Monster Hunter Vendetta-Larry Correia

“When Monsters have nightmares, they’re dreaming about us.”  MHI Company Handbook

When we last met with Owen Zavasta Pitt, he was still reeling from the discovery that the world as he knew it was not the world as it is.  Monsters are real, the government has a black ops division of the F.B.I. that deals with them, and after a nasty run in with his manager at work (who was also a recent convert to lycanthropy), Pitt discovers that the life of an accountant may not be for him.   Monster Hunter-yes; middle management drone-no.

Fast forward a year, and we find Owen in a state of relative contentment.  He’s managed to save the World at least once, met (and courted) the girl of his dreams, and does a job that he loves for a salary that makes life quite comfortable.  Everything should be gravy, right?

Well, not so much.

You see, during the course of saving the world from the evil forces of another dimension, Owen attracted the attention of an elder God.  Apparently, destroying the artifact that would allow it to enter our dimension and slaying a multitude of its acolytes merits attention, as did the tactical nuclear weapon delivered into its posterior, courtesy of the U. S. government.  Owen’s not to blame for that, but someone’s got to take the fall, and the Old One (picture Lovecraft’s Cthulu) has decided Owen shall be the one.  Ironic that a bounty hunter should have his own bounty. 

Owen is blissfully unaware of  either the nuke or the bounty, contentedly hunting down chupacabras  and keeping the Mexican Riviera safe for both the locals and drunken Spring break kids.  So, it comes as a surprise to him when he gets a knock on the door, and then a subsequent knock on the head, from a mysterious Englishman, a shadowman of sorts, who remains incorporeal in the shade, but packs a real punch in the light of day.  Nor does it help that he’s brought a truckload of Zombies with him and released them on the resort’s party-goers.

Fast forward a couple of hours and poor Owen is stuck in a Mexican prison accused of multiple murder and disavowed by his own government.  If that’s not enough, while there, he gets a visit from his in-laws.  At the best of times that can be a pain in the neck, but when your in-laws are also Vampires of the nastiest sort, metaphor and reality can become mixed up.  Lucky for him though, they subscribe to the adage that, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and have come to Owen with a proposition. 

The Englishman is a necromancer, and being Undead themselves, they don’t really want to become enthralled to him, hence, a truce and an alliance.  However, Owen has a problem being allied with the Undead, subscribing to the less known adage that, “the enemy of my enemy is sometimes also my enemy,” so that idea is a no go. 

You really don’t want to say “no” to Owen’s mother in law.  You. Really. Don’t.

Okay, Evil necromancer on one side, Evil Undead on the other.  Should be enough to deal with, right?

Aha, let’s not forget about the United States government.

Yep, that’s right, that same government that ticked off the Elder God.  Specifically, the Monster Control Bureau, a subsidiary of the Department of Justice and royal pain in the ass under the leadership of one Agent Myers, himself a former MHI alumni (with a grudge).  They’ve been following the movements of the shadowman and his cult organization, “The Sanctified Church of the Temporary Mortal Condition,” and now want to use Owen as bait to draw out their leader.  With that, the stage is set for a rollicking story full of non-stop action as Owen and his compatriots try to thwart the plans of the Death Cult, deal with a government agency that would rather see them disbanded, and as a byproduct of stopping the shadowman, keep him alive. 

 There are a lot of things to love in a Correia novel.  His writing is both witty and so fast paced that you don’t want to put the book down for any reason while you’re reading it, and feel a sense of dissatisfaction when you get to the end and realize it’s over.  His take on the supernatural is both quirky and refreshing, taking accepted mythology and turning it on its head.  In the first novel, we’re introduced to the Trailer Park Elves; this time around, it’s a gang of garden Gnomes.  And I do mean, “Gang.”  (If those THUG LIFE tats don’t tip it off, the sawed off shotguns and turf wars will.)  Fans of his first novel also get several questions answered, such as:

  • What’s the deal with Agent Franks? (and really, shame on me for not figuring it out earlier)
  • Why the animosity between Agent Myers and Earl Harbinger, and what does it have to do with one Martin Hood?
  • What’s the reason for Owen’s dad training him from birth to be a survivalist?
  • Who is Mr. Trash Bags, anyway?

Honestly, the Monster Hunter series reminds me a lot of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, with Owen playing a role very similar to Harry Dresden, the difference being that while Owen is a bounty hunter, Harry is a detective.   Both series are thoroughly enjoyable and a great addition to the genre.  It’s going to kill me to wait until July of this year for the release of the third book of the series, Monster Hunter AlphaIn the meantime, if you’d like to keep abreast of Larry’s writing projects (and other interesting stuff), he maintains a blog at Monster Hunter Nation that you can check out.

(p.s. Want to read about the Trailer Park Elve’s?  Larry’s got a nice little story about them over at Baen Books)

Year of the Vampire! Anno Dracula reissued.

Several years ago a friend introduced me to Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula, a marvellous little tale of alternate Britain, one where Van Helsing and company failed their attempt to kill one Vlad Tepes (a.k.a. “Dracula”) , with unfortunate results both for the vampire hunters and the British realm.  Several years later Vampire and Human live exist side by side in Victorian London and Scotland Yard is dealing with the mystery of the “Ripper”, a serial killer whose victims all come from the underclass working girls of Whitechapel.  The undead ones, that is.

I had to borrow his dog-eared copy and was disappointed to find out that not only was Anno Dracula out of print, but that copies were disturbingly hard to come by.  So, it is with great pleasure that I discovered Titan Books  intention to reissue a print of Newman’s remarkable work.  Scheduled for a May 3rd, 2011 release, Anno Dracula will be a welcome addition to the bookshelves of any horror reader.

For a first look at the new cover, either look up…or check out the Titan Books blog posting!

Bigfoot War: Eric S. Brown

What with the success of Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, it became a virtual certainty that both publishers and writers would try to tap into the idea of taking a classic and adding a supernatural flair in the hopes of emulating his accomplishment.  And attempt they did, with novels such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim, Robin Hood and Friar Tuck:Zombie Killers, and just this past Fall, The War of the Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies  by Eric S. Brown.

Being a complete Sci-fi junkie, it took about five seconds of rationalizing before I ran to the counter with my copy of this new take on H.G. Wells classic.  Later, after a sober second thought regarding my purchase, I decided to look into the author’s (No, not Wells, the other guy!) previous works just to see if it was going to be worth it.  Long story short, a quick search on the Kindle came up with Bigfoot War by the aforementioned Mr. Brown.  At the low-cost off $4.99, my choice was made.

Brief synopsis:

Jeff Taylor is back in the town of Babble Creek, North Carolina, roughly twenty years after the death of his father and brother at the hands of…oh, c’mon now, is that really a mystery?  He’s back, and looking to settle the score with the huge man/ape that ate his family.  Jeff enlists his army buddy Tom (now a disgruntled football coach at the local highschool) and they set out  to extract some revenge.  Tom is having a hard time believing his buddy’s story, right up until the moment a Bigfoot reaches out of the woods and takes his head off.  Jeff and a couple of local sheriff’s deputies manage to finish off the Bigfoot and the local authorities take the body into town for autopsy and quick disposal.  Wouldn’t want to scare the locals after all.

However, it wouldn’t be a war if there was only the one Bigfoot, and sure enough, this particular Bigfoot was not alone.  By the end of the day, Babble Creek and its citizens would be on the receiving end of a bloody rampage by a tribe of Big(feet?).  Pretty straightforward plot.

My review:

Clocking in at 128 pages, Bigfoot War seems more like a long novella than a full length novel.  It also feels somewhat amateurish, like that novel you’ve been writing in your spare time on the weekend, only to be self published and shopped around at whatever small bookstore that will let you set up a table.  Bigfoot War  has some continuity and spelling errors, nothing too glaring, but when a character is referred to as Anna one moment and then mistaken for Rachael the next, well, that’s something a competent editor should catch.  In another scene, the author means to write “vicious” but ends up with “viscous” which turns a scene of horrific violence into something comical.

(Spoiler alert!  Spoiler alert!) 

The author also can’t seem to decide who the protagonist is going to be.  The novel initially revolves around Jeff Taylor and his righteous vendetta, but within twenty pages his body is in several pieces and the story has moved on to various other characters.  Each receives a few pages of background, and just when you’re beginning to root for them, oops, they’re dead.  No character is safe in this novel, and while that can keep the reader on edge rather than letting them become complacent in their assumptions and is certainly a refreshing change, after a while it gets tiresome.  Why take the time to invest in a character when they’re only going to be gone in a few pages?

All this aside, Bigfoot War was a fun way to spend a few hours, literary masturbation of sorts for monster junkies.  Brown knows how to write, and this novel feels like a first draft of something that can be improved on with a little editing and perhaps a bit of practice.  Eric S. Brown has been on the Zombie scene for a while now and has certainly been a prolific writer.  Although Bigfoot War isn’t a horribly good book, it certainly has its moments, and is appealing enough to make me want to try again.  Maybe World War of the Dead: A Zombie NovelWar of the Worlds plus Blood, Guts and Zombies?  Most definitely!

 

Monster Hunter International- Larry Correia

Monster Hunter International: Larry Correia (Baen Books, 2009; 713 pp.)

Owen Zastava Pitt is just your average mild-mannered accountant working in the finance department of a small firm in downtown Dallas.  Sure, he’s over 300 lbs of solid muscle and worked his way through school engaging in back street bloodsports, but still, he’s an accountant.  An accountant with your stereotypically angry boss.  Seems like nothing he does pleases Mr. Huffman, not even working late.  However, when Huffman calls Pitt into his office one night, Owen expects another irrational dressing down, not a company dinner.  Especially when Huffman has decided that the dinner is going to be Owen.

You see, Huffman’s developed a case of Hypertrichosis as the result of an encounter on a recent camping trip, and as a side effect, developed a hunger for human flesh.  However, Owen’s not about to send a memo to Human resources about Huffman’s behaviour, and thanks to Texas’ very liberal conceal and carry laws (and Owen’s very literal interpretation of  the second amendment), he takes matters into his own hands in the form of a .357 Smith and Wesson.  However, Huffman’s not having any of that, and owing to the fact that Owen generally doesn’t carry around silver bullets, things get a little hairy.  Luckily, the law of gravity is on Owen’s side, and his former boss ends up a Lycanthropic splotch on the pavement after a 14 storey fall from a window office.  Owen fares little better.  Hey, let’s see you go ten rounds with a werewolf and see how you feel afterward.

Cue hospital scene:

When Owen awakes from his injuries (five days later), he’s in the company of a couple of federal agents.  Their role…to either put a silver bullet in his head in the event that his blood tests come back positive for lycanthropy, or in the event that Owen’s not going to go all Wolfman next time the moon is full…to threaten him into signing a nondisclosure agreement.  After all,  it is the official policy of the American government that supernatural creatures do not exist.  The penalty?  Prosecution to the fullest extent of the law under the Unearthly Forces Disclosure Act.  However, shortly thereafter Owen is visited by Earl Harbinger, an associate with MHI (Monster Hunters International™), a for profit mercenary group along the lines of the infamous Blackwater.

Monster Hunter International has its own private army, dedicated to pretty much what their company logo says…hunting monsters and making the world safe for your average person…at a price.  Harbinger is both a founding member and head hunter of new talent, and he thinks Owen fits the bill.

As for Owen, he’s not got much else going on.  While still in the hospital he finds out that he’s been terminated from employment at the accounting firm (apparently he was in violation of their no weapons in the workplace rule) and shortly thereafter finds himself convalescing in his apartment and pondering his future employment prospects.

Luckily for Owen, when next Harbinger visits, he brings along Julie Shackleford, a member of Monster Hunters International™’s founding family.  She’s drop dead gorgeous, shares his fascination with all things ordinance (did I mention she’s gorgeous?), and wants to offer Owen a job.  Hunting monsters.  For profit.  She’s also brought along what could be termed his first pay cheque: $50 000 in government bounty for his first supernatural kill owed due to the P.U.F.F. act (Perpetual Unearthly Forces Fund) instituted by Theodore Roosevelt (something else you won’t read in the history books!).  Needless to say, that makes his choice simple, and he decides to sign on.

From there the action really takes off as the novel follows Owen’s training, integration into one of MHI’s hunting teams, and eventual first mission, which, if he doesn’t play his cards right, could be his last.  Oh, and might result in THE END OF THE WORLD.

But I’ve said too much.  Read the rest for yourself.

Cue review:

Monster Hunter International is written from Owen’s point of view, and the writing flows so that you get a great idea of his ideals and motivations.  He’s got a sense of justice and honour that may not be mainstream, but he sticks by his guns (both literally and figuratively) in any situation and shows a strong, unswerving character.  There’s no grey areas here.  The bad guys are bad (really, really bad), the good guys are good (except when they work for the government), and when the two mix, the result is explosive.

Monster Hunter International is not going to win any awards for high literature, but if you want a rip-roaring ride full of non stop action, violence and confrontations of the supernatural sort, it’s the book for you.  713 pages go by in a flash of silver bullets, Vampire Masters, Trailer Park elves, giant gargoyles, one extremely nasty conquistador, a prophecy that if fulfilled would open a doorway to another dimension and let loose the demons within…and young love.  Reading this book I was reminded of John Steakley’s Vampire$ (a great book in its own right) and why not?  They’re both about a group of mercenaries hunting down the supernatural both to keep humanity safe and for a crapload of money.  So, if you like a dose of guns, girls and gore, Monster Hunter International has it.

But wait!  There’s more!

MHI was published in 2009, and in the meantime Larry Correia hasn’t rested on his laurels.  The sequel, Monster Hunter Vendetta ,was released in paperback just this past September.  Larry’s also a blogger, and if you’re interested in reading about his work (and thoughts) you can check in with him at Monster Hunter Nation and read about his work on the third novel, Monster Hunter Alpha.

The Walking Dead Lurches From Page to Small Screen!

  “In a World ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living.”

The Walking Dead made its debut in 2003, and over the past seven years, writer Robert Kirkman and illustrator Tony Moore have crafted a World that Thomas Hobbes would appreciate…a World in which life is cheap: nasty, brutal and short.  The question they asked themselves in moulding this world: “How do people deal with extreme situations and how do those same situations change people?”  What better way to explore the psyche of society than to explore the reactions of everyday people to an event so horrifying and final that every societal norm we take for granted comes into question?

That event… Zombie apocalypse. 

 

Over the course of 13 graphic novels, Kirkman and Moore have introduced a variety of characters trying to deal with everyday life in a World that is no longer everyday.  Centered around Rick Grimes, formerly a police officer in rural Kentucky, The Walking Dead tells the story of a ragtag group of survivors and their quest not so much for answers as  for mere survival in what could only be described as life after the end of the world.  Rick becomes a natural leader in this world, and The Walking Dead chronicles his attempts to keep a small segment of society alive under impossible conditions.  His story contains every element of human nature, from courage and duty to  cowardice and treachery, love of life to suicide…pretty much every human emotion and quality…or  inferiority that one can think of.  Every  facet of the human condition (whether enlightened or banal) has been explored at one point or another within the series.

 

My favourite feature of  The Walking Dead?

You never know where it’s going to go.  No one is safe.  Whether a character has been there from the start, or is simply a plot device, any and all characters are expendable.  And that is simply refreshing.  No cookie cutter heroes and villains…simply humanity, with all the warts.

 

So, it was with great excitement that I found out the other day that The Walking Dead has been translated into an original television series, premiering on October 31st, 2010, (Otherwise known as Hallowe’en) on AMC 

 

Thank you Frank Darabont!

 

Night of the Living Trekkies-Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall

 

  “They thought Space was the Final Frontier–They were wrong.”

 

Jim Pike is a man tortured by the events of his past.  An Afghanistan veteran in the throes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Jim has seen the bloodiest aspects of war and no longer wants the responsibility that came with his service.  In fact, he doesn’t want any real responsibility whatsoever, haunted as he is by the loss of several members of his platoon.  So, security guard at the Botany Bay Hotel and Conference Centre in the lovely town of Houston seems like the perfect fit. After all, the worst thing he’s going to have to deal with this weekend is a bunch of Star Trek geeks attending the annual GulfCon Star Trek convention.  Or so he thinks…(cue ominous music)

Just down the road the  Johnson Space Centre has been put into lockdown mode and convention goers are complaining about poor to nonexistent cell phone reception.  Even the televisions seem to be on the fritz.  To top off his day, Jim’s supervisor is missing, half the staff hasn’t shown up for work, and his sister Rayna is coming to town, bringing along a motley collection of Star Trek fans such as:

  • Matt Stockard–Wunderkind software developer drunk on his own dubious fame and possible paramour of Rayna’s (at least in his mind)
  • Gary Severin–Matt’s nominal boss, a stereotypically obese Sci-fi nerd and the foil of Matt’s excessive personality (picture comic book guy in a trek outfit)
  • T’Poc—Matt’s executive assistant and the girl who’s looking to hook up with Jim while wearing a suggestive outfit from the Star Trek Mirror Universe.

During the course of the next several hours, Jim’s finely honed sense of danger (which he first exhibited in Afghanistan while on patrol with his squad) keeps going off, but he’s too overwhelmed with the staff disappearances and his desire to connect with his sister to listen to them.  That is, until his manager points out that anyone leaving the complex for a smoke…never comes back.  Things quickly degenerate from there to an all out battle to stay alive in a convention centre populated by what at first glance appears to be the living dead.  Jim soon comes to realize that things are not what they seem, they’re even worse, and that the monstrous hordes may have an extraterrestrial connection to recent events at the Space centre involving the Genesis probe.  Luckily, a NASA exobiologist by the name of Sandoval may have the answers to their dilemna…if only they can find him before the Zombies do.

In the course of rounding up Rayna and her friends and trying to find a safe haven within the Hotel complex to hole up and wait for help, Jim comes across a girl dressed in a slave outfit (a la Princess Leia from Return of the Jedi).  Strangely enough, she’s handcuffed to a bed with a video camera set up.  Leia (not her real name) got herself mixed up in a little Star Trek dominatrix video and like everyone else, just wants to get out of Dodge.  Add one Klingon with a Bat’leth,  a guy in a red shirt with the unfortunate name “Willy Makit” (sound it out phonetically and you’ll get the joke) and the carnage begins.

The authors of Night of the Living Trekkies have created a unique perspective  on the Zombie genre.  Rather than those horror novels that leave the explanation of the Zombie outbreak to the reader’s imagination, they come up with an explanation of Zombism that has a scientific element to it.  The pathogen is extraterrestrial, much like in the Andromeda Strain with one twist…this time those affected don’t stay dead. 

Anderson and Stall are clearly Star Trek fans and have jam packed their novel with references both obvious and obscure.  Each chapter title is an homage to the original episodes, and Jim Pike’s name is a subtle reference to both Jim Kirk and the Enterprise’ first captain, Christopher PikeEven Dr. Sandoval’s name is a reference to a character in the original series (spoiler alert!) with a similar problem. 

Night of the Living Trekkies departs from your usual fan fiction…it’s actually good!  With a fast pace and interesting (although predictible) cast of characters, Night of the Living Trekkies takes the reader on a bloody yet satisfying journey into the world of Star Trek fandom while adding more than a dash of horror to complete the picture.

Publisher Quirk books has engaged on a unique marketing campaign to promote this book, investing in a faux movie trailer on youtube to showcase their author’s work.  Here’s hoping a full length feature is in the future.

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Quirk Classics

 

Quirk Classics certainly lives up to its name.

A quirky (pun very much intended) little publishing house, Quirk Classics has found its niche bridging the gulf between cultured literature and pop culture.  In other words, they’ve blended the classics with modern kitsch to create both a Frankenstein like creature and a new genre of fiction.  Or, as they put it, “To enhance classic novels with pop culture phenomena.”

A Monster Mash of sorts (Classical Mash?), they’ve filled the need (and based on the plethora of copycat novels apparently there was one) in readers for a new look at such titles as Pride and Prejudice (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), Sense and Sensibility (Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters), and (hey, why not?)…Anna Karenina (Android Karenina).

Their modus operandi is to grab up a public domain title (apparently Jane Austen is an easy target), get an author to add and subtract text…but just enough to alter the storyline without destroying the original…and voila!  Elizabeth Bennett becomes not so much an old maid looking for a Husband but rather a kick ass undead rekilling machine! Marianne Dashwood is courted by a fellow who resembles Davy Jones much more than an English Dandy.  And Anna Karenina…well, who wouldn’t love a Russian epic…now with more androids!

However, Quirk is not averse to original fiction…as long as it follows the formula of combining genres.  The first foray into 100% original fiction was a prequel to P&P&Z called Dawn of the Dreadfuls, an amusingly horrifying tale of the Bennetts’ daughter’s coming of age in a world beset by the undead.  Quirks latest publication is Night of the Living Trekkies, an oddball blend of Science Fiction and Zombies, Sci Fi conventions and mayhem (okay, that’s probably not a stretch), and virgins and…well…more virgins I guess…

Quirks Classics: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:Dawn of the Dreadfuls

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the DreadfulsWhile scrolling on-line today for reviews of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith, I came across a well thought out review on Den of the Geek!  From there, it was a quick jump to Quirk Classics to check out the rest of their inventory and discover that their next adorable abomination will be a new take on Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, only with Robots!  Well, androids actually, hence the title…Android Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters.

I’m sure some are mortified by Quirks take on such classics, but they’re a campy and fun addition to both the Monster Mash genre and an if you look at it with the right frame of mind…an homage to the originals.

And it has such a lovely trailer…

Jane Austen…Zombie Destroyer

The Zombie…a mindless, shambling, relentless denizen of the underworld, and naturally the subject of many a lowbrow horror novel.  Yet in a new twist on an old idea, Jane Austen has unwittingly, (and posthumously), co-authored a Zombie novel of her own.  “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (Quirk books…$17.95 Can.) is a unique blend of old world Romanticism and New World Schlock.  Her co-author, Seth Grahame-Smith has taken Ms. Austen’s timeless tale and blended into it a mix of the classic and the macabre (85% original material/15% Zombies) and put a whole new spin on the pre-Victorian world of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett.

For an interesting review, see Ann McDowell’s take on his reworking of a classic at the Mount Holyoke News.

In an interview with the L.A. Times entertainment correspondent, Carolyn Kellogg, Grahame-Smith fleshes out  his quirky take on the timeless novel…how the characters live a zombie-like existence, frittering too and fro without much thought…so why not put them in situations where they must fight their own apathy, albeit  in a  physical form?

Grahame-Smith explains to the Toronto Star’s Vit Wagner why a novel by Jane Austen is ripe for the monster mash.  Two words…Public Domain. 

Poor Jane must be rolling over in her grave…

prideandzombies