At LibertyCon, John Ringo mentioned that he was reading Monster Hunter International because, well, it's not the sort of thing he would write, so he wouldn't be stealing anything from it. I know that feeling. (For the record, John, feel free to read my books, I can't imagine you writing anything like them anyway).
Instead, Ringo ended up writing three books for MHI. Heh.
When Marine Private Oliver Chadwick Gardenier is killed in the Marine barrack bombing in Beirut, somebody who might be Saint Peter gives him a choice: Go to Heaven, which while nice might be a little boring, or return to Earth. The Boss has a mission for him and he's to look for a sign. He's a Marine: He'll choose the mission.Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge has everything that I've come to expect from Ringo: a smart character (in this case, super-genius) taking over-the-top situations, and responding to them very pragmatically. Swarm of zombies? Shoot them in the head. And shoot faster. Have a dream about a mission from God? Well, it could be a dream, or it could be a vision. We'll see.
Unfortunately, the sign he's to look for is "57." Which, given the food services contract in Bethesda Hospital, creates some difficulty. Eventually, it appears that God's will is for Chad to join a group called "Monster Hunters International" and protect people from things that go bump in the night. From there, things trend downhill.
Monster Hunter Memoirs is the (mostly) true story of the life and times of one of MHI's most effective—and flamboyant—hunters. Pro-tips for up and coming hunters range from how to dress appropriately for jogging (low-profile body armor and multiple weapons) to how to develop contacts among the Japanese yakuza, to why it's not a good idea to make billy goat jokes to trolls.
Grunge harkens back to the Golden Days of Monster Hunting when Reagan was in office, Ray and Susan Shackleford were top hunters and Seattle sushi was authentic.
Also, 57. And baby-killer first class.
Heh. You'll have to read the book to get that one.
One of nice bits of business I liked was the interaction with Agent Franks, where you're fairly certain that our hero was given access codes to a secret handshake between himself and a creature like Franks.
However, if you're looking for the John Ringo of Ghost ... don't. First, I never thought the first novel was representative of his work (even representative of the rest of his series). Second, Grunge feels a little bit more like my personal favorite of his series: Special Circumstances. And I swear that Ringo immersed himself in Japanese culture and has come back to his Catholic roots -- there's a lot of both in there.
Ringo also brings in politics to the realities of monster hunting. While Larry Correia goes for a more laissez faire attitude between government and private enterprise ("Seriously, federal government, leave us the hell alone"), Ringo has a more intricate view of this. This is due to the fact that Larry's books are nonstop action pieces that largely take place over the matter of days, while Ringo's is a look at years of service in a particular region (in this case, Seattle). And even most of the politics boils down to "This is the nuts and bolts of how things get done .... poorly and with plenty of cash."
From what I can gather, the series will be broken down by region, Grunge is Seattle, Sinners will be New Orleans, and I presume the third one will take place in MHI's home base of Cazador. But that's just a guess.
Due to the way Ringo has this book set up, there's much more time for a look at the day to day operations of an MHI outpost -- dealing with MCB agents that aren't running the whole bureau into the ground; sometimes, making deals with things and people who you'd rather see shot dead, but the sausage has to get made. Larry's "Problem" with that is that his novels usually start with them up to their neck in crap, with a truck backing up with another load.
This is a little more laid back. Granted, Chad, our narrator, is ... okay, I don't know why he sleeps with everything that moves, but thankfully, if it's off-putting to you, you don't have to worry about it. There's nothing graphic .... barely anything suggestive .... and doesn't drastically impact the story a lot. Most of it is how to get along, mostly.
And everything fits together. There are plots for this book, and an overarching plot that will spill over into the next book, if not the next two books. And while Ringo even tells you who the ultimate bad guy is (and it's not difficult to deduce), it doesn't change anything.
Obviously, there are cameos from some of the supporting characters in the series, and I suspect they will play a larger role as Ringo's series continues.
Overall, I recommend this one. It deals with the politics of monster hunting, how the boots on the ground MHI personnel interact with local law enforcement, and even how locals interact with the feds and the MHI alike. Also, let's just say that the politics of an otherworldly fashion come into play. And boy, do you want a lawyer for them. Heh.
I suspect the rest of the series will be just plain fun.