Monday, July 7, 2014

Book Review: The Montauk Monster by Hunter Shea

Title: The Montauk Monster
Author: Hunter Shea
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Pinnacle
Pages: 352
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I received this book from the author 
in exchange for an honest review!

It Kills. . .

On a hot summer night in Montauk, the bodies of two local bar patrons are discovered in the dunes, torn to shreds, their identities unrecognizable. . .

It Breeds. . .

In another part of town, a woman's backyard is invaded by four terrifying creatures that defy any kind of description. What's clear is that they're hostile--and they're ravenous. . .

It Spreads. . .

With every sunset the terror rises again, infecting residents with a virus no one can cure. The CDC can't help them; FEMA can't save them. But each savage attack brings Suffolk County Police Officer Gray Dalton one step closer to the shocking source of these unholy creations. Hidden on nearby Plum Island, a U.S. research facility has been running top-secret experiments. What they created was never meant to see the light of day. Now, a vacation paradise is going straight to hell.

As a skeptic, I'm almost embarrassed to admit that cryptozoology and pseudoscience have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. In 6th grade I had a weekly ritual of going to the library and picking up every book (from both the kid's and adult's sections) I could find on Bigfoot, Nessie, Atlantis, and UFOs, and proceeding to pour over them until there were none left - I lived in a small town with a very small library. Today, I wade through similar websites and articles on a semi-regular basis. There's just something about the unknown...

One of the locations I didn't know a lot about as a child was Plum Island, mostly because there wasn't much material available in my local stomping grounds. For those of you who are unfamiliar, here's a pretty thorough Wikipedia article on the island. In a nutshell, it's a breeding ground for conspiracy theorists, and one of those conspiracy theories includes the Montauk Monster itself. No one knows what it is, though several theories have been proposed. Whatever it is, the monster and the island have become topics of interest among those who, like me, find excitement in those things we can't explain. Perhaps you can understand why I was extremely excited to dig in to my copy of The Montauk Monster!

As a thriller reminiscent of old X-Files episodes, this book did not disappoint. The action starts on page one and doesn't stop until the very last sentence. Without giving too much away, Shea takes a "monster" that we know very little about and makes it into a terrifying killing machine at the center of a government conspiracy (like we didn't see that coming) that will make you want to run for cover. Not only that, but with the CDC thrown into the mix, the entire situation is even deadlier that you could imagine. The final chapter left me gaping and wondering what happened, but in such a way that it was satisfying rather than frustrating. The two main characters, Dalton and Meredith, were well executed in that I did actually care what happened to them, which I find is not always the case with horror novels. There were also some good secondary characters (Can Man comes to mind), though at times it felt like there were far too many to keep up with.

While this book does do a lot right, there were also negatives. The book jumped back and forth a little too much for my taste. I suppose this is a mechanism to build suspense, but I found myself forgetting who some of the characters were when I got back around to their part of the story. Unfortunately, the attacks became increasingly repetitive and predictable throughout the latter half of the book, but it was redeemed towards the end. And then there's my biggest grammar pet peeve of all - "After what she'd witnessed, she could care less..." appeared on page 208. To be fair, that's a very minor discrepancy, especially in a 352 page novel.

My biggest issue with this book was the way the military was portrayed. So, yes, I love a good government conspiracy, but as a veteran myself, I take issue with the way the military personnel behave in The Montauk Monster. One particular scene, in which a command of, "hold your fire," is given and completely ignored (causing casualties from friendly fire) really got my blood boiling. As I've said, I'm a veteran and I've been in Afghanistan. Military troops (and especially Navy SEALS) are trained to follow orders blindly and that is what they generally do, regardless of the situation. The thought that SEALS would be unable to handle a situation that a couple small town cops could is a little unbelievable to me. Mass hysteria just does not (or should not) exist among special ops forces.

All of that being said, this was a good, fast-paced monster thriller in the same vein as Peter Benchley but with a conspiracy twist thrown in for good measure. Gore abounds within the pages of The Montauk Monster, so steer clear if you're not into that sort of thing. I'd definitely recommend it for those who enjoy monster horror or conspiracy theories.