Monster by A. Lee Martinez

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Martinez, A. Lee. Monster. Orbit, 2009. ISBN 978-0316041263 304 pp. $

***

This funny tale of a cryptobiologist (think dog catcher, but for kobolds and yetis) reminded me a bit of Christopher Moore’s work, with angels and humor figuring into the plot.

Out of the blue, magical creatures seem to popping up around a grocery store clerk. The aptly named Monster (whole daily skin color change results in new magical abilities thing) and his smart and well read sidekick Chester, a paper gnome who can fold himself into a variety of origami shapes, are unique and engaging characters as they corral a variety of beasts.

The first chapter was brilliant and had an excellent hook, but Martinez didn’t sustain the crispness, and the novel became very episodic, like a television series–I started reading it aloud to my (ex)husband (I think we read ch 1 & ch 12 together, he tends to fall asleep and then I continue, on my own) and he pegged it as “Buffy, but not as good.”Encounters and characterizations get repetitive though, in spite of the fast pace and cinematic quality of the writing.

I didn’t like the ending, and felt the last chapter was sort of an “screw you” to the reader–“I’m not going where you think I am with this, hee hee.” And then one of the main characters COMMENTS on this phenomenon. I can appreciate unpredictability, but I want a satisfying ending, whether I see it coming or not.

The clever cover art looks like a poster advertising Monster’s services: vivid yellow, with a devil horned skull silhouette and a blood red lettering; little handselling will be required, and it’s a great readalike for fans of horrific magical realism with a dash of funny, like the film Zombieland.

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