Dave vs the Monsters: Emergence by John Birmingham (Del Rey, April 28, 2015)-Dave Hooper is a jerk. If you made a mold of the “ideal jerk”, it would be in the shape of Dave. But the world will have to soon rely on Dave to save them from an otherworldly horde. Scary, huh? Actually, yes, it’s scary and fun and I fell in love with Dave in spite of myself. Dave is estranged from his wife (with a divorce in the works) and has two sons that he adores. But, Dave has…vices, which have ruined his marriage and possibly his relationship with his kids. He knows it, and deep down he doesn’t want that to happen. But, you know. Hookers. In fact, he’s coming straight off a binge of high priced call girls and blow only to return to Thunder Horse, his off shore oil rig, to find a monster eating his crew. Something like that will sober a man up real quick, and he’s ready for a fight. It’s a fight he definitely gets, and when he confronts Urgon Htoth Ur Hunn, Battlemaster of the Fourth Legion, the rule book goes flying out the window. Luckily he’s got a handy splitting maul in his suddenly very capable hands. After the battle with Urgon, he wakes up in the hands of the military, and quickly realizes he’s not the same old Dave. He’s stronger, faster, and suddenly has an extensive knowledge of where Urgon came from, and the monsters that are sure to follow. There’s been a breach between worlds, and the horde is ready to feast on sweet, sweet manmeat, but it’s been a lonnnng time since they’ve been among humans, and they’ve got another thing coming if they think humans are still the weak, sniveling cattle that they remember. They also didn’t count on Dave.
I love this book. Dave is the kind of guy that your mom warned you about. He’s arrogant, crass, loves the ladies a bit too much and easily succumbs to his basest instincts. And yet… He’s quite self-aware of his shortcomings and is frequently self-deprecating. He knows he needs to be better. He knows he’s a fuck up. He knows that if he doesn’t change, he might lose his kids forever. Now, for the first time in his life, he’s needed by something much bigger than him, for a reason that’s much bigger than him, and he’s ready to rumble. And it’s magnificent. John Birmingham knows how to write cinematic action, and doesn’t hold back on the blood and gore, but he also imbues his characters with an undeniable humanity that balances out the considerable horror. The narrative switches back and forth between Dave and the soldiers and scientists that he’s helping, and the inner workings of the creatures that have finally, after so many years underground, found a way to return to our world. And they’re very hungry. There are more than a few nods to Dungeons & Dragons, and the author manages to make his creatures more than just mindless savages, because they’re actually not. They’re sentient, hierarchical beings that are not without honor, and that remember humans as weak, and therefore an abundant food source. What would you do if you found out your food got smart and decided to fight back? It would be quite the culture shock, and I had just as much fun reading about the horde than I did about Dave.
The battle scenes are fantastic, and Dave adjusting to his newfound powers is great fun. There’s also a twist at the end that was surprisingly poignant and perfectly sets the stage for the next book, Resistance. If you’re looking for a fun, scary, thrill ride, look no further. You’re in for a hellavu good time with this series.