Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Recommended Reading; Larry Correia

Up until I embraced my inner politicians (which I gotta tell, you, is draining as all heck), I had never heard of Larry Correia.  He's published through Baen books, and I read their top authors already -- David Weber, John Ringo and Timothy Zahn -- and yet I had only been vaguely aware of him from my visits to Barnes and Noble.

After hearing his name bandied about on a political fiction group on Facebook, I shrugged and said "Oh, what the hell? Why not?"

And, being a bit of a cheap bugger, I figured "Screw it, I'll get the 3-in-1 of his biggest series, Monster Hunter International."

My reaction?

Yes, I have, at long last, resorted to gifs.

I promptly went out and bought ... well ... everything else Correia has written, including the rest of MHI, his three Grimnoir and his Dead Six novels.

Seriously, these books are kinda awesome.  I finished all of them in a matter of days.

One thing at a time, though

The really, really, really short version about Larry Correia is that he is an unstoppable writing machine who pumps out books the size of Tom Clancy doorstoppers at least once a year, in addition to maintaining an almost daily blog, is almost omnipresent online, and has a BS tolerance threshold lower than mine.  Which tells you something, if you've been here a while.

Correia is, personally ... Libertarian? I think? His politics show up very little in his books.  Any anti-government feeling here could be summed up by the same feeling in 24, or Harry Potter (see: the Cassandra Effect. Honest). He prefers his heroes to be smaller, private groups, rather than sprawling government bureaucracies, though even the bureaucracies get a fair shake in his books (one of them at the very least).  He also owns a gun range, so he likes his weaponry. Big deal.

I'd say he has an ongoing grudge match against John Scalzi and the SFWA, especially over the Hugo awards, but it seems more like Scalzi and SFWA has an ongoing war against everybody I find remotely interesting. There's a lot of ranting against Correia because he's "a straight white man," even though his background is Portuguese -- don't even ask me how that works.

If you care about personal politics and online grudges, I'm sure you can find a few links.  From what I read on his blog, a lot of Correia is just plain common sense. But me and common sense have very little to do with each other.

But, on to the important part: BOOKS.  And I highlight books because I haven't gotten to any of his short stories. If I've missed a few, don't shoot. I've had a lot of books to dig through lately, but I'll add them as I find them.

Before I begin, MHI has nothing, repeat, nothing, to do with the Monster Hunter video game series. Thank you.

There are five books in the MHI series THUS FAR (it's ongoing), and you'd think there'd be an odd one out, if only for the regression to the mean (heck, there's one John Ringo novel I don't recommend, and at least two David Webers).  But, no, even though there's one novel in the series that you swear is going to be boring, it rallies at the midpoint, and ends with a demonic werewolf hellspawn and his legion of unkillable feral weres.

Imagine a fully-developed world for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where the government has been aware of monsters for decades, and those civilians who have been dragged into the nightmare little world in the shadows have become Bounty hunters in their own right.  Of five books, I saw only two punchlines coming ... only one of them was more like a feinted jab so we could be decked with an uppercut. That's not bad.

Five days after Owen Zastava Pitt pushed his insufferable boss out of a fourteenth story window, he woke up in the hospital with a scarred face, an unbelievable memory, and a job offer.

How can you argue with a description like that?

Yes, chapter one involves a brawl between the above mentioned Owen Pitt, and his boss, who has become a monster of a completely different stripe than he had been.  Let's just say that I would have considered throwing him out a window before he became a large furry sociopath.

Yup. Pitt has to go toe-to-toe with a freaking werewolf.  And he has no silver.

After Pitt hands in his resignation the hard way, he has officially fallen down the rabbit hole. Monsters are real -- all of them. Pick a B-Movie horror film or a Lovecraftian monster. There are only two forces that deal with the legion of nightmares (that we see in this book).  One is the Monster Control Bureau (MCB), a government bureaucracy that looks like it's run by either the Keystone cops, or whatever random thugs can be brought in off the street (though it'll turn out that they aren't random). The other group is Monster Hunter, a private organization dedicated to collecting bounties as they exterminate the world's nastier pests -- including vampires, giant spiders, and a few creatures from the black lagoon.

And MHI offers Owen Pitt a job. The perks are good -- play with weapons, hang out with the stunning woman who recruited him, and the paychecks are insane -- and, well, why not?

Unfortunately for Pitt, his first day on the job is going to get messy.  He soon finds himself being haunted by an old Jewish ghost, is getting visions of an ancient entity called "the Cursed One"who just arrived on US soil, is hip deep in ghouls, vampires, flying killer gargoyles that bleed magma, and did we mention that the Cursed One might be about to end the world?

MHI has a wonderfully colorful cast of characters. From a former Vegas stripper who is more vicious and bloodthirsty than the lot of them, to Julie, a member of MHI's founding family, who is also a sniper... and her physical description in the book reminds me a lot of Bayonetta, but we won't go there.

There is a wonderfully broad collection of folks here, from the high school chemistry teacher who had to blow up his school filled with spiders, to the poor guy who had to kill his zombiefied students, to the explosive-happy Q-variant, to Earl Harbinger -- an old member of MHI's founding family with an interesting history.  The characters are likable, the dialogue engaging, and I don't think I came across a single flaw in the execution.

And yes, this book was awesome from start to finish.  It didn't really slow down.  Despite the constant description of these books as "gun porn," I have yet to be bogged down by a single page on guns.  Most of the time, the weapon details are critical to the plot, considering what fresh new horrors they run into all the time. The chapters that amount to a large training montage are detailed and interesting, and establish the characters better than heading straight into the action.

Then the shooting started, and didn't really stop for another three hundred pages or so.

And just remember: vampires only sparkle when they're on fire.

By the end of MHI #1, all is right with the world. The Cursed One is finished, Pitt got the girl, and while there were a few residual hiccups along the way involving some of the crew becoming vampires, everything is perfect ....

Except at one point, the government accidentally dropped a nuclear bomb through an interdimensional portal, getting the attention of a Cthulian elder god, who decides that only one human creature is to blame...Owen Pitt.  Yup. He has Murphy's own luck.  Pitt is being hunted by a death cult known as the Church of the Temporary Mortal Condition, led by necromancer known as the Shadow Man, who all want to feed him to their monstrous, world-devouring deity.

The (n)ever-helpful government wants the Shadow Man, and gives Pitt his own troop of bodyguards, including one MCB man known only as Agent Franks. It's the MHI versus the army of darkness, only they're better armed than Bruce Campbell ever was.

Interestingly, despite Correia's attitude on government in general, while he could have left the MCB crew as a bunch of mindless government automatons, even they get character development in this book.

MH: Vendetta might arguably be better than MHI. We need little to no setup for the action, the plot jumps out at you and never really leaves you alone, and we can't even have a nice, simply plot-starting exposition without it being menacing (when the two people telling Pitt that he has to save the world ... again ... are vampires, it's hard to have a relaxed conversation).

Vendetta really proves that Correia has assembled a strong cast, and a great sprawling universe out there.  There are no cardboard cutouts as characters, even the ones that you're not supposed to like.

Earl Harbinger has been around MHI for a long time. Longer than anyone suspects.  When an old Cold War enemy comes out of the shadows to threaten his position, Earl goes hunting.  Unfortunately for him and his enemy, a third player is in play, manipulating both of them.

This one starts off ... slower.  I really didn't feel much of anything towards Earl over the course of the previous two novels, and I found myself missing the rest of the MHI ensemble.  We have a group of MHI wannabes, a corrupt and cowardly MCB agent, a local sheriff who is a redhead (bitten by the wolves) as well as Earl and his personal nemesis. They're all sort of blundering around a bit for the first third or so.

But as I said, Alpha rallies at the midpoint, and ends with a demonic werewolf hellspawn and his legion of unkillable feral weres.  This is when the tree hits the submarine (Sum of All Fears reference), making four plot threads come together like your classic Tom Clancy novel, and we're off to the races.

While not as good, I'd still recommend reading it.  The first half is a three-star novel, the second half is a five-star novel, so average it out and call it a four out of five-star book.  And every element in this book becomes pivotal to...

We're back with the old team again, and this time, we're going to Vegas.  MHI is going to join with other monster hunter groups from around the world at the first ever monster hunter convention. Yaaayyy.... Unfortunately, my first thought was "We've just made for a great big target."  You know this has to go wrong, otherwise there's no story.

When the handler for all of Strike Task Force Unicorn (STFU) challenges the various hunters to hunt down and kill an unleashed beastie, no one has any idea of the sort of Hell that is to be unleashed. Soon, all of their worst nightmares are literally about to haunt them, and just consider that nightmares the men and women of MHI will have, and you just know we're about to have a party.

For Legion, Correia is in full form, and I mean full.  The various and sundry side characters? All of them are colorful, well-designed and developed. The MCB? They're getting more interesting. The government bureaucracy? More and more insidious as time goes on.

As for this book ... well, the opening gif kinda summed it up.

And did I mention there's a dragon?  Yes. Smaug can eat his heart out.

A few days after the events of Legion, Agent Franks of the U.S. Monster Control Bureau has to clean up a different mess -- one created by the people he works for.  Franks is a bit more than human, and he's been around for a long, long time, stopping America's enemies, and, for the most part, being the thing that stands between America and bigger monsters. He's even under contract ... With Ben Franklin (long, long story). As long as the US holds up its end of the bargain, so will Franks.  If the US violates the agreement, Franks is well within his rights to kill anyone involved.

And then there's Project Nemesis, a factory for building to-it-yourself monsters. And they can't be bothered creating one.  Oh no. They have to make a baker's dozen, lucky 13. It's in violation of Franks' agreement.  And then we're off to the races.

Don't ask me why, but this one worked so much better thank Alpha did.  Franks is ... interesting, and engaging in a way Earl and his story wasn't. It could be that there was more to Franks' story. No matter what, it still worked. Also, Franks has his own ensemble, with recurring appearances from the MHI team we've come to know and love.

And Nemesis may very well be the best of the bunch. It's hard to compare, next to Legion.  Either way, it proves that the series is only getting better.

Also, there was an sequence of Frankstein versus the Wolfman. It was brilliant.

If you can't tell by the lack of numbering and the slight larger font, Grimnoir is a different series than MHI. This is a trilogy centering around an alternate universe where magic is real, and human history has changed. The Grimnoir are a secret society of magic users dedicated to stopping the threat of the Japanese Empire, which has already taken over China by 1933.  Book one deals with the Japanese leader Tokugawa, otherwise known only as the Chairman, who kills with a touch, and has his own armor of magic-wielding operatives and teleporting ninjas.

And that's only book one.  Book two has to deal with a demon straight from Hell, and the third features universe-destroying monster from beyond the cosmos.  And the only two people who can stop this threat are Jake Sullivan, a veteran of the Great War, and Faye Vierra, a teenage girl, and vicious killing machine.

This is a great little world, and I enjoyed every minute of it, from first to last. There are Iron Man suits of powered armor, a version of Marvel's Silver Samurai, great, epic battles on dirigibles, at least one army of darkness, depending on how you'd count them. There are "cogs" -- Correia's version of the Sparks of Girl Genius -- and teleporters and gravity manipulators and ... Imagine if the X-Men weren't whiny emo douchebags who complained about being picked on all the time, and make them really awesome.  That about sums it up.

Oh, who are we kidding? Imagine the best Marvel film you've seen, and Grimnoir at least matches it pound for pound.  This is the series that got Correia nominated for a Hugo ... and made everyone go batguano insane over it.

No, I'm not 100% clear on the name of the series.  But let's just go for Dead Six thus far, shall we?

In a world that's only slightly altered from our own, this series is about two men: Michael Valentine, and "Lorenzo".  Valentine is a vet and former member of a elite private military contractor.  In the first books, he's been recruited to hunt down and eradicate terrorists.  Lorenzo is a thief who doesn't mind killing people from time to time, he's a master of disguise and of the heist.

Co-written with Mike Kupari, this one is actually darker than the others, and slightly stranger.  There are elements of paranoid thriller -- just plain don't trust anyone in these books -- and hints of dark, supernatural forces around the corner.  The series hasn't totally fallen off the map into fantasy, and is content to just hint at the deeper darkness. For now.

Thus far, the primary thread between these two books have been the Swords of Exodus, a religious group dedicated to wiping out evil on Earth, no matter where it might be.  They're terrorists, or extremists, and a few other labels slapped on them.

I enjoy this series just as much as any of the others, but I'll be damned if i could figure out where it's all going.

Thus far, my only complaint with the series is that they've both ended on cliffhangers. Kupari and Correia seem to think it's funny to play tag team with who they can threaten at the end of each novel.

In Conclusion

Read some Larry Correia, already, damnit.  Is he Ann Lewis writing Sherlock Holmes level of perfectly awesome?  No. But few are. He'll have to settle for five stars out of five stars, instead of six out of five.

If you liked this review, you might want to check out my novels, including the Dragon Award Nominated Honor at Stake

1 comment:

  1. Well said, and I heartily concur. I'm a bit behind, but looking forward to reading the second Grimnoir, MH Nemesis, and Dead Six (gave it to my spouse for his birthday). So far I've loved everything I've read by Mr. Correia, including his Christmas Noun opera.


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