Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter Nemesis Review Round-Up
Now for some controversy: Larry Correia dominated much of the 2014 Hugo discussion. If you live under a big rock and are unfamiliar with the story, Correia championed a slate of potential Hugo nominees, his novel Warbound included. Correia explains himself here, but tl;dr: Correia has advanced the argument that Hugo awards are too “liberal,” and that these texts would offer a “right wing” alternative. Much of the controversy came not from Correia’s nomination for Warbound—while Correia isn’t the most natural Hugo candidate, he does have a substantial fanbase—but how other, more fringe SFF authors from Correia’s campaign were pushed into the Hugo short fiction categories. If you want to know more about this, google “2014 Hugo Controversy.”
Chaos Horizon is an analytics, not an opinion, website, and my interest lies in predicting what will happen in the 2015 Hugos and Nebulas, not what “should” happen. If the 2014 Hugos proved anything, it was that Hugo campaigns, whether for Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time or Larry Correia’s “Sad Puppy” authors, have the ability to change the Hugo slate. Keep in mind, though, that not much evidence suggests that these campaigns change who wins the awards. This reflects the way the awards are set up: the process is designed to pick the “Best Novel” winner, not necessarily the slate of the five best (or most deserving, however you’d want to define that) candidates. It doesn’t take all that much to get nominated, and even a minor campaign can easily shift results. We’re talking very small numbers here: Mira Grant made the 2014 Hugo slate with only 98 votes.
I don’t want to spend too much time musing on the impact of campaigns, but they are certainly an element of the modern Hugo Award that cannot be ignored. Many authors put up web posts saying “I have these books, they’re eligible, vote for them,” and other authors suggest books or stories for readers to vote for. All of that is well within the rules. The larger the author’s web presence, the more these posts impact voting. How exactly that should be factored into my Hugo and Nebula predictions is a question Chaos Horizon is continuing to struggle with. For the time being, I’m going to include writers like Correia in my predictions because I think that most accurately reflects the current Hugo voting situation.
In terms of the 2015 Hugo slate, Correia placed 6th in 2013 and 3rd in 2014 (behind Leckie and Gaiman; Gaiman turned down the nomination), and, when coupled with what we know about the Hugo Awards and Repeat Nominees, that makes him a likely candidate for 2015. Correia’s book this year is called Monster Hunter Nemesis, from his popular Monster Hunter International series. Correia delivers what he promises: big monsters, big guns, and big action, in what might be described as an adventure-pulp throwback. People who have liked Correia’s previous work are going to like Monster Hunter Nemesis, and the same pool of voters that placed him on the Hugo slate in 2014 could easily place him on the slate in 2015. Correia has a large web footprint and an enthusiastic fanbase—Monster Hunter Nemesis boasts 250 ratings and a 4.8 rating on Amazon, both of which are high—and the Hugos are, after all, a popularity contest. You don’t need to be popular with the entire voting base, but just strongly popular with around 10-15% of that base. Correia’s fans seem very happy with the work he is producing, and will likely continue to support him.
Does Monster Hunter Nemesis fit the past mold of past Hugo nominees? Not particularly, and for a couple of clear reasons. Firsts, genre: Correia writes urban fantasy, a type of writing generally ignored by the Hugos. Jim Butcher, of the Dresden Files fame, has never received a Hugo award (although he has one nomination for Best Graphic Story), and he is certainly an order of magnitude more popular than Correia. No Hugo novels jump out as being “urban fantasy” unless you want to count American Gods. Urban fantasy has done well in the novella category—Charles Stross has several wins for novellas from his urban fantasy series The Laundry Files—but the short fiction categories operate very differently than the Best Novel category. We should note that other traditionally slighted genres have been popping up into the Hugo more recently; Mira Grant is a prime example, with her zombie themed Newsflesh series. Horror/zombie books have not generally made the slate, and something like Feed is as out-of-place in the Hugos as Warbound. Nothing stops the Hugos from evolving over time, and perhaps the success of authors like Correia and Grant indicates a loosening of genre borders.
Second, Monster Hunter Nemesis is the fifth in a series, and, almost universally, later novels in a series don’t get nominated unless the first book was also nominated. It’s difficult for new readers to jump into the middle of a series; if you haven’t read Correia, it would seem the best starting place is Monster Hunter International. This cuts down the pool of voters, and Correia’s fanbase will have to be very enthusiastic to counter this. They did so for Warbound (#3 in a series), so it could definitely happen here.
On to reactions to the book:
None? For each of these Review Round-Ups, I check the same places: Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, NPR, NYTimes, the Guardian, and Entertainment Weekly. These are some of the most popular and widely distributed reviewing venues, and they give us a good idea if the book is reaching beyond the core SFF audience. The fact that Correia received no discernible support from these outlets certainly says something. The lack of reviews in Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus is surprising, as they do short capsule reviews of tons of texts. For most authors, this lack of mainstream coverage would hurt them; for an author like Correia, this lack of coverage re-enforces his outsider or maverick status.
Not the biggest group of reviews, but all are fairly positive. It’s interesting that Monster Hunter Nemesis doesn’t show up as strongly in these places. Goodreads has 1700+ ratings for Monster Hunter Nemesis, which does indicate it’s selling copies. People just don’t seem to blog about Correia’s book with the same intensity as they do other texts.
So, will Correia score another Hugo nomination in 2015?