Book Discussion: Monster Hunter Bloodlines

Book Discussion: Monster Hunter Bloodlines

Larry Correia is the last of his kind.

He started his career with an old fashioned vanity press publishing in 2008.  

Larry had tried the usual route of sending his manuscript to everyone and getting rejected by everyone.  So, he decided to go with the court of last resort, self-publication. An accountant by day and a writer by night, Correia had made a name for himself far and wide in the gun-nut community, he contributed to several gun magazines.  He had been the owner of a gun shop, taught various types of self-defense classes where he frequently allowed himself to be used as a living punching bag.  He was also a noted figure on most of the better-known gun forums.

In those days self-publishing wasn’t really considered a viable option so much as it was a self-admission of failure. It reeked of meeting some sad guy in a bar who would end the night trying to sell you a copy of his book out of the trunk of his twenty-year-old car.

However, Larry knew that he was specifically (if not widely) read.  Enough so, that he had an immediate market that would buy $5000 – $10,000 worth of copies of his book.  And realistically that is all you are going to make as a first-time author anyway. * 

So, the Mountain That Writes contracted a vanity press and had a few thousand confections run up then started marketing them.  He had done the 95% sweat and hard work that would enable the 5% luck that would take him to top the NY Times Bestseller list.

One of the people who loved his book gave an enthusiastic pitch to the guy who owned the late Uncle Hugo’s in Minneapolis.  After reading Monster Hunter International, the bookshop owner called up Toni Weisskopf at Baen Books and told her she was nuts if she didn’t buy this guy’s book because he knew he could sell every copy he got.

Toni apparently thought well of his opinion and offered Larry a contract.  Part of it stipulated that Correia had to cease selling his own copies and destroy any remaining ones.  Consequently, guys on the gun-nut forums started flexing on their friends who hadn’t been able to get a copy before the embargo came down.  Prices of used copies on Ebay started going up and up. In short pent-up demand had been created.  That is very good thing for a trad-pub author.  

When Baen’s edition of MHI first hit the shelves, it sold out in the first week and that put this new author from Utah on the New York Times Bestseller’s list.  He was relevant overnight.

Monster Hunter International wasn’t just a gun porn, shoot-all-the-monsters pulp.  There was some subtext to be found as well as clever inversions of a lot of tropes.  Owen Pitt’s team consisted of the cliché characters that always die first in the movies and he reversed that to make them the winners.  The elves in his world were white trash and lived in trailer parks.  Orcs flew helicopters and were seriously into death metal.  Gnomes were vicious little drug dealing gangbangers and Agent Franks was literally Frankenstein’s monster.

In fairness MHI had some weaknesses as well. Alpha male resentment was present in the form of Grant, the good-looking guy who was engaged to the beautiful girl that Owen was mooning after.  The romance itself was cringe inducing as it mostly involved Owen moaning about how beautiful Julie was and then winning her over with a confession of true love.

Confessions of True Love are an extinction level event in the real world. 

Do. Not. Do. That. EVER.

But on the whole, a great first book.

Correia has grown quite a bit as an author over the last thirteen years.  He has addressed his major weaknesses or learned to write around them which is just about as good.  His strongest works in the MHI series, at least in recent years, have been his exploration of some of the side characters.  Owen’s brother, Mosh Pitt and his boss, Earl Harbinger were engaging in-depth examinations that still managed to be entertaining. And Grant is now kind of a good guy even if he does work for MCB.

If anything, the character getting left behind was Owen Pitt.  Understandable since he was a Gary Stu.  

Just in case you aren’t familiar with my lecture, an author self-insert is NOT automatically a Mary Sue.  A Mary Sue is defined by a constant flood of external validation from the other characters in her book as well as the very universe, which will change its own rules just to make her look better.  Whereas a Gary Stu is defined by having to do more and more spectacular feats of action to maintain his identity.  Owen is same kind of character as James Bond or Conan the Barbarian, namely static.  Owen can’t change that much.

The problem is that this author is growing, and Owen simply can’t.  Correia has gone on to write a diesel punk magic noir series as well as his truly exceptional Sons of the Black Sword books.  

A few years ago when I was still on Facebook, I was on hand when John Ringo went into a white heat and cranked out three Monster Hunter fanfiction novels in the space of a month.  There was still an old collaboration contract between Correia and Ringo from a project that never came together.   Ringo created the Eighties horn-dog Chad Gardenier and MHI became a shared universe.

Correia liked the collaboration enough to open his playground to his friends in a collection of short stories.  An interesting standout of this anthology was Sarah Hoyt’s story about a teenage Julie Shackleford.  This was the first time that Owen’s wife was genuinely a character with her own integrity instead of a cardboard cutout whose many, many, many, many, many, many virtues Owen would whinge on about for pages at a time.

It must have impressed Toni Weisskopf too because Sarah got her own MHI collaboration novel.

Which brings us to the present in the MHI universe in Monster Hunter Bloodlines.  

I’ve been struggling with this next section because it’s the part where I say, I don’t really like this one.

This next block of my review is going to have spoilers throughout.  If you are planning to read this book and haven’t yet, then dip out now.  If you are a fan of Larry then nothing I’m about to say will change your mind.

***SPOILERS***

***SPOILERS***

***SPOILERS***

***SPOILERS***

It’s the first part of a two parter.

Someone should have mentioned that to me before I started reading because I wouldn’t have started reading. And no, the sequel isn’t coming out in two months.

It’s not a bad book.  Let me state that upfront.  If you are a fan of the Monster Hunter novels there is plenty of reason to buy this one.  Everything you like in an MHI book is there. 

Now comes the BUT.

But it has some pronounced weaknesses.  The MHIverse has reached the point where fan service is starting to weigh down the story.  Its fans have a checklist of things they expect to see in each and every book.  Larry knows this and supplies it.  It was less of an issue in the early days, but it is becoming very cumbersome in 2021.  You know they are coming, and you are waiting for them.  But it slows things down when you have to provide extraneous material.  It’s clunky, when you are making yourself include passing mentions of events and characters that will do nothing to advance this plot and they aren’t providing any real background color either.

While the story is told from Owen’s POV, the major character is Sonya Gardenier.  Chad from the Ringo books had a daughter on the way when he was killed the night of the Christmas Party.  

Sonya’s mother was a Japanese Yokai, which means Sonya comes equipped with a couple of superpowers.  That’s perfectly fine. Pixie-ninjas without an explanation are irritating, and Sonya has an excuse for her superhuman strength.  She is also a facedancer, she has a limited polymorph ability. She can’t change her size or general build, just her face and some cosmetics.   

She’s a decent character.   The people at MHI who knew Chad and loved him back in the day, want to give his kid every chance.  The problem is that every chance Sonya is given she uses to betray them.  She is only interested in herself.  Learning to trust and becoming a better person is a good character arc.  No complaints there.  The problem with Sonya is her complete and total obsession with her father.  This chick has some ultra-major daddy issues.  And it doesn’t work given her timeline.

If a girl’s father dies when she is between the years of 8-11, and he was a doting Daddy, she will build temples in his memory.  I’ve seen it.  But Chad died when she was in the womb.  While Sonya would be curious about him, I just don’t buy her starting a one woman death cult around him.   The only reason she is so drastically overinvested in the Late Chad is because the audience is.  The reason she thinks so well of her dear old Dad is because we read three novels from his point of view. 

Her obsession with Chad doesn’t feel natural. It kept taking me out of the story.

Then there is the villain, Stricken.

Do you remember how I said that Owen wasn’t a Mary Sue?  Well, Stricken sure as hell is one.  The rules of the MHIverse are constantly being warped to make him look like an omnicompetent super genius.   Immovable obstacles are presented, simply for him to chuckle at them and brush them aside in contempt.  He always thinks of everything.  Every. Single.  Time.  By the time he was outwitting the Fae queen at the end of the story I was bored with him.  Stricken was obviously going to overcome every single damn thing with no effort whatsoever. 

But I’m afraid the biggest problem is Owen Pitt himself.  Larry Correia lacks the required malignant narcissism needed to keep a Gary Stu at the top of his game.  Ian Fleming had no trouble keeping Bond rolling from adventure to adventure because his fictional self-insert was a reflection of his own narcissism.  Larry doesn’t spend every waking moment sucking his own dick and reminding everyone around him why they should think he’s great.  Consequently, he is losing all interest in Owen Pitt.  It’s obvious at this point.  He’s bored with him.

Regardless, there is still plenty to like here.

If you are a fan of Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter books, Bloodlines will keep you entertained.  Larry’s fight scenes are still the best in the business. He can still keep you turning pages. The jokes are funny. And if you enjoy his voice, it’s there for you.

Taken as a whole…

The Dark Herald Recommends with Confidence.

*There are exceptions of course. If you are being given a payout by the Cabal or are the kid of somebody with the right connections for instance.

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Comments (14)

  • Dave W. Reply

    I’m still gonna read it. How can I not? I love those books and just about all of Larry’s stuff. If there are a few flaws there, that’s okay. It’s not like he suddenly morphed into Scalzi.

    September 22, 2021 at 2:23 am
  • Scott Osmond Reply

    You can like Lc and his stories and still except the DH’s analysis of him and his writing. Several of the problems DH discussed is why Bloodlines got a 4 star instead of a 5.

    September 22, 2021 at 3:16 am
    • Fractal Rabbit Reply

      It’s true. I really enjoyed the first MHI book but the seeds of Owen Pitt’s Gary-Stu-ness were painfully evident then, even if they didn’t flower fully yet.

      My two favorite books in the series are Alpha and Nemesis, because they don’t revolve around Owen Pitt but around two different and very interesting characters. I couldn’t even finish Siege. That book read like a mess and felt like it was going nowhere. Not sure if I will get up the energy to try Siege again, then get back into the MHI swing of things.

      On the other hand, the Son of the Black Sword series and the Grim Moir stuff is just awesome. Correia’s skills have definitely matured and he shows it there.

      September 22, 2021 at 11:04 am
  • Terry Reply

    A dead on review, especially pointing out that LC seems bored with Owen. I read and liked it, but there is a definite lack of the energy that made the first couple of books so enjoyable.
    And Stricken has just become a plot device: need “x” to happen, introduce Stricken into the mix. I did not realise she was Chad’s daughter. It makes sense—I found him unappealing, and his daughter is the same. You are also correct on where he shines—the secondary characters. I would love a book featuring Ed and Tanya.

    September 22, 2021 at 11:23 am
  • Silent Draco Reply

    I will probably read this one, but it’s farther down on my list. The fan service and bolt-in ‘remember …’ templates look like the Honorverse main line. I’m patient with Sarah’s writing style, but she can get a bit tedious too. Thanks for the not-quite spoilers.

    Owen Pitt needs the old-school Godzilla treatment – Break Glass Only if the Universe Is Literally Coming Apart Again. As a character, he’s too extreme for anything ‘mundane’, so he needs to run financials, train newbies, and get ready to be the enforcer muscle behind the next Shackleford boss. From that perspective, OP could do some awesome techno-supernatural thrillers in the spirit of Dead 6, dealing with spectral entities and agencies.

    The secondary characters make a great ensemble cast, worthy of their own books or short stories, and sections of the main arc. Imagine Ed and Tanya on a mission, ‘meeting the parents’ on both sides, then running for safety to another mission. Earl and his lady going AWOL for Something Important, then casually mailing MCB some “bounty” proofs (packed in dry ice) from the team Stricken sent to hunt them. Stricken – yeah, that’s the evil Mary Sue in need of a good paring. A couple of evil types like that, working against each other and MHI, would work much better. Now that Franks considers the Contract in peril or partially voided, he could do the wrecking ball job necessary.

    September 22, 2021 at 12:58 pm
  • Brick Hardslab Reply

    Tried reading Sarah once. It was painful for me because she’s a romance writer. Nothing wrong with that, it’s the big boy on the block, but not my cup of tea.

    I finally gave up hers are the only books I have never finished.

    September 22, 2021 at 2:42 pm
    • Codex Reply

      Mts. Hoyt really is not a romance* writer. She is a literary writer from a Latin tradition and not male. Which means you get loads of emo. I have read enough relio trulio romance for work to recognize the tropes. Also, pace Shakespeare, a non-tragedy / happy ending requires a wedding**
      .
      Her strengths are character, voice, and seting. Plot gets derailed by characters agonising over whatever the character cares about (hence the romance feel because this quality is a virtue in romance novels as everything stops as the romance protagonist goes on and on and on and ON about thwarted love.) The masterclass romance writers weave that seamlessly into the plot (See, My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart) but it HAS to be there, well or badly done.

      For any other hook, I can recommend something. Mrs. Hoyt’s range is excellent.

      *Capital R, Prisoner of Zenda Romance, sure.
      **If this feels weird to you: Honk. Honk.

      September 24, 2021 at 5:21 am
  • douglas Whiddon Reply

    I read it. I enjoyed it. I was rather bummed when it stopped all of the sudden. The E-arc doesn’t even have an authors afterword. I thought I had just got half the book. A note that it was a part one SOMEWHERE would have been nice.

    I liked Sonya well enough, and her obsession with her father makes sense when you remember that she got a copy of the 3 books herself, and her mother was trying to keep her away from the life her father led. This makes her a lot more understandable.

    Also, if you are new to Correia – while his MHI books are just pulpy fun, his Forgotten Warrior and Grim Noir books are way more serious.

    September 22, 2021 at 3:26 pm
  • David Reply

    Of his works, I have only read the Forgotten Warrior series and one of the novels he did for Privateer Press. All of them were very enjoyable. Larry is a fan of the tabletop games Warmachine and Hordes like I am and it is fascinating to see how some of the Hordes monsters in the game inspired his aquatic demons in Forgotten Warrior. I think he has a new book planned with golems that I guess will have some recognizable traits inspired by the Warmachine side.

    September 22, 2021 at 4:19 pm
  • Michael Maier Reply

    1: Spoiler alert should have been at the very top.
    2: How can anyone read the book and not know she’s Chad’s kid????????

    I didn’t like SIEGE much at all, until the last chapter or so.

    BLOODLINES is fine, except it’s only half a story, as noted. And for being half a story, it’s a little long. Maybe LC couldn’t plot it out to feel right and get what he thinks is needed development in there first?

    Funny aside, I’m so glad I stopped reading BLOODLINES at the end of the chapter when I did. It occurred to me that I might need to finish the Ringo books first to avoid spoilers. The end of SAINTS would have been ruined for me, literally on the facing page.

    September 22, 2021 at 11:53 pm
  • Codex Reply

    My cavil with the MHI romance was the knee jerk assumption that the characters, no matter how decent and marriage-minded, have to screw first.
    .
    My own family has enough examples of bravos and deltas out-maneuvering the situational alphas that Owen’s courtship rang true. Except for the Declaring Twoo Wuv bit. That was cringe.

    September 24, 2021 at 5:29 am
    • Silent Draco Reply

      I recalled the exception to this cavil, but it’s a romantic tragedy. Poul Anderson’s “A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows”, probably the strongest Flandry novel. The virgin heroine dies in tragedy and triumph, and Captain Flandry builds here a funeral pyre worthy of a Viking queen.

      September 24, 2021 at 10:46 am
  • Robert W Reply

    I have two livestock guardian dogs who live with my goats in the pastures. One is (Jake) Sullivan and the other is Ashok (Vidal)

    Grim Noir and Son of the Black Sword are exceptional pieces. Haven’t started any monster hunter yet, but learning the background in this write up is great!

    September 25, 2021 at 1:20 pm
  • Sensor Sweep: Tolkien, Howard, Correia, Warcraft – castaliahouse.com Reply

    […] (Arkhaven Comics): Monster Hunter International wasn’t just a gun porn, shoot-all-the-monsters pulp.  There was […]

    September 27, 2021 at 4:31 am

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