Larry Correia started a blockbuster series with the debut of Monster Hunters International. He hooks you from the first scene, and the blood-and-guts-soaked adventure does not let up. The series premise is simple: the U.S. government maintains a secret fund from which it pays bounties to private contractors in exchange for their elimination of monster threats. Throw in all manner of beasts and—to quote Neo from The Matrix—“Guns. Lots of guns,” and you’ve got action-packed stories of heroes triumphing over evil.
The appeal to readers, especially men, is obvious. These monsters aren’t defeated by supernatural means or by prayer. Guns do the trick. And fire. The idea normal people could face hordes of hideous beasts and triumph through their strength (and copious amounts of weaponry) fires our imaginations.
I was privileged to volunteer at Salt Lake City Comic Con a year ago, among dozens of authors including Larry Correia at the WordFire Press book booth. I bought Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge and he was kind enough to sign it.
Grunge started a new set that dives back into the 1980s, ostensibly through the journals of one Oliver Chadwick Gardenier. Correia co-wrote it with John Ringo, and I haven’t read enough of their stuff to tell them apart, though several reviewers have noted it’s mostly Ringo based on comparisons to earlier Monster Hunter books. It’s definitely not Christian fiction in the sense that most are used to. Profanity abounds, so much so this would be an R-rated movie even if it was completely bloodless, which it’s not, because there’s lots of monster killings. Plus, Chad is an unrepentant womanizer, so he’s not a role-model for Christian readers.
What’s most intriguing, though, is the authors present Chad as being on a mission from God—literally.
Chad’s a young Marine who “dies” in the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing. When he awakens, he’s in the presence of a man named Pete. While there’s no pearly gates, Pete is fishing off an ethereal dock:
There wasn’t a bottom. Waaaay down there were what looked like clouds. And maybe more water. And…
“Is that … Earth down there?” I asked as something whipped past. “And was that a satellite?”
“Those things,” the man said with a slightly aggrieved sigh. “The Boss says they’re just temporary until humans figure out quantum tunneling. Whatever that is. Way over my pay grade.”
The ensuing conversation is poignant and humorous. I’m especially fond of Pete’s mention of an e-mail, to which Chad replies, “What’s an e-mail?” It’s an offhand joke that buttresses the belief in a timeless, all-knowing God—one who knows e-mail will exist, even though the narrator’s living in 1983.
Chad returns to the land of the living. He later interprets this miracle’s purpose was so he could take up a life hunting monsters.
Throughout the novel, there’s references to the role of Christianity and its adherents in this ongoing struggle. It’s presented as light versus dark, good versus evil. During one discussion, the characters discover a split between Oxford and Cambridge universities over the treatment of monster matters originated because Oxford wanted to “make This world of God’s Creation safe from the Unseen and unholy.” And toward the end of Grunge, Chad makes it clear where he thinks even the most powerful of monsters—a fairy queen—ranks:
“The God of Angel Armies is by my side,” I said, calmly. “Shall I fear a mere Fey?”
The impression one gets is that monsters and demonic forces against which Chad fights are part of a corrupted Creation. Perhaps their origin lies in the Fall of mankind. Christianity is treated with respect throughout the book.
On the flipside, Chad’s view of the faith is skewed on the I’m A Good Person Spectrum. He tells a young woman that, in effect, being good inwardly and being kind to other people is what matters. He does outright state “Jesus is the Savior.” Of course, he then sleeps with the same girl on the very same page, and makes lewd references to his activities.
What to take away from it? Ringo and Correia have created a character who is, by his own confession, a Christian, a Catholic at that. He’s incredibly flawed by Evangelical and most creedal standards, yet, when it comes down to battling creatures that would make most of us cower, he takes solace in the power of God and the rightness of His assigned mission to defeat evil.
That, and guns.
Oh yes, and Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge is a finalist for the 2017 Dragon Award.
Steve Rzasa is the author of eleven novels and numerous short stories of science-fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and contemporary fiction. His work has won the ACFW Carol Award for Speculative fiction.
Steve received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University, and worked for eight years at newspapers in Maine and Wyoming. He’s been a librarian since 2008, and received his Library Support Staff Certification from the American Library Association in 2014—one of only 100 graduates nationwide and four in Wyoming. He is the technical services librarian in Buffalo, Wyoming, where he lives with his wife and two boys. Steve’s a fan of all things science-fiction and superhero, and is also a student of history.