Review: Monster by A. Lee Martinez

Review written by Jess Peacock

If one were to gather the mind of Douglas Adams, classic episodes of In Search Of, and the offbeat sensibility of Christopher Moore writing at the top of his game, throw them into the Large Hadron Collider, and watch as they slam together at the speed of thought, then one might get a sense of the unique treat that A. Lee Martinez has produced with his novel Monster.

When you’re scrambling around town trying to scrape together a living as a freelance crypto biological containment agent, there really isn’t a lot of time to contemplate the larger questions of life: Why are we here? How did we get here? How did here get here? However, when Monster, the protagonist of the tale, meets Judy while cleaning up a messy Yeti problem in the frozen foods aisle of the Food Plus Mart, he is unwittingly lured into a cosmic game of chess where the very fabric of the universe hangs in the balance, and where the answers to those very questions could come crashing down around him.

Despite populating his novel with enough creatures and beasties to fill a cantina on Tatooine, Martinez anchors his twisted yarn with a lean, fast moving prose, wickedly intelligent dialogue, and, most importantly, a relationship between Monster and Judy that feels genuine, never obligatory, developing in an organic approach that allows for the truth that we sometimes fail to immediately appreciate those we would ultimately trade our very lives for.

For Martinez, the unfolding complex metaphysical plot in Monster is secondary to the emotional journey his characters undertake. From the relationship (or lack thereof) between Monster and Judy, to the determined loyalty of Monster’s pan dimensional partner Chester, to the relational angst of the literal girlfriend from hell, these are people we either have known or will know at some point in our lives. And that is where Monster succeeds where other novels of this ilk have failed: characters that feel lived in, who live on long after the final page, and who the reader hopes to spend even more time with in the future.

Monster is a quick, light, and enjoyable read with more on its mind than initially meets the eye. A. Lee Martinez has succeeded in creating a work that operates on several different levels, asking the reader to look beyond the cavalcade of cryptos, step past the sophomoric humor, lift the veil of existential intrigue, and see the heart that beats within his various creations at play within the pages. Then again, perhaps I might be reading a little too much into a book that kicks off with a Yeti eating Rocky Road ice cream and concludes with a pamphlet entitled Dragonkeeping For Fun and Profit.