Review: Monster Hunter: Nemesis

As with my last review subject, if you’re in the market for Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter: Nemesis, you probably already know you’re going to like it. Though maybe not as much as the previous Monster Hunter outings; the author tries for a change of tone in this book, not entirely successfully.

Up to now, the Monster Hunter books have been an entertaining blend of action comedy, gun porn, and horror – more or less the A-Team meets the X-Files, with vaguely Lovecraftian premises implied but played for rough humor rather than cosmic tragedy. They worked well enough on all these levels to be best-sellers – not Great Literature, but I’ll take honest genre craftsmanship like this over the kind of pretentious bilge that usually issues from art-for-art’s-sake posturing any day.

In this book the viewpoint shifts from the familiar Monster Hunter International characters to Agent Franks, the enigmatic Man In Black and top agent of the government’s Monster Control Bureau. We get Franks’s personal back-story; in the process, Correia pulls aside the veil a bit on what’s really going on in the Monster Hunter universe.

Correia has shown that he’s capable of writing more serious stuff in his Grimnoir Chronicles, which this book resembles as much as it does its direct prequels. His writing ability doesn’t fail him – making an even distantly sympathetic character out of Franks is no mean feat – but the reveals about Correia’s worldbuilding left me with a disappointed “Huh? That’s all you’ve got?” feeling. The Grimnoir Chronicles were, in this way, much better constructed.

I won’t reveal details because the book is not so botched that it deserves to be spoilerized, but I will observe that Lovecraftian and Miltonic themes don’t really mix. Also that there are logical implications from a premise that all human souls have existed from the beginning of time that are obvious, that Correia never engages, but – given what else is going on – really ought to have.

Maybe it’s time for the Monster Hunter sequence to die, staked and silvered like so many of its unnatural antagonists. I think there’s life in the characters yet, but the setting is in trouble; Correia seems to me to have painted himself into a corner that he’s only going to get out of by ignoring the problems or pulling some pretty serious retcons.

I think one of the lessons here is something I learned writing for Battle For Wesnoth; for certain kinds of serial fictional settings, writing a final level of explanation of What’s Really Going On is a bad idea – it’s not necessary to what your story is doing, and it closes off too many possibilities for future episodes. I think Correia has made that error here.

Still, if you liked the prequels, you’ll probably enjoy this well enough. Villains scheme, heroes struggle, stuff blows up a lot. Franks – of all not-quite-people – gets some character development. It remains to be seen whether the next book has anywhere interesting to go.

11 thoughts on “Review: Monster Hunter: Nemesis

  1. Well, I’m one of the target audience, and the book works fine with me. I do like Correia’s switching of POV narration between Owen Pitt and someone else in alternate books. Alpha was from Earl Harbinger’s 3rd person POV, Legion goes back to Owen, and Nemesis goes to Franks. It’s likely that the next book in the sequence (I think it’s Guardian) might actually be from Julie’s POV.

    I’ve very satisfied with his handling of Franks as the main character and the books explains his reason of being.

    I presume you got an early eARC version?

  2. >I presume you got an early eARC version?

    I did, through NetGalley.

    I don’t want you to spoilerize, either – but did the ontogeny of Franks and the demons seem thin and uninteresting to you, too?

  3. > did the ontogeny of Franks and the demons seem thin and uninteresting to you, too?

    Maybe. But I place “demons” at the same level as “aliens.” It’ll only be thin, for me, if all aliens are the same little green men with big heads. I got the impression there are more than a few kinds of demons floating around out there waiting for MHI to run into.

  4. So far I like the first MHI best; the third next (Correia does a great alpha male gun-nut werewolf), and arrgh- ain’t got no early copy. Curse you early copy getters of my Precioussssss!
    I’d sure like to read a Janet Morris/Larry Correia Milton-meets-Lovecraftian-gun-nut book.

    Completely agree that sequels explaining every damn evocative detail of the primary are a BAD IDEA.

  5. Larry has stated (at least during book signing events) that he’s not interested in Monster Hunter being a long running series. He wanted a set of novels with a beginning and an end. So, he didn’t really “paint himself into a corner” so much as he simply finish the story arc. Larry is the kind of author who gets bored with one storyline, so he starts a new one.

    I liked the first MHI book better than Nemesis, and I really enjoyed the Grimnoir books as well. I have enjoyed everything he has written thus far… especially when I’m looking for something light and fast that is well suited to reading during air travel.

  6. >Larry has stated (at least during book signing events) that he’s not interested in Monster Hunter being a long running series. He wanted a set of novels with a beginning and an end. So, he didn’t really “paint himself into a corner” so much as he simply finish the story arc. Larry is the kind of author who gets bored with one storyline, so he starts a new one.

    Interesting to bring that up. Funny how assumptions seem to be built around series being never ending now, in this confused post-Robert Jordan age. There are now a lot of authors that never seem to able to actually finish anything, they just start *new* series to never finish….. *cough* Ringo and Weber, looking at you *cough*

    Larry Correia seems to be that rarest of creatures, a writer who *finishes* a ‘trilogy’ in, wait for it, only 3 books. Reminds me, I need to pock up a copy of ‘Warbound’.

  7. And I wanted to add…..

    Aaarrrggghhh autocorrect. My own mental sloppiness is bad enough, I have this tendency to rewrite and rephrase things, but not actually entirely complete the edit. So sometimes little things slip through that make me look mildly incoherent. But the autocorrect spelling, whenever I post from my phone – it is actively malicious.

  8. I got the impression there are more than a few kinds of demons floating around out there waiting for MHI to run into.

    This has more-or-less been implied a few times.

    There are now a lot of authors that never seem to able to actually finish anything, they just start *new* series to never finish….. *cough* Ringo and Weber, looking at you *cough*

    Hells Yeah.

  9. Bruce,

    You too can be one of the accursed. An E-arc copy of the book is $15 at Baen.com. (So are the first few chapters for free.) I am waiting until July. Correia will be signing at Uncle Hugo’s on 7/3. His book signings are listed under Baen Authors / Events Calendar.

    And thank all of you all not for not posting any spoilers.

  10. The official eBooks are now out. Through his twitter wars against Social Justice Warriors over the Miss Nevada’s comment about self defense and rape, he let slip additional books in Grimnoir series. We already know that he’s going to write a prequel about the previous generation of Grimnoir knights, but there’s going to be a sequel trilogy set in the ’50s.

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