wasn’t Dresden; while he still jokes a lot he is a much different character. I was sold to Owen by probably the first third of the book, and everything after that was just golden. His jokes are corny and he is fully aware of it (as are the other characters, who pick on him from time to time for it). He likes to cuss out monsters before blasting them to pieces. It works.
As for the action, oh boy, if you like books about awesome men and women with guns blasting monsters, you have plenty to love in MHI. While the book starts fast (and then hits a slight lull, probably the only part in the book where I put it down), it only gets faster once they start going on missions. After the first mission, the action starts and doesn’t slow down. Owen also gets the ever-living crap kicked out of him (also like Dresden) and still gets up and fights. It’s fantastic.
Overall, I was a skeptic, but now I really want to recommend this book to everybody who has ever enjoyed urban fantasy. It’s extremely fast, funny, violent, and leaves you wanting the sequel (which I just picked up at World Fantasy, Monster Hunter Vendetta). Larry has certainly found a niche, and one that hasn’t been filled by any books in recent years.
So, if you are looking for a corny, killer, gun-filled, monster-blasting, girl-getting, evil-smashing, hardcore action novel, look no further. And then, go grab the sequel. You won’t regret it.