Friday, January 15, 2010
I guess if I could get my act together and finish reviewing all the books I read in 2009, I might actually get to the current years! It's weird, because I'm usually not this far behind. And I should probably be doing, I don't know, mini-reviews? But so far, each book I've read deserves its own full-blown review. As does this book, Monster by A. Lee Martinez (304 pgs, Orbit, 2009). This book was a 100% purely impulse read. Not for a challenge or because I'd seen it reviewed on someone's blog or I'd read something else from the author. Nope. None of those things. I saw it, I liked the cover, I decided to read it.
The thing was big and white and hairy, and it was eating all the ice cream in the walk-in freezer. Four dozen chewed-up empty cartons testified that it had already devoured half of the inventory and it wasn't full yet. From the safety of the doorway, Judy watched it stuff an entire carton of Choc-O-Chiptastic Fudge into it's mouth with a slurp. The creature turned it's head slightly and sniffed. It had vaguely human features, except its face was blue and it's nostrils and mouth impossibly huge. It fixed a cobalt eye on her and snorted. Judy beat a hasty retreat and walked to the produce aisle where Dave was stocking lettuce. "I thought I asked you to stock the ice cream," he said. "No need," she said, "Yeti is eating it all.".
When a couple of Yeti's decide to run amok one night at the Food Plus Mart, Judy, a 3rd-shift stock-girl, has her first encounter with Monster. Finding no one else to call for help, she decides on Animal Control, even though she's sure they won't believe her. But when she calls, Animal Control transfers her to the Cryptobiological Containment and Rescue Services. And they send out an agent: Monster, who happens to be be blue tonight. (He was bit by a basilisk, and the anti-venom treatment left him with an "unstable enchantment". IE, he changes colors each time he wakes up. And with each color comes some bizarre side effect! Blue is good. It means he's invincible.) With Chester, his paper gnome assistant (who's really a 6th-dimensional entity using the paper gnome as a way to interact on this plane), Monster spends his nights catching cryptobiological creatures.
See...there is magic that fills the world today. But not everyone can see it. Merlin's Lobe is a cluster of nerves in the brain, dealing with the perception of magic. In most humans, or incognizants, the lobe is not developed. These people can't see magic, even if it's right in front of them. There are also a few people that CAN recognize magic, but they forget about it almost as soon as it's not in front of their faces. They are light-cognizants, and that is what Judy seems to be. Once the Yetis have been dispatched, she completely forgets she ever saw them.
But Judy seems to be a magnet for all things magic. After the Yeti incident, she comes across a bunch of trolls, a kojin that destroys her apartment, an Inuit walrus dog-type monster, and a hydra, just to name a few creatures. A little too much to be a coincidence. But why are all these strange things happening to Judy? And will Monster be able to help her and save the world at the same time?
I have to say, I picked up this book on a complete whim. I hadn't heard anything about it. I hadn't read anything by the author. But the cover TOTALLY stood out and I loved it! After reading the first page, I knew I hadn't made a mistake. This book was hilarious! Tongue-in-cheek humor paired with all sorts of mythical creatures. What more could a person ask for? Oh yeah, did I mention that the entire fate of the universe is at stake?
As much fun as this book was, there were a few downfalls. Neither Monster, nor Judy were very likable. I'm not sure it it's planned that way, or if the character development just fell a little flat. You don't even feel very sorry for Monster, when his girlfriend from Hell (literally...she's a succubus from the Fiery Pits) makes his life miserable. If it wasn't for Chester, the paper gnome, Monster would be completely unsympathetic as a character. He's rough around the edges and bends over backwards to NOT get involved with people.
But see for yourself how much fun and how witty the writing really is: She didn't like to talk about it, but sin was a high-pressure job. It wasn't hard to get people to do bad things, but competition was stiff in her demon-eat-demon world. A demon was only as good as her last inspired atrocity, and even that didn't count for much.
He ran for the house as lightning bolts and miniature meteorites exploded around him. A shard sliced him across the cheek, and Monster learned that Elvis's downfall was engineered by vampires, that a dairy farm in Iowa had several super intelligent cows plotting the overthrow of the human race, and the mathematical equation for cold fusion, which he forgot almost immediately.
But Martinez also has a pretty good take on humanity itself: "Do you know what separates humanity from the other beasts of the world?" asked Lotus. "It's not the ability to make tools or complex language or any of that other nonsense you tell yourselves. No, humans are unique in all this world because they are the only creatures that can make themselves miserable. And do you know how you do it? You do it by expecting to be happy. You're so busy thinking about happiness, obsessing about finding it and why it isn't where you expect it to be, that you completely miss the point.
Pretty spot on, don't you think? Regardless of some of the problems, Monster is a really fun book to read. A book for 100% pure enjoyment purposes. I would definitely recommend this book! 4.25/5