Review: Monster Hunter International

Monster Hunter International
Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book when I participated in the Writers’ Symposium at Gen Con this year. While I recently have enjoyed some fantasy books (The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) by Patrick Rothfuss, in particular), I am not normally one to reach for a Monsters & Guns book. However, Patrick Rothfuss recently reviewed this book giving it top marks, so I became curious to read it.

I liked it. That is actually saying something, because I am not a gun person. I am the opposite of a gun person. I’ve never touched one, and don’t want to. Some people recoil at the thought of spiders and snakes, for me it’s guns. I belabor the point, but this is a story of guns first, characters second. The protagonist, Owen, loves them; the author loves them. Everyone in the book geeks out over them. But even if one happens to not be a card-carrying member of the NRA, one can enjoy this book.

The book IS enjoyable. While the characters are a little formulaic, the plot is less so which keeps it interesting. Some POV playfulness in the form of spirit-walks, or dream-walks, also works to keep the novel fresh and fun.

To be clear, this book is NOT written with the finesse of the afore-mentioned books which I’ve previously read and reviewed. This is pulp fiction in the fashion of a Michael Bay movie. It is pure escapist fun rather than beautiful prose. Sometimes that is okay, and worthy of the price of admission and a few stars.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Upon my finishing The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) by Patrick Rothfuss which my brother had recommended, he suggested that I should check this book out. I’m glad I did. The story-telling is exceptional. It is a web, carefully crafted that changes patterns rather than grow complacent. I am nearly as miserly with the 5-star ratings as I am with the 1-star ratings, but this is unapologetically a 5-star tale.

This fantasy is set in a Venetian-like city-state in a period not unlike the Renaissance. However, the history and culture are imaginatively unique to this tale. The protagonist is an Oliver-like orphan whom we follow both as a child thief-in-training and as an adult in alternating chapters. His greatest assets are his wit and his wile, neither of which gets him very far in a physical confrontation except further into trouble.

This is the type of book that Oscar Wilde would appreciate.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Review: An Invisible Thread: The War in the Orion Arm

An Invisible Thread: The War in the Orion Arm
An Invisible Thread: The War in the Orion Arm by Robert Lee Wolfe
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Normally, rating a book is relatively easy, though reviewing it may not be. In the case of this book, which I received through Goodreads’ First Reads, rating the book is not easy and reviewing it is difficult because ultimately I liked the story; but, the lack of editing renders the book nearly unreadable in parts. Verbosity, is not the problem here; it’s basic proofing of misspellings, malaprops, missing connector wording, and fumbled punctuation. The errata number in the hundreds which is a problem for a sci-fi/fantasy. If any genres are meant to be immersive, they’re these; but they cannot be if I’m continuously jarred out of the story with the urge to blue pen my copy.

Why did I like this book? Because around page 50, the writing got good. Thirty pages on and some of the writing was better than good. Then, three paragraphs within two pages [circa page 150] were exquisite. Having one such paragraph is rare in the majority of books. [The third of the three paragraphs is in my quotes section as a stunningly beautiful portrayal of the loneliness of space.] The first two paragraphs adroitly summarized 13 centuries of religious and philosophical history for the Earth culture, and, with subtle humor, contextualized 34th Century spirituality in relation to the alien cultures Earth subsequently had encountered.

Also, readers will enjoy the creatively bizarre descriptions of alien worlds, species and technologies. We are no longer in Kansas where bipedal apes rule.

What doesn’t work in the novel are all the ways in which the story does not believe in itself. As a reader, I cannot become invested in the story if the narrator is continuously hedging his bets. Rather than allow the 34th Century to present itself as is in stunning color and texture, comparisons to the 20th Century are numerous. This is akin to me describing everything in my modern world [ie cell phones, laptops, and email] as it relates to the reign of Charlemagne and the earliest Viking raids on Britain. If I am to let go of my 21st Century to buy into this world and story, the narrator needs to do the same. The question over whom the narrator is addressing is more confounded by the continual shifting between 2nd and 3rd person narration. The “you” in one paragraph shifted between “me” being a space soldier and “me” being a space commander. I [“You”] should probably not have been in the story as it distracts from the telling.

Readers will really like the characters and characterizations when they are finally given a chance to get to know them. This starts to happen around Chapter 9 [page 80]. Until then, characters are held at arms length and I was really beginning to wonder if “person” mattered. Until Matthew and Andrew are respectively introduced, characters do not seem to have thoughts, feelings, verbal patterns, nor habits. All description geeks out on the ships which would be okay if the ships were characters [ala Firefly], but they are ultimately not in this case. Readers know more about the seatbelts on the ships and the epaulets on the uniforms than they do the soldiers in the scenes. The shift from tech-focused to human- [and other sentient being] focused is abrupt but welcome. Previously introduced characters [Erin, Gideon] start to get rounded out likewise. The story belongs to them more than it’s given to them.

In a final note, late in the book an inconstant veneer of spirituality is tacked on as an unnecessary afterthought. It doesn’t work here, as that’s not the story that’s been told. It could be a story for a different book that is committed to such a storyline, but it cannot turn this space opera into something that it is not.
[Check out my other reviews here.]