Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International was a surprise pleasure, but it was the first in a series by a newbie author, so I had my fears when I bought Monster Hunter Vendetta, the second book in the series. Like any other art form, writing has its share of one-shot wonders, but Larry Correia is not one of them. Everything I enjoyed in Monster Hunter International was even better in Vendetta, and most of the things I disliked about Monster Hunter International was gone or toned down for the second installment. The first installment was good. The second was a genuine treat.
A certified firearms instructor among many other things, Correia’s novels broke wide among the NRA and Libertarian crowds before I had ever heard of it. When more than one avid shooter recommended his books to me, I went along with some trepidation, expecting the book to be heavily laden with what shooters refer to as gun porn, descriptions of modifications and capabilities of firearms that go right over the head of anyone who is not a shooter (or like me has learned the basics just to keep from getting left behind in casual conversation). Once or twice the first book made my eyes glaze over when a solid paragraph or two went into niche-specific details (for example, if you do not know that a SureFire is a flashlight mounted on a gun and a Rimfire is a kind of ammunition or firearm that uses them, you could get confused). There is plenty of gun porn in the second book. Correia is not about to disappoint his original audience, but he has learned to put Cliff’s Notes in the book for the non-shooter types who read him.
Correia’s world-building is a delight. There are monsters, and “combat accountant” Owen Pitt kills his werewolf boss by tossing him out a fourteenth-story window, he falls in with a bunch of independent security contractors called Monster Hunter International who make their money killing a staggering variety of bad things, and then turning the evidence over for a reward.
Vendetta is technically proficient. Correia fills his organization with a cast of amusing and brightly set characters. They are fun to imagine, to spend some time with, and to root for as they fight against the twin soul-destroying evils of government bureaucracy and monstrous spawn of the Old Ones. Libertarian sensibilities meet Lovecraft-style mythology without ever losing a sense of pulp-fiction fun.
Monster Hunter Vendetta is a busy book. Correia’s plot is eventful, fast-paced, and relevant. Coming back to the story I was amazed at how many things happened so fast, without any of them feeling force-fed. That is a relatively uncommon gift and Correia uses it well.
Vendetta steps up the story in almost every department. Everything I look for in a sequel is here. The characters I came to know in the first book show new depths as we build upon the previous story. The monster fights get more dire, with bigger odds to go with the heroes better tactics. There are new powers, new threats, and all of them merge seamlessly with the first story. Correia shows us many more types of semi-human inhabitants of the supernatural world hidden around us. The gnomes and the troll were particularly cool, although several other guest monsters included an oni and a shape-shifter.
There is a lot to this novel that I appreciate beyond snark, guns, and monsters. Correia’s characters genuinely care about one another in ways that have nothing to do with sex, money, or power. True heroism is everywhere, often in the face of impossible odds. There are redemption stories, the struggles of those touched by darkness to hold onto their humanity. There are times when characters love one another in hardship, and in failure as well as in victory. Family is a big deal in these stories, but it is not made into an idol. When family is wrong, family steps in to stop it. This isn’t a Christian book, but many of the most sympathetic characters are devout Christians. Ever since atheists started horning in on the fantasy genre (sci-fi may have been started by atheists but fantasy was started by believers, thanks) stories became the battle of supernatural evil against normal, helpless good who had no power of their own to rely on. Notable exceptions are the ones that I enjoy: Stephen King, Jim Butcher, and now Larry Correia. None of them are huge Christians, but they do not fear or hate God, and when supernatural evil shows up, supernatural good is there, often behind the scenes, but it is there.
I am re-reading this series, but Larry Correia’s writing is good enough, as evidenced by Monster Hunter Vendetta that I have coughed up money to start his Grimnoir series. We shall see how that goes but I am enjoying it so far.
Monster Hunter Vendetta, and its prequel Monster Hunter International both come highly recommended.