Sunday, December 23, 2012

Monster Hunter Legion

If you like guns, and dislike the old horror-movie trope of "our bullets have no effect on the monster," then you should check out the Monster Hunter International series of novels by Larry Correia.

The latest Monster Hunter novel is "Monster Hunter Legion." It continues the series reprising the roles of most of the characters you've gotten a chance to meet in the previous novels. What's cool about this novel is the unique way Correia has found to recycle some well-loved characters from previous novels.

Monster Hunter Legion goes to Vegas, baby. The challenge our monster hunters face is making sure that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

The premise of the story is that during WW2, both the Allies and the Axis powers pursued wonder weapons programs using physics and metaphysics. And at least one metaphysical weapon developed at Los Alamos were about twice as dangerous as the nuclear bomb. Scared, our boffins buried it and hoped it would stay that way. Of course, it doesn't.

A theme running through all the Monster Hunter books is the notion that the government is a mindless behemoth that blunders along pursuing policies that have a great deal of collateral harm. In Legion, government policy decisions move from indifferent to malevolent as we see bureaucrats vie for power using innocent citizens and monster hunters as cannon fodder.

I think the good news is that government is as stupid when run by Santa Claus as it is when run by nice Mormon millionaires.

Larry Correia loves guns and he knows lots of first-responders. If Godzilla were to try to eat Detroit, he knows the sort of fellas who'd take the call. And of course, his monster hunters would be listening on their police scanners so they could show up to blow daylight through that Japanese import.

In a series of novels like Monster Hunter, the characters take on the life of their own. You read about them and when a new novel comes out, you get to visit with some old friends. That's one of the pleasures of a series of books. I don't really think Dirk Pitt as Matthew McConaughey, or Al Giordino as Steve Zahn, because I got to know them long before the movie came out by reading all the early Clive Cussler novels. Same goes for Jack Ryan who really isn't Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, or Ben Affleck, because I read all the early Tom Clancy novels. The difficulty as a series goes on is that these characters tend to wear out. The smart author thus has multiple characters to whom he can pass the torch.

This means each novel should introduce new heroes and villains at a pace commensurate with the rate at which they are being killed off. And every novel should kill off at least someone significant. If you always kill off someone who's just been introduced, your audience notices and begins looking for Red Shirts. This is why villain design is very important. If the hero must defeat the villain in each novel, then your really-good-at-evil villain must either fake his own death at the end, or die.

Maybe I should write a novel where the villain goes to prison, becomes rehabilitated and spends the rest of the novel trying to repay his debt to society while "heroes" are trying to kill him off, thinking his humanitarian efforts are just nefarious schemes.

Larry Correia knows how to kill off good guys as well as bad guys. And if you like those good guys, then you miss them. In Monster Hunter Legion, the good guys get an assist from the ghosts of lost compadres.

Monster Hunter Legion does a good job of introducing some new good guys, disclosing some more of force of evil who's pulling the strings. Some of the story-questions that remained partially understood at the end of Monster Hunter International are elaborated upon here. Mr. Correia is very good at raising a story question, then answering it in part. He's also very good at the incomplete infodump. Perhaps you've seen the Thin Man movie where the detective gets a call from an informant, and as he's taking down the information, a gunshot rings out killing the informant mid-infodump. There's no such phone calls, but there is a very satisfying interview with Management that illustrates this.

I can go on, but I won't. Just get Monster Hunter Legion and find out for yourself. 5 stars of 5.

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