It’s rare that I will re-read a book, or a series. When I find myself re-reading something, it’s usually because I found the universe so thoroughly immersive and enjoyable — the characters, the setting, the plot, everything — I wasn’t content with just one tour. I’ve done this with several of W. Michael Gear’s books. Many of Larry Niven’s too. I’ve done it several times with Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead. I’ve re-read the Sten series and A Reckoning For Kings (by Bunch & Cole) so many times, the original paperbacks are literally falling apart at the spine. Ditto for the first two Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, by Stephen R. Donaldson. Each of these works — by different writers with different backgrounds — gave me so much readerly pleasure, I wasn’t satisfied with a single pass. So I’ve gone back for more.
This time? It’s Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International series. Which I’ve been reading as each new book has come out, but which I find myself re-reading on deployment. From the first book, onward. And which I’ve been enjoy hugely, both as a reader, and also as a writer.
See, being a pro writer has been hard on my recreational reading sensibilities. There is an internal editor at work now — picture him like a grumpy, dyspeptic Lou Grant kind of guy, sitting behind a desk — which attempts to “back-seat drive” my rec reading brain. Very often this derails the process, because I find myself parsing passages and chapters with an eye to “improving” them through the sieve of my own writerly style, wit, timing, taste, etc. Which is a damned silly way to read a book when you’re trying to relax. At which point I yell at Lou Grant, saying, “You’re supposed to be off the clock, you bastard!” Lou usually just flips me the bird, and I have to put the book down, and go do something else.
Larry’s Monster Hunter International books do the magic trick of making Lou Grant bob his head in agreement, saying, “Yeah, yeah, man, this is good shit, yeah,” and I don’t have to work at it — to be entertained. The entertainment comes naturally, and I find myself flipping pages fast and furious. Because Larry is that good of a storyteller.
Now, without giving away too much of the plot, I want to focus in on what I consider to be some of the keys to Larry’s rip-roaring success with this series. I will use Monster Hunter International and Monster Hunter Vendetta as my focus, though the fun certainly improves with each expansion of the franchise. But these are the two anchor books I think every inquiring reader needs to digest, so that the successive volumes are properly framed. As with the Sten books, you can drop into the series at any point and expect to have a good time. But it’s still a great idea to start with the beginning in mind. Because MHI is not just a terrific universe peopled with terrific characters bound up in a terrific story, it’s also a textbook on how to enthrall a readership — and keep that readership expanding, as well as coming back for more.
First, MHI is about a secret world. The Harry Potter books are another terrific crowd-pleasing example of this. In both cases, the audience simply has to make one leap of faith: that the modern, ordinary world we inhabit is merely a mask over a deeper, magical, quite more adventurous (as well as dangerous) world, which we can almost glimpse out of the corner of our eyes. But as soon as we look to see, that world is gone. Replaced by the mundane. Still, we deeply wish the secret world could be real. And MHI allows it to be real, on the printed page. The yearning for the secret world is satisfied.
Second, MHI is about a Chosen Hero. Again, Harry Potter does this too. In fact, most of the blockbuster stories which inhabit our popular imagination — from Star Wars to the Marvel Cinematic Universe — focus on people who are extraordinary. Set apart. They might not know it in the beginning. But some kind of looming threat against the good things in the world, will cause or force the Chosen Hero (or heroes, or heroines) to throw off the disguise of the ordinary, and accept his/their mantle(s) as the people who’ve been selected (by the gods, by fate, by the cosmos, by dumb luck) to be the champion(s) of the age. Like the secret world, the Chosen Hero is a concept most people find irresistible. Most of us grow up playing make-believe, in which we manage to be the “special” and courageous folk who make the difference. I don’t think we ever lose this child-like fascination with the idea that there is, lurking within all of us, the power to be The One who rises up to change things for the better. Almost 20 years ago, the original Matrix movie exploited this desire — on the part of the audience — to fantastic and gripping effect. MHI does too.
Third, MHI is about genuinely enjoyable, sympathetic heroes. I can’t stress this one enough, mostly because anti-heroes have somewhat swamped our popular culture of late. Whether it’s Walter White in Breaking Bad — a Shakespearean tragedy which sees an ordinary man do bad things for good reasons, until at last he realizes he likes being bad because it gives him power, until he is consumed — or Tony Soprano from The Sopranos, the anti-hero has become a fixture in the popular storytelling landscape. Now, anti-heroes are remarkable creatures because you can often do more with them than you can with a straight-up hero. The anti-hero gets to play by a different set of rules — and this too appeals to a deep longing each of us has, to shatter convention, and allow our individual wants, desires, lusts, quest for power, etc., to rule the day. But the anti-hero ultimately has to turn to good, otherwise the story is simply a bleak cautionary tale. And while the people of MHI aren’t perfect, they allow us to cleanly root for them. Yes, even agent Franks. A man who is every inch an anti-hero, until you understand him.
Fourth, MHI employs genuinely delicious villains. You can’t really make your heroes live up to themselves, unless you give them truly substantial villains to battle. The original Star Wars trilogy relied as much on Vader and Palpatine, to tell an epic tale, as it did on Luke, Leia, and Han. So too did the movie Sneakers rely on Cosmo to make its story compelling. In fact, Cosmo is almost the hero of the whole film, except events have steered Cosmo down the path of darkness, whereas Martin Bishop evolved to discover that what he thought he wanted in his youth, wasn’t what the world actually needed. MHI does a lot of this, too. Many of the villains, used to be heroes. But have been turned by circumstances into something else. In the case of the first two MHI villains, we get a front-row seat for much of this. To include the many ways in which the links — villains, to heroes, and back again — prove vital to the telling of the story. The heroes and the villains are bound up in a very personal struggle, that has universal proportion.
Fifth, MHI is a “family” affair. Some of the bad guys are literally related to the good guys. As people, all of us are acquainted with family drama. Sometimes, to a toxic degree. But it’s because we’re so intimately familiar with family drama, that fictional family drama can become almost instantly engaging. Consider the all-time Science Fiction classic, Dune. Family drama all the way. Star Wars? Family drama. Harry Potter and Downton Abbey? Family dramas. Whether those families are direct blood, or are simply the relationships forged between individuals — by trial, familiarity, greed, resentment, jealousy, or true love. The Shackleford clan is a dynasty in MHI‘s mythic alternative world, and the interplay of the family dynamics — some of which is rendered with terrific skill — can almost sell the series on its own. Especially when you factor in the Pitt clan, who have been forced by fate to join in the Shackleford legacy. Again, the links — bad guys, to good guys, and back again — are a big part of what makes the books pop. Without those links, MHI wouldn’t be nearly as page-turning.
Sixth, MHI is literally about killing monsters. Every kid who ever pulled the sheets over her head at night, because she was terrified of the monster under the bed — eyes glowing red, like in The Nightmare Before Christmas — has secretly yearned to strike back at the fear. To not be scared anymore. To face the monster under the bed, and defeat it. That’s a very primal desire which, along with the desire to be unique or special, gives MHI a visceral vicariousness that’s difficult to ignore. Every time Owen or Julie or Milo or one of the other heroes (even Franks!) slugs it out with a vampire, a werewolf, a zombie, or worse, we’re along for the glorious ride. The kind of blood-pumping, masterfully-detailed rhetorical fist-fight that gets your blood pumping. This is the kind of stuff you play-acted as a little kid. Charging into battle with your nightmares, and making them pay for keeping you scared at night when the lights are out.
Seventh, MHI makes you want to be part of the story. So when you leave the book, or close the cover, the action is still happening in your imagination. You want to be a newbie, slogging through training and earning your right to wear a team patch, so that you can go toe-to-toe with the hordes of Hell, right alongside Holly and Earl and all the rest. The Shacklefords — and their company by extension — are also the kind of people you wish you could work with in your real job, too. Loyal. Tough. Dependable. Never willing to let a brother or a sister hang. We want our world to be that way. We want our friends and our family to be that rock-solid. Because too often, when the heat is on, friends and family in the real world let us down. But we know in our hearts that Monster Hunter International, and the men and women who staff it, are true blue. Not perfect. Not immortal. But true blue. Which, if I do say so myself, reflects the core of Larry Correia himself. True blue. Or red, as Larry might prefer (as in red state. *chuckle*.)
So, MHI is a terrific, ongoing story. Yes. But it’s a story that manages to deftly weave seven strong storytelling threads together in such a way that those threads become even more appealing upon second review. Not every book I go back to re-read, gets me even better than the first time through. But MHI is just such a book, and just such a series. I don’t think you could find more enjoyable “homework” if you’re thinking about writing books and stories of your own — at least if your goal is to earn an audience.
If the premise of MHI is, “Kill monsters, get paid,” then the ethic of storytelling is, “Entertain readers, get paid.” Larry’s given us all a stupendously enjoyable blueprint, for that very project — at least where key ingredients are concerned. I’ve been buzzing — in my creative brain, all summer — about how to include some of these ingredients in my own work. I think most of the people reading this piece, could stand to do the same.
And the best part?
Larry’s not done with the series yet! There is more to come!
I couldn’t finish MHI, myself. I never ran across any characters that I liked, and I actively disliked the narrator. I thought he was too far over the top–he was the toughest and the smartest and the greatest at weapons and spoke a dozen languages and had psychic powers and etc. etc. etc. I never felt that there was any risk–Owen was always going to win no matter what.
Personally, I find that Larry walks a very fine line with Owen. He includes just enough hardship and humor to keep him from being insufferable.
I mean, in the second book he has his butt kicked by gnomes. Gnomes!
If it helps any, in the sequels (especially VENDETTA and LEGION), Owen’s special-ness turns out to carry a hefty price tag for himself, those he loves, and even many unfortunate innocents. One Owen is unable to brush off or simply power through. (Being a hero, Owen doesn’t curl up and whimper, but he hardly remains unmoved or untouched.)
I actually find it kind of fascinating. The first book builds him up as just this total natural badass…and then the sequels remind us that nothing is ever-quite- that simple.
I enjoyed MHI.
Sure, it isn’t DEEP deep but it certainly isn’t shallow. The story suggests more layers and each successive book delves further into them.
All while providing popcorn-munching fun!
Purchased the entire series. I’m now considering which deities to extol so the next MHI arrives sooner.
A couple novels change narrators as they tell a different story through a different perspective. You may enjoy those more.
“A couple novels change narrators as they tell a different story through a different perspective. You may enjoy those more.”
Oh yeah! I did enjoy those more.
I didn’t dislike the two excerpts and one short story of the MHI I read. I liked it enough to participate in the first patch contest, and wouldn’t turn it down for a fun read. But it falls into the category of not quite my cup of tea. For my tastes I prefer the Grimnoir series.
This was an interesting analysis, though I think it shows more how MHI falls into a type of story rather than why it’s a good book. For instance, Ender’s Game roughly has the same plot attributes, which made it all the more amusing that the SJW harped on the “chosen one” device but ignored it in Harry Potter. But you could also put the same plot devices into something like Atlanta Nights, with horrible results. What makes the MH series popular isn’t so much premise as skillful execution.
That gets down to nuts and bolts and beyond my limited comprehension. On a broad sense its like looking at a painting and noticing the use of the Golden Ratio, or watching Finding Nemo and noticing how it’s essentially a cliff-hanger story and how it manages tension. But the rest . . . that’s an entirely different level.
I liked the MHI series enough to introduce my son to it. As soon as he started, he was hooked. School controlled a lot of his reading, but now that it’s summer, he’s reading anything he wants and the first thing he wanted to read? Monster Hunter Vendetta. Followed by Alpha. Then Legion. Then Nemesis. He’s hooked.
Now, I’ll agree that Owen runs fairly close to a Marty Stu, but I really think that Larry avoids that. Owen is skilled, yes, but so what? I’ve known people who I knew for a fact were as skilled as Owen (only an MD instead of an accountant). So what? He’s not perfect, but he’s not whiny about his imperfections.
Between MHI and Grimnoir, Larry has solidified his place as one of my favorite authors. I can’t wait to read his new series just because of that.
I actually find amusing that when the POV character switches, Owen’s a bit of an OCD accountant type when he’s not killing monsters. I had mental images of him going “Auuugh! These expenses don’t add up!!!” And to boot, I imagined him side by side with my brother, who’s a QC / compliance control auditor – and they had the exact same tone in my head.
Oh and I did give him the first book and he loved the fact that Owen was an accountant. Accountants are rarely heroes.
Yeah, and his comments about the CPA exam being harder than the Bar tickled me to no end. 😀
Under people that skilled, I still remember RIngo’s response to some criticism of Looking Glass re: the competence, skillset, and career of the protagonist. “he guy I based him on already knew hot to shoot”
What I’ve seen of Travis since, complete with goofy redneck “watch this” / nerd relative lack of common sense combined with scary smarts, leads me to believe Ringo underplayed him.
As to people having style issues with the first person/viewpoint character, etc. as much as I love the series my favorites are “Alpha” and Nemesis.
Honestly, my biggest issue with Nemesis is that I couldn’t stand Owen in the scenes he was in. Without being in his head, he just came across like an ass.
Of course, I put it in my review on my website, and since Larry retweeted it, I guess he was OK with that.
It used to be common in SF for protagonists to be hyper-competent polymaths. Read pretty much anything by E E “Doc” Smith.
I know – and I for one don’t mind a slightly more “realistic” character who’s merely incredibly competent at something, maybe a few things, and has more personal flaws, but the pendulum and expectations have gone waaaayyyy in the other direction.
Take “World Turned Upside Down” that drifted into the Hugo noms this year. (please!)
I know they exist, but I have to work at it to think of a less likable, competent, trustworthy protagonist. A total whiner. When it landed a hugo spot, even several puppy-kickers panned it (without considering the implications of that being the most popular as “good” of what was available after the puppy-related noms for the point the puppies were making…)
Useless stumblebums are more “realistic” and “relatable”, apparently.
No, don’t take it. Stake it. Then burn it.
There was a long, happy stage in my reading career where I’d have loved MHI. The same stage where I gleefully devoured The Executioner and The A-Team and Richard S. Prather and just about anything that was gung-ho for glory regardless of genre. Because *Entertainment*. That was its mission, and that was what I wanted.
But at some point I grew bored with all this, no matter how well done. I don’t know why. Maybe too much of a good thing, maybe my tastes just moved onward. I tried to read MHI and couldn’t even get started. Nothing negative about the book as such. Rather, my tastes have narrowed a lot over time, and in my old age I’ve become downright n/a/r/r/o/w/-/m/i/n/d/e/d/ eclectic. A whole lot of “fun stuff” has become “been there, done that” in my head and I’m just no longer interested. Which is actually pretty irritating because there’s that much less that I want to read (or watch) anymore, against my natural inclination to read anything with words (all the way down to cereal boxes and toilet paper wrappers).
And I sure hear ya about the editor in my head. Since I started doing this writing and editing thing, my internal editor just won’t shut up. (And mine wants to make your words sound more like you, not like me. I was an editor before I was a writer.) From my internal editor’s curmudgeonly viewpoint, it’s quite astonishing how much Crud is in print, and has always been in print.
But a bigger problem today than that technical competence has taken a serious nose-dive (over the past 20 years, basic grammar and story structure have taken serious nosedives), is that there’s now a great deal of reinventing the wheel and getting it square; thank you modern “education” and modern writers whose fandom and reading experience does not extend pastward at all, and whose major mission is to be “different” while ticking all the “acceptable technique” boxes on some agent’s HowTo checklist. After I read something recent, I often feel a burning need to go wash my brain out with something published in the 1980s, or even the 1930s, back before crit culture sanded all the uniqueness out of everyone’s writing voice. (Last time, I chanced to soap my brain with a very early work by Robert E. Howard. I’d forgotten what a fine *writer* he was.)
But ya know what? I’m still a fan of Larry as a human being (I only know him from his blog and a few Youtube vids, but he comes across as a great guy), and I don’t begrudge anyone else their enjoyment of MHI. In fact I kinda envy ’em, cuz that’s something I’ve lost. Maybe someday I’ll come back to it. The words will be waiting.
Check out the Gromnoir books, starting with Hard Magic. THe Baen podcast recently finished running the entirety of “Hard Magic” from the audible audiobook, in sections.
Less pulp, more noir, with a lot of thought, etc. behind it.
Thanks for the recommendation… had not looked at Grimnoir yet. — I just flat can’t do audio books, nothing guaranteed to put me lights-out quicker. (Except possibly doing invoices.) I’m purely an eyeball reader, my ears need not apply!
(I should further admit that nowadays urban fantasy is a tough sell to my head, probably because so much of it is really gumshoe or romance with a little fantasy pasted on top.)
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.
I want his babies.
I’m saving up the trilogy for when I finish a certain amount of work as a reward.
A recent development that has come up on line and discussed at some length at Libertycon is that after binge reading all the MHI books John Ringo sat down and started writing a series of novels set in the MHI universe. anyone who knows John is aware that he is putty in the hands of the muse that lives in his back brain, and she frequently takes control and won’t let loose until he’s written yet another totally unplanned and unexpected book or series. John posted a few snippets on facebook and sent the first complete book to Larry to vet. I did say first, John says at least three and possibly as many as seven before he’s done and the muse lets him loose again.
I know Larry said that there’s an anthology of MHI universe stories coming up and other writers were invited to play. Jim Butcher’s one of them, I hear. SQUEEEEE~!!!!!!!!!!!
The moment he said that there were other authors invited to play, my damn brain, for the first time in over a decade, started fanficcing. I have the basic idea down, the characters, and setting.
I am fortunate to have been invited to that book. I am looking forward to doing a little MHI.
Yaaaaaaaaaay!!!!!!!!!!! More awesomeness!
Speaking of “shut up and take my money:” Jonathan Maberry is also supposed to be a contributor to the MHI anthology, IIRC; among several upcoming collaborations with Maberry is said to include a story teaming Agent Franks with Joe Ledger.
The collateral damage resulting from a Franks/Ledger pairing should be *epic.*
Hell, the cackle I let out just now says “WHEN IS IT COMING OUT!!!!”
There’s an anthology, and separate *books* coming from John Ringo. He’s posted snippets on Facebook and asked odd questions like lookign for iconic 1980s guns… apparently his MHI book takes place in the late 80s.
Here’s LC’s blog post about it:
“See, being a pro writer has been hard on my recreational reading sensibilities. There is an internal editor at work now — picture him like a grumpy, dyspeptic Lou Grant kind of guy, sitting behind a desk — which attempts to “back-seat drive” my rec reading brain. Very often this derails the process, because I find myself parsing passages and chapters with an eye to “improving” them through the sieve of my own writerly style, wit, timing, taste, etc. Which is a damned silly way to read a book when you’re trying to relax. At which point I yell at Lou Grant, saying, “You’re supposed to be off the clock, you bastard!” Lou usually just flips me the bird, and I have to put the book down, and go do something else.”
I’m not a writer but have been overexposed to the breed lately and cannot turn off editor/alpha/beta reader. Drives me crazy
Mine goes ‘you need to write,’ and I tell it ‘shut up, I’m feverish.’ About the only thing I can read these days are manga because of the damn internal editor.
> Owen was always going to win no matter what.
Terrible. Because it’s always so much more… literary… when the protagonist fails. Preferably in a fog of self-hatred and angst. Cherries on top if he pours gasoline over his own head and lights it.
Yeah, but if he was really the antagonist all along, isn’t that what you want him to do?
I don’t want the protagonist to lose, necessarily, but I would like to feel that it is a possibility, I didn’t get that from MHI. I never felt that Owen was at risk–at least not in the first three quarters or so of the first book that I read.
What makes a story exciting for me is a protagonist who faces overwhelming odds and succeeds. When you have a character who is always shown as being bigger and tougher than the things he’s facing I find it hard to have any sympathy for him.
He has people inventing special guns just for him because no one else in the world is awesome enough to use them–not exactly scrappy underdog material.
As a contrast, I’d like to recommend Charles Stross’s “Laundry Files”. Bob Howard is a mid-level civil servant armed with a smart phone and facing eldritch Lovecraftian horrors. He’s outnumbered and outgunned and has to use his wits to survive.
So, basically, you didn’t get to the points where he almost buys it.
No, evidently not. I got as far as him killing the gargoyles at the mental institution where the love interest’s father was confined, that’s about where I couldn’t maintain any suspension of disbelief.
For what it’s worth, I had the same problem with the Harry Potter books–I never felt that there was any real risk to the main character.
I have been thinking long and hard on this topic and I think that what I am missing is a sense of moral peril. Sure, Owen and Potter can risk their lives, but I know that they’ll survive. More ambiguous characters like Harry Dresden and Bob Howard may always live through the books (both are written in the first person) but there is a sense that they are in danger of losing their souls. That may be the difference between a hero and a protagonist–the later face moral discisions, while the former simply make strategic ones.
I think part of what delighted me about MHI is that it somehow evades the “I’ve read too much” part of my brain, and turns on the teenager in me who first learned to love to read back in the 1980s. About ten years ago, that “I’ve read too much” thing was really killing my new reading. Killing it. I remember confessing to Kris Rusch and Dean Smith that I felt like the part of me which could simply sit down and enjoy a fresh book, was dying. If not dead? Precisely because I had read a lot of books, and it was getting more and more difficult to enjoy the simple act of reading for pleasure; because I felt like I’d seen too many things. Very little was fresh. Well, MHI managed to be fresh. And I agree — Grimnoire is more to my inclination. But MHI was and is a reminder to me why I wanted to get into this racket in the first place. Because Larry’s storytelling makes me sit up and say, “I want to do that, too!” That’s a nice emotion. Something I forget all too often, when I am thinking about this whole enterprise with my business brain.
I’m a mining engineer/geologist and deal with and read technical material all day long. I get tired of it.
When I come home, I read to relax. All I want is something that’s relatively easy to read, engaging, won’t insult my intelligence, and fun.
In other words, I want to turn my brain off and enjoy the story while I sip a beer, munch potato chips, and pet the cat.
Larry’s books fit the bill and I suspect I’m not the only person that enjoys them for that reason.
I’m currently on my third reading of his Monsters series and just finished the second reading of his Grimnoir series. I’ve found a couple of other series that I like in YA and urban fantasy but frankly, there doesn’t seem to be much that fits my needs.
As always, YMMV.
I did not understand the appeal of one huge class of television until I found myself working 12 hour days (16 counting the commute) and by Friday night all I wanted was feet up and a beer and a chance to let my brain chill. And here it is Friday night and I find myself watching… Baywatch. The Dukes of Hazzard. Fall Guy. Stuff that ordinarily I can’t stand, but at that moment was Just Right for massaging the work outta my brain. Just enough predictable to not require thought, just enough engaging to keep my attention. The net effect was *relaxing*. And I’m like… OH. Now I get it. It’s not just brainless fluff; it’s functional. You just have to need its function before you see that.
Yep. Before I hit puberty, I couldn’t figure out romance novels at all. I finally asked my mother why she kept a stash of them under her side of the bed, because they just didn’t make any sense! My mother smiled in the way mothers do, and said, “They’re brain candy. Sometimes, your mother’s brain needs a little cotton candy just as badly as your stomach does.”
Decades later, I was working 12-hour days, managing a lot of data and people, and coming home completely burned out to try to research publishing for my husband. In the process of looking up trends in romance (they start new marketing techniques at least 6 months before the rest of publishing does), I started sampling the books and realized what she meant.
You’ve written a primer on how to set up this kind of series – I bookmarked it. See, there’s this series that keeps coming back to mind, and when I’m done with what I’m working on, I’m rereading this post, and making sure I don’t miss a single point.
You ALMOST make me want to read a scary book about monsters.
Of course, Dave Wolverton’s splendid Million Dollar Outlines discusses all of this in much more detail. I don’t think I’ve ever met a writing teacher who better understood the underpinnings of what makes a successful book or series (or movie, or story of any kind) successful. That man has his finger on the semi-conscious pulse of the audience.
For me, this series started as many do, at my local library. It was October. I saw the cover. Didn’t recognize the author. But it was Baen, which usually means entertaining, and more likely that the author actually knows something about weapons. So I signed it out. Loved it. Bought the sequel. The rest is history. 🙂
There are folks that consider what Larry Correia writes, pulp. I’m here to tell you that Larry doesn’t write pulp. Maybe Mega-Pulp, but not pulp.
The sixties and seventies were when I really got my teeth into reading for entertainment. I got hooked on pulp. Lots of action for the penny.
The great pulp writers of the day, and the ones that were being reproduced, could fill pages with rip roaring action, and keep a lot of us riveted in our seats. Crossing genres a bit, some of the best were Robert E. Howard, H. Beam Piper, Poul Anderson, Louis L’Amour, and Donald Hamilton. There were others to be sure, these are the ones who’s books I see as I look up.
Pulp back then, had a fast cadence. The typical novel was 50k to 75k. Character development either happened during the action, or at best wasn’t the author’s prime goal.
Looking at my copy of MHI, it’s 688 pages long before the sample of the next novel.
That’s a bit over 200k words. What Larry does, maybe better than anyone else in today’s game, is bring the pulp cadence and tempo and combine it with modern trad published novel lengths. He also geeks out on firearms, which adds to the charm.
The second SF book I bought, back in ’67, “Battle for the Stars” by Edmund Hamilton, is just a little over 50k words. Larry has a battle in the second Grimnoir book that is over 50k words.
No, what Larry does isn’t pulp. He’s invented a whole new classification. I’ll let you brainier folks determine what to call it.
I think you could say the same thing about Stephen King, early in his career, who seemed to also have a “Pulp but proud, baby!” attitude towards his work.
He had many of the same influences as Larry did – Lovecraft, for but one example – and although he went in a slightly different direction with his work than Larry did, he also could keep that “pulp cadence and tempo” going for an entire novel. I think that’s one reason I so enjoy early King, in particular “Salem’s Lot,” “Christine,” “The Stand” and “The Shining.” Even in the slower parts of King’s books, there’s always this sort of steady, fast drumbeat of “Watch out, the monsters are coming” running through the background and making the hairs rise on the back of your neck.
Of course, the problem with King is that about fifteen or twenty years into his career, he became too full of himself, too big to edit, and worst of all traded in his original middle-class sensibilities for effete, snobbish, condescending/contemptuous Manhattan literary leftism. Which is why King is for me well-nigh unreadable, these days. Hopefully that’s a path Larry can avoid…well, the first bit, anyway; I’m pretty sure Larry’s immune to the “Manhattan literary leftism” virus… 😛
I enjoyed the first few Gunslinger books, before he sold out Roland’s sacrifice and honor to show his whole way of life as pointless. I even enjoyed some of the earlier stuff.
That said – it was always there.
The Stand has its moments and reads smoothly, but by the end of the book I got the impression the author didn’t like people.
It wasn’t until years later that I discovered that a book I’d stumbled into in Middle School about a death-march-as-competition was actually by him under another name.
That book made me feel dirty having finished it.
the caricatures in his more recent books just make me want to throw the book. So I stopped wasting money on them.
Frankly – I’ll take almost anything by Dean Koontz, especially rereading “Watchers” and the whole “Fear Nothing” saga, as corny as his stuff can be, for its far more hopeful attitude towards the potential for grace in people among the fallen and failed, and that technology is a tool for good and ill. (The “Odd Thomas” movie wasn’t bad either…)
Let’s not forget another great pulp writer, Mickey Spillane. Larry’s stories are right up there with the Mike Hammer series, and that’s a pretty high bar.
Sometimes, I think certain modern critics are so jaded, overexposed, and cerebralized, that anything with a fair amount of action in it, gets classified as “pulp.” Especially if the cover is not an art house lit cover, but instead hearkens back to the Judy-Lynn del Rey days of the original SF/F bestseller — 1970s and 1980s. One of Mike Resnick’s “rules” he gave me (as a teacher) was that the main character(s) cannot be the same people at the end of the story, as they are going into it. They not only have to change the game, but the game has to change them in turn. I felt like Owen (and Julie, and several others) evolved with events. Enough to satisfy Mike’s expectation, at least.
The gun specs and weapons lore reminded me of nothing so much as Tom Clancy, who was never in the military, but could write about warfare and war machinery like he’d been flying the jets and shooting the guns and using all the of equipment first-hand. In Larry’s case, he has been using the weapons first-hand. More small arms experience than the entire training cadres of many small countries, I reckon.
Those lovely details are — for me — part of the “frosting” on the cake. Because I learn some things about stuff in the real world, while I am also being entertained. And because I’ve handled a few small arms myself (in a military role) those weapons details make the story more alive (to my sensibilities) than it might otherwise be.
Monster Hunter is one of my favorite series….. EVER.
‘Nuff Said. *drops mic*
I’ve had three copies of the first two novels ‘borrowed’ and not returned. Only other books I’ve had that happen with were Starship Troopers and The Martian Chronicles. Really good, books, even if the first novel was a little rough in places. But first novels are usually rough, somewhere. Dead Six is also good, although I still think he may secretly be a ‘Full Metal Panic’ fan, because of it.
I have to add Grimnoir and Dead Six to my favorite series as well. (I secretly want to be Jake Sullivan :-D)
And also love your analysis. I’m looking at the Work In Progress, and going “Oh! _That’s_ the problem. The Bad Guys are faceless and nebulous. I’m not letting the Good Guys (or the readers) find much info on the Baddies. I _need_ to make them much more concrete monsters.”
A wonderful article. A quote I think is apropos. I think ‘Faerie tales’ here can be expanded to stories in general.
“Faery tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know dragons exist. Faery tales tell children dragons can be killed.” ~GK Chesterton