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Book Review: Monster by A. Lee Martinez

# Genre: Humorous Fantasy
# Hardcover: 304 pages
# Publisher: Orbit
# Publication Date: May 11, 2009
# ISBN-10: 0316041262
# ISBN-13: 978-0316041263
# Author Website

In this humorous paranormal fantasy, a young human by the name of Monster works for a subsidiary of the local animal control services. This agency locates and captures cryptobiologicals, creatures we would define as “things that go bump in the night”. Aptly named Monster hunts and captures trolls, unicorns, yetis, dragons and all sorts of animals with his employee, a sixth dimension paper gnome.

Monster’s life is thrown upside down when he meets Judy, a seemingly normal human woman, a bit down on her luck, but otherwise just as incapable of seeing the creepy-crawlies Monster captures as anyone else. But it seems that no matter where Judy goes, more and more cryptobiologicals keep appearing. Meanwhile, an evil old granny by the name of Lotus is seeking to capture and subjugate Judy for a nefarious purpose. It is up to Monster to save Judy and in doing so, save the world as we know it (much as he hates the idea).

Though the plot is simple, i.e. a young man meets girl with strange powers, it is the plausible world and humorous dialogue that makes this story fun to read. Like Terry Pratchett’s Making Money or Going Postal, much of the humor is derived from Monster’s exasperation with the events unfolding around him. His succubus girlfriend is driving him crazy with her demands, his paper gnome employee keeps lecturing him about right and wrong, and poor Judy is unable to remember the magical events around her unless she wears a mind altering rune on her forehead. Poor Monster is stuck being the adult, something this beer guzzling, TV-watching, unambitious man never wanted.

The plausible world is great as well. A. Lee Martinez, unlike other paranormal fantasists, explains why people don’t see all the crytpobiologicals. For one, magic is leaking out of the world and so they are rarer events. But secondly, it is not so much that people don’t encounter magic, it is simply that they are not able to remember the events, due to a shrinking over their lifetime of one part of the brain. In Monster this is why children see the goblins in their closet, but adults, when they open the door, see nothing but a hockey helmet and stick leaning on the back wall. Only magic is able to temporaily overcome this for the “incognizants” such as Judy. Martinez’s explanation is a plausible one, unlike some of the other paranormal fantasies I have read.

The narrative moves quite quickly, moving from action sequence to action sequence. The story is be no means character driven, although Monster is quite a character. He is not well-rounded, being more of a loser-who-saves-world archetype. That being said, that does not mean that the story is in any way unenjoyable. Martinez is perhaps a bit repetitious in what happens to Monster, though the bright spots of humor, such as the final argument between Monster and his succubus girlfriend, take the edge of that repetition. Like a Jim Hines or Robert Asprin, the humor is part and parcel of the story, and each event has its moments of levity combined with absorbing action.

Monster, by A. Lee Martinez, is a good example of why people like this humorous fantasist. The story is full of action, wry humor and plausible world-building. Monster is an engrossing and funny paranormal fantasy.