Sunday, December 4, 2016

Monster - A. Lee Martinez

   2009; 295 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Fantasy; Humor.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Question: What’s a yeti doing in the walk-in freezer at the Food Plus Mart?

    Answer: Anything it wants, but mostly devouring everything in sight, especially the Choc-O-Chiptastic Fudge ice cream.  Well, not quite everything.  It doesn’t seem to like the vanilla.

    For Judy Hines, this is an annoyance, since the beast’s appetite is going to seriously slow down her nightshift chore – to restock the frozen food section.  So, who ya gonna call?

    Wrong, you call Animal Control Services.  Who don’t do yetis, but surprisingly, don’t treat Judy’s call as if it were a prank.  Instead, she gets transferred to some department called Cryptobiological Containment and Rescue Services.  And they say they’ll send a guy right over to take care of things.  Should be there in 15 minutes to so.

    Just one guy, eh?  I can’t wait to see how he deals with a huge, insatiably-hungry, mean-tempered yeti.

What’s To Like...
    The storyline in Monster will remind you of Ghostbusters and/or Men In Black, except that instead of ectoplasmic entities or an interstellar witness relocation program, we’re dealing with infestations of mystical and mythical beasts.  A Lee Martinez throws all sorts of them into the story, so if you’re a critter-lover (I am, and actually, they’re called “parahumans”), you’re in for a treat.

    The title refers to one of our two protagonists – an ordinary chap nicknamed “Monster” – who teams up reluctantly and temporarily with Judy in exchange for her driving him to his parahuman-purging jobs when his van gets trashed.  The secondary characters are well-developed.  Monster’s girlfriend is a demon with a penchant for cussing, but due to her hellish nature, her nasty words are ones like “blessed”, “”Elyisan”, and “sacrosanct”.  Monster’s cohort is a being from the 6th dimension who specializes in shape-shifting origami.  You may not think a paper butterfly is much of an opponent, but just try swatting one.

    I liked the attention to the world-building details.  Things like a “misfortune hex” (a minor, pesky curse), memory glyphs, and a part of our brain called “Merlin’s lobe” which tends to inhibit the belief in magic and fantasy in most adults.  This means that when our mind has to deal with, say, yetis in the freezer, it quickly adjusts our memories of the incident once it’s over to explain things in more realistic terms.  A yeti, you say?  Nah, I think it was just a big raccoon.  Or something like that.

    There is some cussing and sex in the book, but I thought it fit in well.  We learn that humans are divided into “Cognizants”, “Light Cognizants”, and “Full Incogs” (think 'Muggles) when it comes to being able to remember the unexplainable.  And that angels are real.  And easy.

    Monster is a standalone novel, and a quick, fun, easy read.  I picked the hardcover version up at my local library, but I note that they also carry it, and three other books by this author, as free-to-borrow e-books.

    “So you’re married, then?”
    “In a manner.  My true nature is hard to explain in terms you could understand.”
    “Because I’m a monkey,” said Judy.
    “I never said that.”
    “But you were thinking it.”
    “I don’t judge,” said Chester.  “I rather like you lower entities.  You’ve done quite well for transient globs of possibly sentient protoplasm.”
    “Possibly sentient?”
    “The jury is still out.”  (pg. 90)

    “If you’d handled Judy with more delicacy …”
    “Karma, huh.”
    “Karma is just a philosophical construct, a rather simplistic punishment/reward theory that satisfies your egocentric perception of your universe.”
    “I was just about to say that.”
    “You can dismiss my observation with levity –“
    “I just did.”  (pg. 174)

 “My girlfriend is a demon … but I don’t really like her.”  (pg. 141)
    Don’t let the title fool you: this is a witty and humorous book first, and a fantasy tale second.  There is a significant “Christopher Moore” feel to the dialogue and storyline, so if you like that author, you’ll enjoy Monster.

    My only quibble, and it’s minor, is the ending.  The plotline builds steadily to the requisite cosmos-saving final fight, but it seemed straightforward to me.  There were hijinks and mishaps along the way, but no major twists.

    But in fairness, the epilogue – which is actually the final chapter – did hold a nifty surprise for me, and makes me wonder if there is some sort of sequel to Monster either in the works, or that already exists.

    8 Stars.  Listen, if you’re going to emulate someone like Christopher Moore, you’d better do a good job of it, or else the critics at Amazon will eat you alive.  IMNSHO, A. Lee Martinez pulls it off quite nicely.

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