No bones about it: I am a slow reader. Worse, I am a serial book buyer and starter, and years can pass after I buy a book before I actually start it, to say nothing of finish it.
Except for anything by Larry Correia.
Somehow, Correia has figured out the secret combination to writing novels that are fun, satisfying, and one hundred percent engrossing. If you’re going to interrupt me while I’m in the middle of one of his novels, the house better be on fire. Not because I won’t come otherwise, but because I may not notice the interruption at all. Correia hasn’t not win any literary awards for his prose (at least not from the over-cultured classes of literary fart sniffers), but he’s going to win the award that matters most: eyes on pages and dollars in the bank.
Monster Hunter Nemesis is the fifth installment in the Monster Hunter International series, and like others in the series, the story can stand alone (although it does tie in to an arc that connects the entire series).
Nemesis turns to the infamous Agent Franks, a reoccurring character in the previous novels. He is the US government’s last resort for all monster related disturbances. If there’s a monster sighting–be it vampire, zombie, or demon–Franks is sent into the field to, literally, crack a few heads, obliterate the monster, and restore order. He’s the absolute worst combination of the best and the worst you can expect from the federal government: a very effective bureaucrat with single-minded purpose and no sense of morality, but the execution of his duty.
As a personality, there’s always something just a little off about him. Other characters treat him with a mixture of fear, respect, and hate, and Agent Franks does nothing to dissuade them of these. And, you can’t really blame them. He’s mean, he’s ruthless, and he has all the personality of a low functioning sociopath. Franks’ job is to fight the existential and supernatural threats to humanity, and it’s not his fault that he lacks all the sympathies, qualities, and emotions that makes humanity redeemable.
In short, he hasn’t got many friends. It makes him an easy target when a shadowy rival government agency set out to replicate, and replace, Agent Franks. A big target, but not an easy one, I should say, if Agent Franks has anything to do with it.
The thing is, the supernatural attacks are getting worse. As has been foreshadowed in previous Monster Hunter books, something is trying to break through, enslave the Earth, and harvest its inhabitants souls. Call it Cthulhu or shaggoth, it’s a threat reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft, and it’s a danger to everything under God’s creation. Indeed, God might have a word or two to say about making sure his Creation can avoid enslavement by other dimensional beings.
With Nemesis, Correia takes this uncharitable and unlikable character and puts him at the center of the story as the protagonist.
And boy does he protag (as Howard Tayler would say). This is Franks’ origin story, and with it, Correia spins him into a sympathetic character, showing him competent and effective and active in controlling his destiny. The pages fly by, thick with action.
If you’re looking for an emotionally charged, literary soap opera, this is not the place to look. There are no weighty, emotionally charged passages about social inequality and unfairness. Rather, its escapist, pitting Frankenstein’s monster, werewolves, assault weapons, and humans in the middle of the fight between heaven and hell and–
Oh, yeah. Did I mention that the bad guy in Nemesis really is one of the original the Bad Guys that figure prominently in Milton’s Paradise Lost? One of the best things about Correia’s Monster Hunter International world is that no mythology, legend or religion is really out-of-bounds. From H.P. Lovecraft to modern Christianity (with a hat-tip to Mormonism, too, if you’re paying attention), Correia works it in to his world. The boundless limits of his story telling gives him broad latitude, creates resonance that the tough-guy exterior of the novel belies, and carries nuggets of depth at unexpected moments.
That’s right. Monster Hunter Nemesis might make you think.
Content Warning: I hate to include content warnings, but since not everyone who reads this site is over 18, I feel like Nemesis merits a warning. Be aware that there is occasional swearing and cussing in Correia’s novels. I don’t think it’s necessary–I just finished John D. Brown’s Bad Penny that had characters far tougher and rougher than anyone in Monster Hunter Nemesis, and I didn’t see him resort to any cussing. However, it is Correia’s prerogative. Just be aware, before you crack the cover, that if you are bothered by swearing you might find the occasional offensive word in the dialogue.
- Literature: Monster Hunter International (tvtropes.org)
- Book review: Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia (my-sf.com)