Book Review - A. Lee Martinez's Monster
Monster Dionysus (great name) hunts demons and other mythical or paranormal creatures for living. He works freelance for the Cryptobiological Containment and Rescue Services. He has a succubus girlfriend prone to mad jealous rages, a trans-dimensional being in the form of a cut-out paper gnome. He works his magic using runes written on post-it notes and today he is blue. At least blue means he’s invulnerable – useful when fighting yetis.
Judy Hines is a normal, and works in an all-night convenience store, the Food Plus Mart, where Yetis have decided to raid the ice cream. Unlike her co-workers, she doesn’t cower in a corner hoping they go away. She calls Animal Control Services – a call that gets re-routed when she utters the word “yeti”, resulting in Monster entering her life.
Monster arrives, and with help from Judy (and his fortuitous invincibility) the yetis are soon captured or killed. And so, despite the loss of her place of employment Judy’s life should return to normal, the memories of the big-bad mythical killing machines fading from her mind. Problem is when she gets home she finds her closet is infested with trolls. Cue another encounter with a, now purple, Monster. And things are only going to get stranger.
This is a fantastic romp of a novel. It’s ideal for any fans of Christopher Moore – it shares the same madcap sense of humour and the absurd – as well as Pratchett or Simon Green’s Nightside series. Martinez has a zany way of looking at the world and great way of expressing his weirdness.
He also has a way of telling a truly bizarre story without it breaking too far from reality as to be unreadable. Monster may be a magic-user. He may fight demons for a living. He may have a demon girlfriend and he may change colour every time he sleeps, with the accompanying and often unknown to Monster associated powers and limitations (including Purple meaning he cannot smell anything).
But at his core, Monster’s just a bloke. His attitudes and behaviour resemble your average plumber. And the reactions of the normal folk he encounters in his day job, from petrified stupor through to outright denial, are very believably real. It’s no mean feat to have such a grounded, realistic feeling in a book as out there as this.
Plot wise too Martinez excels. He builds tension as the novel at a good pace progresses to its inevitably bizarre conclusion. He develops the antagonistic relationship between the two leads without muddying the waters with unnecessary details of side characters or overly elaborate descriptions of locations or monsters (the creatures, not Monster himself).
After all anyone who lives in the modern world knows what a convenience store or an apartment looks like. And any sf or fantasy fan will just understand what you mean when you say Troll – we don’t need to have three pages of text detailing their fur colour and fang length. Close on perfect this one.