Book Review: Monstre: Volume 1
Let me preface this by saying despite any qualms I had with this book (and there are some) I certainly believe there is an audience for this book. I’ll explain more on that in a bit. I also believe that this author is one to keep an eye on the in the future; there is much that is promising. Now on to the review!
SUMMARY: Day 0. From the wreckage of a research facility in Switzerland, a plume of toxic smoke and ash pours into the sky, forming an impenetrable cloud that is slowly smothering the world in darkness. As Europe disappears beneath the Cloud, a squad of United States marines are sent on a desperate mission to find out what went wrong, and how to undo it before it’s too late. Venturing into a cold, dark world, the marines must travel deep under the Cloud, with no comms, no backup, and no idea of what they will face.
Day 89. Half a world away, the Cloud has reached the East Coast of the US. With nowhere to run and no hope of survival, the American people have descended into madness, turning on themselves and each other. From the sidelines, an old Tennessee sheriff watches as his country unravels. But he can’t bring himself to take the easy way out. Quitting isn’t in his DNA. So when one of his deputies asks him to help protect her family, he leads them west, chasing a miracle—a rumor of an old nuclear bunker that just may be their only hope for survival. Because if the Cloud doesn’t kill them, what’s hiding in the dark will.
The opening of the book is gripping, and I was immediately on board for the ride. And while there are moments that drag and scenes I didn’t care for, the overall momentum of the book works. It is a fast-action action thriller that just goes and goes. I love the premise (the fearful unknown, the ever-spreading darkness, the freaky cool monsters, etc) and that and the suspenseful action scenes are primarily what got me through the book. In those scenes I really felt the tension and could picture myself there in the midst of the chaos.
Oh and the monsters? Really, really neat. In the beginning we only get frightening glimpses of them, and then later in the book they’re more fully revealed and become even more terrifying. I really liked the effort to make them different than standard monster fare, presenting as some hybrid of Annihilation meets The Predator meets Gears of War (actually the whole book really gives off those violent-video game Doom-esque vibes). I also appreciated the scientific information provided to explain the monsters and overall phenomena. Indeed these are the moments in the book where it feels like something Michael Crichton or Douglas Preston may have written.
Unfortunately, these aspects alone were not enough to fully sell me on the book. I could see this as a fun video game or engaging action film (like, that could REALLY work), but as a novel it still fell flat. For one thing it jumps back and forth between times and characters a good deal. I don’t normally mind this sort of structure in books, but I found myself getting lost from time to time and forgetting who the characters were. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really care about any of them, which brings me to my biggest issue with the book.
To me the characters in the book mostly come across as static instead of dynamic. There wasn’t much I could latch on to as compelling in them. They’re not awful characters, I just needed them to be more than just functioning to serve the action in the plot. I will say I did start to like old Trace by the end of the book, after a couple of scenes where he got to flex his experience. Of course another big issue is the lack of diversity in characters and lack of strong female leads. This is definitely a white male action afficionados dream. Seeing as I fit that category I still enjoyed the book a good deal. However, I can certainly see how someone who is not like me (i.e. white and male) would find much less to enjoy.
Overall Monstre: Volume 1 has an intriguing premise and is full of suspense and action. Though I found myself wanting more scenes involving the monsters, I know this book was originally written as a single gigantic volume and then split into two parts for publishing purposes. I think for a debut there’s enough to enjoy if you’re the right audience, and I’m certainly eager to see what happens in the second part (as well as where this writer goes in future endeavors).
Special thanks to Sarah Miniaci at Smith Publicity for sending a copy in exchange for an honest review. If you want to learn more about Duncan Swan and his work than check out his website (https://www.duncanswan.me/) or follow him on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/duncan5wan/) and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/duncan_swan).