I know blogs are meant to be about an author’s ‘brand’,  marketing platform, and blah, blah, blah… But today I want to gush about a great book I finished reading, Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia. Thanks for humoring me.

A little background: every March I judge the Daphne du Maurier writing contest. Thus I get to/am obligated to read several romance-mystery novels in a limited time.  When my judging deadline rolls around I’m usually sick of romance novels and bored with happily ever afters.

It was so refreshing to read a book when I didn’t know how it would end. The delicious tension as I gulped down the story one hundred pages at a time can’t be explained. Would the hero live? What about the girl he loved? At any point any of the characters I’d come to care about could’ve been killed. Several of them were, some more than once. The story went fast, made sense, and avoided every cliché I could think of. The love triangle at the end of the book I was dreading never materialized. The bittersweet self sacrifice? Totally avoided. This was a fresh story, with a lot of fun elements for someone like me who loves monsters, myths, and legends.

And guns. Lots of them. Big guns. Small guns. Artillery. Nukes. Oh my, Correia knows his weapons and he uses them just so. Gun nuts will find lots to love here. There’s no ever refilling magazines here or shooting for hours with no one bleeding. People run out of ammo, guns jam, knives slip out of bloody hands in the middle of a fight. Realism and technical details go together to make great fight scenes.

But I’m a demanding reader. Great scenes and a great story aren’t enough for me. I want writing skill, I want finesse with words. I want someone who commands a symphony of nouns and verbs, who builds a story like a tapestry, weaving threads in a way that surprises me when I step back and see the whole image.

On this aspect alone Correia deserves an award.

The crowning achievement is Holly. Holly is not a main character. I’d put her at tertiary – the character who makes funny quips to break the tension.  She’s a throw away character introduced as an ex-stripper from Vegas. Not much there, right? Wrong. Correia shines with Holly. When the other characters share their back story Holly abstains. It’s not until 50 pages later that a nothing line gives you any indication of what happened to her. It takes another hundred pages before a completely unrelated character in a totally different setting reveals enough for the reader to piece together Holly’s experience. Even then, Holly herself doesn’t discuss it for two hundred pages.

Completely woven into the story, never forced, with just enough information to tease the reader into wanting more. A brilliant piece of character development and it isn’t even his hero.

I’ve read 15 or 20 romance novels this year, along with a dozen mysteries I can remember and a few books that were in between like the latest Charlene Harris. The stories were interesting at the time but nothing special.  They didn’t stick with me. Monster Hunter International is in a whole other class, rivaling the very impressive The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bedsole to be the best book I’ve read this year.  Go read it.