Audiobook Review: Monster Hunter Alpha by Larry Correia

4 08 2011

Monster Hunter Alpha by Larry Correia

Read by Oliver Wyman

Audible Frontiers

Genre: Horror/Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Although different is tone and scope, Correia has created another winning entry in Monster Hunter series, which while not immersed in the typical trappings of the series, adds much to its overall mythos.

Grade: B+

Vampires and Zombies may be the current rulers of the paranormal roost, but a new contender has entered the fray, the mighty werewolf. Well, not exactly new, werewolf mythology has spanned centuries, yet recently has been overshadowed by the Vampire and Zombies as central characters in novels, often regulated to supporting characters. Yet, there is a sort of special place for the werewolf, who unlike Vampires and other paranormal creatures, split time between their human and wolf nature. Recently, Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf has received a lot of acclaim, praised for its vivid prose, and gruesome portrayal of the life of earth’s possible last werewolf. Larry Correia’s latest entry of his monster hunter series, Monster Hunter Alpha,  takes a break from his normal lead, Owen Pitt, and its normal huge cast of characters, to focus on Earl Harbinger, leader of Monster Hunter International, and secretly a werewolf. When Harbinger receives word that former KGB assassin, and fellow werewolf has been seen on American soil effectively breaking their truce, he heads out to find him. Arriving in rural Michigan, to a small mining town called Copper Lake, strange things begin to happen that seem to break all the laws that has governed his werewolf nature.

In many ways, Monster Hunter Alpha is the antitheses to The Last Werewolf. It is a straight-forward third person tale full of action and dark humor. Correia explores not just the strange happenings in Copper Lake, but fills in Harbinger’s back-story, working for a secret government agency that used magical creatures as weapons in various wars, earning the creatures exemption from the hard line policies that the government has towards unearthly “so called” Monsters. Correia has fun with the werewolf mythology, which seems hard and fast at the beginning of the tale, but becomes more malleable as the tale progresses. As usual, government bureaucracy takes the brunt of his Correia’s biting humor, represented by corrupt and cowardly Agent Stark of the Monster Control Bureau as well as the upstart and inept rival Hunter outfit. Yet, where this novel truly excels is its relentless pacing. The action comes fast and often, as Harbinger and the locals of Copper Lake deal with one seemingly impossible situation after another. The progression of action, from a single unstoppable werewolf, to an organized pack, to a nearly zombie like swarm keeps the listener constantly on edge. Correia has also created some intriguing new characters, a few of which are assuredly destined to become fan favorites in later novels of the series. Although different is tone and scope, Correia has created another winning entry in Monster Hunter series, which while not immersed in the typical trappings of the series, adds much to its overall mythos.

Oliver Wyman again handles the narration of this series. I have listened to a lot of Wyman’s performances, and he is always entertaining. You would think that listening to a narrator often, you would become familiar with his range of voices, and while Wyman uses many of his standard character voices, he also pulls out some surprises. His voicing of Nicolai, the seemingly schizophrenic Soviet Werewolf is as amusing as it is brilliant, and worth the price of the listen. Instead of a stereotypical Ruski accent, he paces his voice with an almost Christopher Walkenesque cadence, countering it with a brusque gravely alter ego. Wyman does well to match Correia’s, at times, frantic pacing, without ever losing his audience. While Monster Hunter Alpha wasn’t my favorite Monster Hunter novel, it brings some freshness to the series, as well as to the overall werewolf genre.

Audiobook Review: Monster Hunter Vendetta by Larry Correia

14 04 2011

Monster Hunter Vendetta by Larry Correia (MHI, Book 2)

Read by Oliver Wyman

Audible Frontiers

Genre: Horror Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: A smoother, faster Monster Hunter book, with tons of action and another great performance by the narrator.

Grade: A-

Monster Hunter Vendetta is the sequel to Monster Hunter International, an audiobook I reviewed back in March. If you check out that review, you will learn that I pretty much dug that audiobook. As I said before, one of the great things about this series is that there is no deceptive labeling. The title isn’t some fancy quote from a Rudyard Kipling poem or some German Opera. The Monster Hunter series is about Monster Hunters. From werewolves to vampires to trolls to Lovecraftian Squid Monsters, if they are causing problems, the Monster Hunters will kill them. So, if you are looking for a poignant tale of a young boy growing up in the south during the civil rights movement, or a look at the generations of an immigrant family as they deal with life in America, maybe you’re looking at the wrong section. In this one instance, you can definitely judge a book by its cover. If you’re looking for a book about Monster Killers, with a bad ass, but often out of his depths, hero who likes to shout things like, “I totally murdered his ass” well, I highly recommend Monster Hunter Vendetta, and its prequel.

If I could make any complaint about the first novel, it would be that, at times, it got a little clunky. This often happens with first novels, as the author tries to build the world, and introduces us to the characters. There is such a huge cast of characters here that a little chunkiness is understood. Monster Hunter Vendetta doesn’t have this issue. In Vendetta, the plot flows smoothly, although at lightning speed pace. In the first novel, where there were breaks from action for such things as training and more intense character development, in Vendetta, it’s practically action from page one. In fact, in the first hour of the novel, Pitt has to deal with chupacabras, zombies, a necromancer, and corrupt Mexican officials. Vendetta also has one of the most entertaining, thrilling action series taking place at a Death Metal concert. One of the things I really do like about the series is that the hero isn’t the good looking, suave, perfect sort. In fact, ugly “chunky” guys, hippyish nerds, and fantasy geeks are just as much heroes here as bad ass military types. Yet, don’t worry guys, the chicks are hot, and oh, so hardcore. In Monster Hunter Vendetta, Correia outdoes himself, adding more action, unlocking more mysteries, and building more into the mythology of Pitt, and the Monster Hunter International team.

What can I say about Oliver Wyman’s narration that I haven’t already said? If you have a novel with a wide range of characters and creatures Wyman’s your man. I first noticed Wyman’s skills reading Tim Dorsey’s Serge novels, and, in my opinion, he is one of the few narrators that enhances the story through his performance. With the vast number of characters in this type of novel, you would think the narrator would run out of options when voicing characters. Yet, he finds a way to make each character, male, female or other, unique. I truly hope that Audible continues to produce Correia’s work, with Oliver Wyman bringing them to life.

Audiobook Review: Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

24 03 2011

Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

Read by Oliver Wyman

Audible Frontiers

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Thought: If you are up for a fast, fun, and violent book about killing monsters, read masterfully by a talented narrator, then you better download this one quick.

Grade: B+

I am no gun expert. OK, to be totally honest, I am about as far away from being a gun expert as Philly is from Tau Ceti. I have never held a gun, let alone fired one. I probably couldn’t tell you the difference between a Berretta and a Jell-O Pudding Pop. Moreover, I am not a conservative leaning libertarian type with a vast mistrust of the government. Maybe a healthy mistrust of the government, sure, but I am not too worried about the men in the black helicopters landing on my front porch with the sole purpose of denying me my inalienable rights. Maybe I’m naïve, but, I am happy in my naiveté. Yet, despite not being a gun toting anti-establishment libertarian, I often find myself enjoying their novels. Whether they are fighting the zombie hordes, or alien invasions, these guys seem to know how to write some of the most fun, genre novels out there. So, with that in mind, I downloaded Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia. One of the great things about Monster Hunters International is its title. I think from that, you can pretty much figure out whether you will be inclined to enjoy the novel. If your first thought is, cool, when do we get to the monster killing, this might be for you, conversely if you wonder if this may be a subtle retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, well, you should probably stick to your Oprah’s Book Club. So, once hooked into the novel with title, it all comes down to the execution, and no, I am not talking about beheading vampires, at least not yet.

Correia has seemed to find a pretty good working formula for MHI. 1/3 Gun porn, 1/3 Badass Monster Killing action, and the rest a hodgepodge of differing elements from character development, world building, mythology, an awkward but sort of sweet romance, and a bunch of wry humor. Correia definitely gives this book a B-Movie feel, with its intriguing mythology, its collection of psychotic monsters and an abundance of throw away one liners. Oh, and the guns, tons and tons of guns. In fact, there are so many guns and weapons in this novel, it even frustrates an evil Nazi vampire who exclaims, “Just how many guns do you have?” One of my favorite things about MHI is that Correia doesn’t feel beholden to any of the established fantasy tropes. His vampires are evil, and viscous and not sparkly at all, yet, they aren’t bound hard and fast by the Stoker rules. Correia doesn’t even mind taking some shots at Tolkienesque fantasy. What he does with elves and Orcs are almost by themselves worth the price of the book. With so many genre novels, a lot of comes down to the characters. The main protagonist, Owen Pitt, has a bit of wish fulfillment about him, he’s big, tough, talented and smart, yet, he is also at times awkward and self deprecating. He’s a character you can cheer for, while at the same time cringe at his social gaffs. The assortment of secondary characters is vast, yet well developed. When they are in danger, you fear for them, and when they are victorious you cheer for them, and what more can you want from a book about badass monster killers.

One of the cool things about audiobooks is that you can discover new books based on favorite narrators. You don’t see this in print versions. I have never heard of anyone so enjoying the type font that they must read all other books in that same script. I had never heard of Larry Correia or his Monster Hunter novels until I saw a tweet by its narrator, Oliver Wyman, commenting on having to voice a particular monster. Oliver Wyman is one of my favorite narrators, and is perfect for this type of novel. Wyman has an excellent narrative voice, but he really excels at creating characters, no matter how obscure. Wyman always brings a sense of fun to his readings. You can tell he probably gets almost as much of a kick out of reading some of the more outrageous moments in this novel as the author did writing them. So, for lovers of monster killing action well delivered by a talented narrator, Monster Hunter International may be the right choice for you.