What happens when you bring together one of the best SF&F writers into one of the best fantasy worlds in books today? Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge.
When Marine Private Oliver Chadwick Gardenier is killed in the Marine barrack bombing in Beirut, somebody who might be Saint Peter gives him a choice: Go to Heaven, which while nice might be a little boring, or return to Earth. The Boss has a mission for him and he’s to look for a sign. He’s a Marine: He’ll choose the mission.
Unfortunately, the sign he’s to look for is “57.” Which, given the food services contract in Bethesda Hospital, creates some difficulty. Eventually, it appears that God’s will is for Chad to join a group called “Monster Hunters International” and protect people from things that go bump in the night. From there, things trend downhill.
Monster Hunter Memoirs is the (mostly) true story of the life and times of one of MHI’s most effective—and flamboyant—hunters. Pro-tips for up and coming hunters range from how to dress appropriately for jogging (low-profile body armor and multiple weapons) to how to develop contacts among the Japanese yakuza, to why it’s not a good idea to make billy goat jokes to trolls.
Grunge harkens back to the Golden Days of Monster Hunting when Reagan was in office, Ray and Susan Shackleford were top hunters and Seattle sushi was authentic.
Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge has everything that I’ve come to expect from Ringo: a smart character taking over-the-top situations, and responding to them very pragmatically. Swarm of zombies in the middle of a revival meeting? Shoot them in the head. And shoot faster. Have a dream about a mission from God? Well, it could be a dream, or it could be a vision. Let’s wait and see, keeping an open mind all the way.
Also, baby-killer first class.
Heh. You’ll have to read the book to get those references. Make sure you’re not drinking or eating anything during the first fifty pages of this book. I will not be responsible otherwise.
One of nice bits of business I liked was the interaction with series regular Agent Franks, where you’re fairly certain that our hero was given access codes to a secret handshake between himself and a creature like Franks.
However, if you’re looking for the John Ringo of Ghost … don’t. To start with, Ghost was never representative of his work (or even representative of the rest of the Ghost series in general). Second, MHM: Grunge feels a little bit more like my personal favorite of Ringo’s works: Special Circumstances (With Princess and Queen of Wands).
Also, I swear that Ringo immersed himself in Japanese culture and has come back to his Catholic roots — there’s a lot of both in there. One of the best lines in the book involve Chad’s preference for quiet contemplation than charismatic enthusiasm, therefore, he went Catholic. (My personal favorite, as a former history major, is “Modern philosophy is all about making excuses to cheat on your wife”– which is totally true.)
Ringo also brings in politics to the realities of monster hunting. While Larry Correia generally tries to avoid politics, aside from a laissez faire policy between government and private enterprise (“Seriously, federal government, leave us the hell alone”), Ringo has a more intricate view. This isn’t an oversight on Larry’s point, or a defect in Larry’s writing — Larry’s books are typically nonstop action pieces that largely take place over the matter of days, while Gunge is a look at years of service in a particular region (in this case, Seattle). Even most of Grunge‘s politics boils down to “This is the nuts and bolts of how things get done …. poorly and with plenty of cash.” (From what I can gather, the series will be broken down by region, Grunge is Seattle, Sinners will be New Orleans, and I presume the third one will take place in MHI’s home base of Cazador. But that’s just a guess.)
Due to the way Grunge is set up, there’s much more time for a look at the day to day operations of an MHI outpost — dealing with MCB agents that aren’t running the whole FBI into the ground; sometimes, making deals with things and people who you’d rather see shot dead, but the sausage has to get made. The difference with Larry’s books that is that his novels usually start with them up to their neck in crap, with a truck backing up with another load.
This is a little more laid back. Granted, Chad, our narrator, is … okay, I don’t know why he sleeps with everything that moves, but thankfully, if it’s off-putting to you, you don’t have to worry about it. There’s nothing graphic …. barely anything suggestive …. and doesn’t drastically impact the story a lot.
But most everything fits together. There are plots for this book, and an overarching plot that will spill over into the next novel, if not the entire trilogy.
There are also cameos from some of the supporting characters in the primary MHI series, and I suspect they will play a larger role as Ringo’s series continues.
Overall, I recommend this one. It deals with the politics of monster hunting, how the boots on the ground MHI personnel interact with local law enforcement, and even how locals interact with the feds and the MHI alike. Also, let’s just say that the politics of an otherworldly fashion come into play. And boy, do you want a lawyer for them. Heh.
I suspect the rest of the series will be just plain fun.