Monster Hunter Alpha–Larry Correia tries his hand at viral Marketing

 Larry Correia’s third book in the Monster Hunter series comes out today.  Monster Hunter Alpha tells the back-story of Earl Harbinger, MHI’s resident Hunter/Closet Werewolf, a  story that’s been begging to be told since way back in ’07 when Monster Hunter International was first released.

Larry’s generated a lot of fans with this kick-ass series about a bunch of civilian contractors (read that as mercenaries) who help keep the world safe from those things that go “bump” in the night, and those fans propelled the second novel, Monster Hunter Vendetta to #27 on the New York Times bestseller’s list.  Pretty impressive.

He’s also a guy who’s not shy about promoting himself or his product.  Hey, why not?  Writers write for the love of the craft, but they’ve also got to eat.  So, about a month ago, he put out the call for all us MHI fans to put out the word, “if you’re going to buy the third installment, buy it the first week.”

Why the first week? 

It’s all about stats. 

From what I’ve read on the subject, the surest (and only) way to get on the NYT’s bestseller’s list is to sell a whack of books the first week after publication.  Larry does a better job of explaining it than I can:

 “Now, on the preorder or release week thing, let me explain. Here is a little peek behind the curtain into the publishing industry.  This is a very competitive business. Making it onto a bestseller list spurs future sales and boosts your career. The biggest and toughest one to get on is the NYT. MHV made it to #27 when it came out.

Some of you may remember when I went around with an idiot about how this meant that I wasn’t a *real* bestseller. Let me break this down. The NYT is broken up into fiction, non-fiction, and young adult. We’re looking at fiction. The NYT only shows the top 35 fiction books in three categories. (hardcover, trade paperback, and mass market paperback).  So I’m competing against every paperback fiction book on sale in the country.   

This next part is important. It is based on books sold during that week.  So you can have a book that sells ten thousand copies in a week, and zero copies the rest of the year. That book will be a NYT bestseller. You can have another book that only sells a thousand copies that week, but sells a thousand every other week of the year. That book will sell way more copies than the first one, but it will not make the NYT.  That’s called velocity. 

The velocity part is why the release week (and the preorders that ship that week) are so very important.  A book will normally sell the most when it first comes out.  So, barring something that comes along later to cause a bunch of publicity (Movie adaptation, Oprah book club) you either make the list when you release or not at all.”

So, what does all that mean for us fans of the series?  It means, if you’re going to buy the book, or are just thinking about it, get off your duff and buy it NOW.  You’ll be doing yourself (and him) a favour.  If you’ve never read the books and are simply looking for something new in the horror/fantasy/awesome stuff category, you can’t go wrong picking up all three.  Hours of monster hunting fun.

Now, before I get accused of being a shill, let it be said that I’ve already bought my copy of Monster Hunter Alpha and am waiting impatiently by the mailbox for it to arrive, so there’s no conflict of interest or monetary gain/kickback or whatnot.  I’m hopping on the viral marketing bandwagon because it’s a good idea (from a marketing standpoint), because they’re great books (if you’re into that sort of thing), and as a fan, I’d like to help out.

 If you’d like more insight into Larry Correia’s books, views, and publishing schedule, check out  his blog at Monster Hunter Nation.

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)

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.