Monster Hunter International - Larry Correia
It's a brand-new-not-moved-from-GR-type review!


Monster Hunter International

by Larry Correia


If you had to pick someone to take on a werewolf, and for some reason you were limited to a pool of Certified Public Accountants, you'd probably choose Owen Zastava Pitt.  Given that he's well over 6 feet, around 300lbs, trained as a world-class sharpshooter, and carries concealed weapons to the office, I'd actually be slightly more comfortable with him taking on werewolves rather than my taxes, so perhaps it's simply kismet when he discovers his boss is a fully fledged monster who craves blood during the full moon.  Unfortunately for Pitt, it turns out that murdering your boss, even after he's transformed into a hairy ravening beast thirsting for your blood, is not a traditional path for career advancement as a CPA.  However, Pitt's antics have attracted the attention of Monster Hunters International (MHI), a freelance bounty-hunting corporation that seeks out and destroys monsters for glory, god, and gold--specifically, US Governmental PUFF (Perpetual Unearthly Forces Fund) bounties.  Pitt decides to leave the glamourous life of a CPA and start a new career as an MHI Hunter.  However, things are only starting to get interesting: Pitt's recent near-death experience has left him with a disconcerting predilection for visions, a rather cryptic old-warrior-mentor has apparently taken up residence in his dreams, and there are rumours of the rise of the dreaded Cursed One, here to bring doom and destruction straight to your door, at no additional charge.


MHI is fast-paced, cute, and fun. Most of the time, the characters are running around "killing as many evil sons of bitches as [they] possibly can," and doing their best to evade and piss off the government to the max.  Between the general plot, the fact that they are referred to as Hunters, and the way everyone keeps reiterating that MHI is a "family business," I was unavoidably reminded of the tv programme Supernatural. [1]  The fan appeal is similar in some respects, but MHI has a larger comic-superhero-style cast and it is in general pretty angst-free; MHI saves up all their energy for mindless violence.  In fact, one of the aspects I found a little annoying was just how mindless said violence was.  The worldbuilding rules are somewhat sloppy and inconsistent, but even with what we were given, I could think of tons of ways to avoid all the boom-boom business off the top of my head.  For example, at one point they want to save people from a vampire-infested ship.  Vampires are deathly allergic to sunlight--it kills them far more reliably than guns, as they tend to be able to regenerate from all other sorts of damage.  So if it were me, rather than venturing down into eerie darkness, I'd drill holes in the ship's roof and let the sunlight in.  On the same note, I'd create a super-style bendable sun-tunnel with a series of mirrors and magnifying glasses and storm the place with a sun-gun.  Or take the wights, who have the ability to paralyze people by touching them.  The skill apparently works through clothing, but it still requires direct touch, so why not create armour that contains an air barrier? If that didn't work, then the worldbuilding rules are inconsistent.  MHI tends to go for guns even when other, better alternatives are readily available, and for some readers, I suspect this cheerful mayhem is part of their charm. As Pitt points out,

"Most Hunters opt for violence over faith; we're kind of like soccer fans that way."

The worldbuilding contained a lot of other sloppy, illogical, inconsistent elements, and monster powers seemed to adapt to the story rather than the other way around.  The rents in the world were the worst: why not just let in billions of soldiers rather than depend on the vampires at any one of a number of moments? And why did the master vampires band together in the first place? What was in it for them was never really made clear.  The sudden random healing ability of Thrall was equally sloppy.  There were simply too many plot elements that were convenient, ill-thought-out add-ins for me to be happy.

(show spoiler)


All of my suggestions would reduce the need for thoughtless violence and explosions, not something that MHI--or Pitt--are interested in anyway. The book spends a positively gratuitous amount of pagespace on detailed, loving, sensuous descriptions of what I can only describe as "gun porn."  Fortunately for Pitt, he's pretty upfront about it and is apparently secure in his own gunsuality:

"Normal men had pornography. I had gun magazines."

Unfortunately for me, I don't swing that way.

I would estimate that a good quarter of the book is taken up with gun porn: whenever he loads or shoots the darned things, he gives a detailed description of the handle and the ammo and the safety, and since he runs through an impressive number of guns, it means that each fight scene is bisected into the Gun Section and the Random Violence section.


Just in case it hasn't come through, I wasn't exactly fond of Pitt.  In fact, I think he's a dick.  The first thing that bugged me about him was his attitude towards Julie Shackleford, his hot female recruiter/boss from MHI.  When she offers him the opportunity to join, he agrees "on two conditions": first, that his PUFF check clears; second, that Julie have dinner with him. Despite the fact that she informs him multiple times that she has a boyfriend, he keeps using similar tactics to force himself on her, acts jealous and creates tension with her boyfriend, objectifies her throughout the narration, and never lets her forget that he's interested in her. He is, in fact, the prototypical "Nice Guy"(TM), seeming to believe that his "devotion" should, in the end, force reciprocation out of Julie. Due to author collusion, everyone, including Julie herself, treats this as cute and funny rather than aggressive, stalkerish, and creepy, and, to my disappointment, doesn't respond by stabbing him where it hurts every time he starts up.  In fact, most of my feelings about Pitt were at odds with the narrative: I think he's slightly dumber than a box of bricks, but the narrative treats him as supremely intelligent.  I was also repeatedly informed that he has the most inner strength of basically anyone in history, but I didn't really get what he did that made him so exceptional.


Part of my irritation with Pitt comes from from his narrative style. He has a real gift for throwing in painfully obvious statements that bring otherwise dramatic scenes to a grinding halt; for example, he interjects Julie's desperate narration during an apocalyptic scene with:

"Julie was desperate. She did not give up easily."

Really? Gee, I never would have guessed by her panicked attempts to vocalise a plan. Thanks for letting me know.

Or take this one:

"I tried to move, but all I could manage was a weak flopping of my arms, twitching muscles of my face, and a small tingle of my fingers. I was about to die."

No shit, sherlock.

And an example of instant paraphrase?

I fell the thirty feet into the ocean soundlessly. Not because I was too brave to scream, believe me.  I was screaming on the inside, but my throat was too frozen to make any sound.

And you wonder why this book clocked in at over 700 pages?

The whole style throughout is simplistic: short sentence, one- and two-syllable words, and heavy, heavy use of restatement and instant paraphrase.  I may not be paying much attention, but you don't actually need to give me a list of horrifying details and then tag "I was scared" to the end.  I can figure it out. Pitt also has a weird tendency to substitute "stated" for "said"; since to me the former has a connotation of an unemotional, measured tone, it was at odds with the otherwise dramatic and action-filled moments where it was used.  At the same time, I think the style very effectively creates a rather slow, phlegmatic character who has difficulty articulating his thoughts, and that's exactly what Pitt is, so I guess it's actually quite successful.


I think the aspect of the story I liked the most was the other Hunters. All of them are a bunch of ornery, scarily trigger-happy Libertarians that sent chills to my little law-abiding heart, but they were all so cheerfully wacky that I found myself warming to all of them. It reminded me a bit of a video-game crew: a varying bunch of crazy-skilled hyper-actives, each easily distinguishable by a few basic characteristics.  The bunch has the comic-book-style token diversity; as one character notes,

"We had one white female, males of the Black, Asian, and Other categories.  All we needed was a lesbian and a guy in a wheelchair and we were ready to salve even the biggest liberal's angst."

Because obviously one of each "type" is sufficient, then we can get back to the default white men to make up the rest of the cast, right? Yes, they're all stereotypes, and yes, that drove me nuts, but I still liked most of them as characters. Albert Lee (Token Asian Man) is a supersmart librarian, who, poor fellow, tended to act as Redshirt to indicate that The Danger Is Real. Julie herself is a gutsy and interesting character, and tends to stay firmly out of the Damsel-In-Distress role, something I was grateful for. Holly, obligatory prostitute-turned-Action-Girl, could have ended up as damsel-in-distress; while that is in her backstory, the character is hyperviolent, aggressive, unflappable, and doesn't damsel once.  I really, really liked Holly as a character. Trip, Token Black Guy, is chill and hilarious, and both Trip and Milo the Mormon weapons guy manage to be both religious and positively portrayed.  I also liked most of the other interchangeable white dudes.


Overall, MHI is a lot of fun if you're in the right mood for it.  From the outside, it looks like a violent, action-packed, funny, and crazy jaunt with a bunch of gun-happy renegades, and that's exactly what it is. It also gets a few bonus points for a pretty hilarious epilogue. Sure, it's thoughtless and shallow and pretty sloppy in terms of worldbuilding, and I would kind of like someone to kick Pitt a couple of times. Overall, though, I enjoyed the ride, I warmed to most of the side characters, and I think the plot ties together pretty neatly. If you're in the mood for saving people, hunting things, and a family business (since 1894), give Monster Hunters International a try.


[1] Yes, my two major UF points of reference are SPN and the Dresden Files.  I know, I know.