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.
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.