The Monster Hunter Files – A Fantasy Book Review

Larry Correia has successfully built up the Monster Hunter brand to the point where other authors like John Ringo and Sarah Hoyt have now penned volumes of the series.  I have not previously read any of these non-Correia additions to the MHI world but I wasn’t worried about continuity problems when I picked up the Monster Hunter Files short story collection.  After all, when you let other authors share in your fictional world you are assuming that their writing style will be different and that they will be interested in different aspects of that world or at least emphasize things differently.

And this is definitely the case for the authors and stories in this collection.  In some cases, authors with established characters are embedding these known quantities into the MHI world.  When that happens the fans of that author will be the ones who can best judge if the character was faithfully transplanted into the MHI universe.  But Larry’s fans are the ones who will decide if the fit is successful.  There are seventeen stories in the collection with writers as well-known as Jim Butcher, John Wright, John Ringo and Jonathan Maberry.  And there are authors that are less well known.  But the success of the stories also depends on whether the author’s take on the material fits well with the MHI style.  And finally, the individual reader will provide the most important component of what is a good or bad story, namely his individual tastes.

And indeed, that is the case for me.  Regardless of the skill of the author or even my taste for that author’s work, the primary consideration is whether the story is entertaining.  And that will be a continuum.  Some stories are enjoyable on several levels and can be easily identified as the stand outs.  Others may be okay and don’t rate top billing.  And some just plain don’t work for me.  Relevant to that is the interesting situation that the one Larry Correia story is not actually my favorite story in the collection.  I have to assume it’s not because the other stories are more genuinely MHI than his.  That would be hard to argue.  It’s just because they happen to be better stories by my criteria.  And this is the beauty of the multi-author anthology.  You discover new authors whose work you find you like.  My personal favorites:

1)            “The Manticore Sanction” by John C. Wright

2)            “The Gift” by Steve Diamond

Plenty of the other stories are good and were enjoyed but these two were the best for my tastes.

I would say the story collection is a success.  In fact, I see no reason why additional volumes couldn’t be published.  One idea that I think would be interesting is a volume of stories entirely from the point of view of the monsters.  This is actually sort of the case in the story “Huffman Strikes Back” by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Julie Frost.  The stories in such a volume would have to be handled carefully to make it interesting but it would be a departure and provides totally different points of view on the familiar characters and situations from the conventional monster hunting narratives.  After all there are a number of important monsters including some of the Shacklefords.  Highlighting their points of view in the stories would be entertaining and could provide insights that can’t be easily obtained from the conventional perspective.

04OCT2018 – OCF Update

Looking ahead, I will be reviewing a few science fiction and fantasy books.  I’m currently reading the pre-release copy of Hans G. Schantz’s third volume in his “Hidden Truth” series.  It’s called “The Brave and the Bold.” It’s a combination of a techno-thriller and a parallel history story.  I’m only about halfway through but there are all kinds of nice touches.  And the technical stuff is 100% legit.  And there are a couple of other books in the hopper.  Larry Correia edited a collection of short stories by famous (and not so famous) fantasy writers writing in his Monster Hunter universe called “The Monster Hunter Files.”  Then there’s the next volume in the Galaxy’s Edge series called “Message for the Dead.”  So, it’s a busy reading month ahead.  I have some movie reviews coming up and I want to go through some of my older photo collections for fresh content for the photo of the day.  And I’ve got to keep up with my Trump vs … series.  President Trump is sure to get involved in political mayhem sometime soon and he’s sure to bring along his long-suffering buddy Mike Pence and fixer Mad Dog Mattis for clean up.  And of course the daily drum beat of SCOTUS confirmation lunacy and mid-term skullduggery along with the baleful shadow of Mueller will provide me with plenty of fresh fodder for my political blather.

So stay tuned.

 

Monster Hunter Siege by Larry Correia – A Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review

Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series has been a fun experience for me.  His stories feature heroic monster hunters battling the unalloyed evil of the world’s varied monster population.  The Shacklefords and their associates have turned wholesale slaughter of the undead into a lucrative enterprise but one that has taken its toll on the family.  Included in this attrition are three recent victims who have been turned respectively, into a werewolf and two master vampires.  But what makes it a pleasure is that none of the monsters and none of the hunters ever seem tempted to wax poetic on the need to increase the world quotient of social justice.  The diversity of the characters is measured in species of monsters dispatched or the variety of allied supernatural creatures such as trailer-park dwelling elves, death-metal loving orcs and gangsta gnomes who get featured in a story.  Correia never once discusses the need to ascertain the correct gender fluid pronouns of any zombies before blowing their heads off with a rocket propelled grenade.  So, the books are very much action oriented.  Shooting monsters is their forte.

But I am happy to relate that Larry’s storytelling abilities are definitely becoming more nuanced.  In Siege one of the highlights of the book is a sustained dialog between the protagonist (Owen Pitt) and his nemesis.  In this scene Correia gives the devil his due.  In fact, I think his evil character may actually seal the show.  Of course, there is still plenty of combat and monsters being blown up.  And Larry further clarifies the mythology of his universe.  So never fear, there’s plenty of explosions to warm the heart of all Monster Hunter fans.  But Larry is definitely steering the series into a more complicated plot.  Larry has shown that he is not averse to killing off some of his characters.  And some of that goes on in Siege.  But what is also clarified is that he is braiding at least five separate strands of supernatural intervention and even some of the “good guys” may not get along together.  So, we shouldn’t expect any imminent resolution of the larger threat that has been growing in the background.  If anything, the details at the end of Siege further complicate the future for Owen and his family.  But that’s alright.  Larry seems in control of his material and expanding the scope of the story to epic proportions.

So, if you are already a Monster Hunter fan then the good news is that Siege is a very worthy successor to the series.  And if you are new to the series then rest assured that your investment will pay off with an already good number of sequels to satisfy your monster killing quota and with every indication that Larry will continue to expand the Monster Hunter saga into an urban fantasy franchise comparable in size and quality to Jim Butcher’s Dresden files.  The only shortcoming to the story is that the only mention of Agent Franks is retrospective to the previous book.  We’ll have to wait for the next book to see his smiling face.

Sad and Rabid Puppies in 2016, What Will the Future Hold

So last week I talked about the Hugos and Dragon Awards. And we’ll have to wait for Labor Day to see if the Dragon Award voters look more like Puppies or CHORFs. I think it’s an open question as to whether the type of readers who read the Puppy books will bother to vote for them. Sure it’s much easier to vote for something that’s free, but honestly, most normal people don’t know that sci-fi awards even exist. So, to be continued.

But what I do want to write about is the situation on the ground between the Puppies (all flavors) and the CHORFs. I won’t go back into the weeds of what it’s all about. Instead let’s talk about where it’s going. This week most of the Puppy Leaders (Larry, Brad, Sarah, Kate, Dave and of course Vox) had something and sometimes a lot to say about the 2016 awards. Here are some of the links.

Larry

http://monsterhunternation.com/2016/08/22/my-thoughts-on-the-2016-hugos/#comments

http://monsterhunternation.com/2016/08/23/aw-the-guardians-village-idiot-remembered-my-birthday/#comments

 

Brad

Survival Guide for the Conservative, Classically Liberal, & Libertarian Science Fiction & Fantasy Author

Addressing The Problem™

Sarah

The Good, The Bad, The Boring

Kate

A Puppy At WorldCon

Dave

A Wally for me!

Vox

https://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/08/post-hugo-analysis.html#comment-form

 

https://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-worldcon-audio.html#comment-form

 

https://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/08/why-worldcon-changed-rules.html#comment-form

 

 

I’ve read all their posts and even all the comments. I didn’t visit the CHORF sites (although several CHORF trolls were quite active on the comments sections of these puppy posts). I think I have a pretty good idea how everyone is feeling and what they want.

I think the Sad Puppies (most of them) intend to continue their policy of widening the reading and voting circle to include people who like good stories instead of just literary message fiction. By building an awareness of this alternate SFF community they are creating the core of a better fandom.

And this is truly admirable.

I think the Rabids intend to torture the CHORFs whenever and however they can. This is not only to overthrow the tyrannical regime of the SJWs, but also because they really really like doing it.

And this is truly hilarious.

The rabids are the precise remedy for the hollow pomposity and hypocritical virtue-signaling that fandom has devolved into. Rabid malice is almost a separate entity in and of itself.

Now, for the folks in the audience that think that the Rabids are the offenders I direct them to this post about David Truesdale (directly below) to get a feel for how they treat people who don’t agree with the narrative they enforce. They’re not nice or even fair.

https://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-worldcon-audio.html#comment-form
I guess if someone looked at the dichotomy of the two puppy approaches he might compare them to the New and Old Testaments respectively. Basically the Gospel on the one hand and Samson pulling down the Philistine Temple on the other.

Based on some voting numbers that Vox put up on a post, it looks like about 2,000 of the extra voters from last year didn’t vote in the finals this year. So they didn’t renew their memberships. It seems entirely possible that next year’s awards will be even more contentious than 2016 when the best short story nominees included “Space Raptor Butt Invasion.” I don’t pretend to anticipate or even understand exactly how Vox plans to prosecute his war against the SJWs of SF but I’m almost certain that he has only just begun to torture them. He does seem to take the long view.

Those among the CHORFs that think that the worst is over because the rabid nominations were defeated in the finals do not understand what those nominations mean. For every Space Raptor Butt Invasion that wins a nomination spot, some one of the ancillary writers who faithfully vote the party ticket gets denied the promised spot on the periphery of the circle jerk. Essentially, the incentive for going along with the group-think will begin to evaporate. Before you know it, people will start reading what is actually entertaining instead of “good for you.” We can’t have that. So it’s probably going to get worse for the status quo.

It is reminiscent of some kind of ancient siege. The CHORFs are like some city totally surrounded by a horde of merciless barbarians. They have fought several skirmishes and have even sent out sorties to win the day by concentrating all their resources on offense. But their numbers and resources are dwindling and the horde seems to only get stronger and more blood-thirsty after every encounter. I can only guess at what the mentality and morale of the besieged is currently.
Pass the popcorn.

Thoughts on the 2016 SF&F Awards (Hugos and Dragons)

Well another Hugo Awards has come and gone and the WorldCon convention (this edition in Kansas City called MidAmericon II) ends today after proving that the entrenched powers that be would rather eject legitimate members from their proceedings than allow any dissenting opinions.

I won’t review the whole event (see story at link https://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/08/truesdale-expelled-from-worldcon.html ) but the gist of it is that a well known editor of an on-line sf review site (Dave Truesdale of Tangent Online) was expelled from the convention because during his moderation of a panel on short stories he read a statement that blamed the current impoverished state of sf/f short story sales on the unpopularity of social justice themes. Apparently Mr. Truesdale has an audio recording of the proceedings and when he makes it available it is sure to be enlightening and highly entertaining.

But I think it is painfully obvious at this point that WorldCon and the Hugos are irredeemable. I applaud the efforts of the Sad Puppies to open up the membership to a wider audience (and I celebrate the constructive destruction that allowed Space Raptor Butt Invasion to find immortality as a best short story finalist (well done Rabid Puppies)). I even see that continued efforts to influence the nominating and voting outcomes could improve the results of future Hugos above the present dismal pool.

But what I am much more interested in is whether the new Dragon Awards (associated with the Dragon Con organization) will better reflect the tastes and reading choices of the wider science fiction and fantasy public. The fact that voting is free should guarantee a larger voting pool. Of course that’s no guarantee of perfect representation but it’s sure easier to get people to vote for free than having to plunk down $40 or $50 to do the same.

Right off the bat, an award that has both Jim Butcher and Larry Correia competing for best fantasy novel has got my attention. The Dragon Con takes place during the Labor Day Weekend. It’s just a couple of weeks until we’ll know whether these awards will provide a more representative measure of the broader taste in science fiction and fantasy. If it resembles the results of this year’s Hugos then I think that tells me that the great majority of sf&f readers just don’t care about awards at all and depend on reviews and word of mouth to select their reading material. Either way it will be an interesting data point.

A Paean to Agent Franks

Q: What is one of the great pleasures of the reading world?

A: An interesting villain.

One of the examples that comes to mind is Hannibal Lecter. Here is a man who indulges in murder, torture and cannibalism and yet is inarguably the most interesting character in the several books he appears in. Granted, he’s not really a sympathetic character, but he is the center of attention. I think part of what distinguishes the interesting villain from the garden variety is consistency. So the interesting villain doesn’t follow society’s rules but he does follow his own rules. Discovering and acknowledging the constancy of the villain to these rules is part of the enjoyment of the character. You see the payoff coming or some plot twist prevents it. Each occasion reinforces the pattern and adds to the fun.

Closely allied to this type is the anti-hero. He rescues you from a serial killer but then kicks you in the balls for making him miss his coffee break. He saves a bus full of nuns from falling off a cliff but then relieves himself on the bus tire in full view of the thankful occupants. Here the enjoyment comes from the juxtaposition of thrilling exploits and amazing skill along side of boorish behavior and callous disregard. Perhaps a more descriptive title is the Heroic Jerk.

For anyone familiar with Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series of books I think the character I would immediately associate with the anti-hero is Agent Franks. He carries out all assignments issued to him by the Monster Control Bureau (MCB) no matter how brutal and regardless of the impact on innocent bystanders. His almost complete indifference to human considerations of any kind is sort of his hallmark. Along with this is his almost complete lack of interpersonal skills. The closest he ever comes to tact is silence. Usually his version of conversation is an order prefaced by an insult and followed up almost immediately with a threat or an assault. Good times, good times.

The flipside to this is his willingness to fight evil no matter the odds and no matter the risk to himself. His underlying motivation is to fulfill his oath to destroy humanity’s supernatural foes (regardless of how many innocent bystanders must be coincidentally slaughtered to achieve that noble goal).

Starting out as a small recurring part in the first couple of Monster Hunter books Franks gains much greater importance in one of the later books and becomes pivotal to the underlying story line. But I find his curmudgeonly heroism endlessly entertaining. So much so, that I have decided to make it my life’s work to convince a major motion picture studio to bring the Monster Hunter world to the big screen, and most importantly, to cast Adam Baldwin as Agent Franks. I base this casting decision on Mr. Baldwin’s very similar character of Col. John Casey of the NSA (in the tv series Chuck). This was also a man of few words who would sacrifice himself (and anyone around him) in order to fulfill his mission. The aptness of this casting is I believe self-evident.

So all hail to the Anti-Hero. All hail the Heroic Jerk.