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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.

Monsters

Monsters - C. Gockel In Monsters: Bring the Fire, Part II, the story's tone, though still fun, starts to take on a slightly darker tone. Amy Lewis, formerly a veterinary student, is now working two jobs in hopes of recouping her losses from her last run-in with Loki, he of mischief and miscommunication (taking her offer for financial assistance too literally, he ran off with everything in her bank account). Working nights as a veterinary assistant, her day job is as an administrative assistant with the FBI, which would probably be a decent gig if anyone actually gave her something useful to do.

Truth is, she was hired because ADUO, a secret branch of the FBI that deals with paranormal occurrences, wants to keep tabs on her due to her previous association with Loki. Her new boss, Steve Rogers, however, thinks she's the stereotypical federal employee, i.e., worthless.

All that changes when the mysterious World Seed appears in the subterranean tunnels beneath the Chicago Board of Trade, growing larger each day and threatening to devour important chunks of Chicago's real estate. Soon after, Loki, who has been flitting around Europe on Amy's dime, pops up in Steve's office and subsequently, back in Amy's life.

Loki is clearly interested in the World Seed, and Amy, as his main point of contact, becomes much more useful to the FBI/ADUO. Amy's happy to finally be earning her paycheck, and even sort of pleased to see Loki again. Despite his flexible definition of property rights, he's fun and when not being a pervert, kind of cute.

In this installment, the reader sees the more melancholy aspects of Loki's backstory in Asgard and gets a deeper look into his current motivations. Loki has moved from being a dad searching for a way to help his sons, to vengeful father who'd like to see Asgard burn and do the dance of happy in the ashes. He hasn't entirely gone off the deep end, and is still frequently distracted by the "shiny" on Earth, but revenge is now his driving motivation. He sees the World Seed as his means of turning Asgard into a glass parking lot.

There are often two approaches taken when telling the stories of immortal, godlike beings. The first is to make them irreproachable, perfect beings. Of course, more often than not, this doesn’t make a lick of sense, since their actions are anything but perfect.

The second, more old-school approach is to make them overly capricious, erratic and operating entirely in their own self interests. This isn’t an entirely unrealistic viewpoint, since they are immortals, and very much Not Like Us. But it doesn’t leave much room for characterization.

The I Bring the Fire series takes the approach that our gods are made in our image. I.e., give a bunch of immortals the capacity to love, then they will hate; imbue them with compassion, and they will be cruel. Ultimately, any immortal being who is interested in interacting with mortals is operating within the same emotional and intellectual framework as said mortals. Just for a much longer time. The result is a realistic depiction of the cultural and political machinations of an immortal context.

The Loki shown in flashback is odd-man-out in Asgard, but for the most part, he shrugs it off and goes with the flow. The turning point is when his daughter Helen is born, at which point, he and his wife, Aggie, find themselves raising a severely handicapped child in a world where imperfection simply isn't tolerated.

I'm not a fan of the "cute kid" as a plot device because it's usually a lazy way to manipulate reader emotion. Here, however, it works here because the story's tone stays in poignant and sometimes sweet, without descending into contrived or maudlin.

Where in the previous story, Amy had an equal share of the character arc, this time, in Monsters, the bulk is given to Loki, with Amy as more of an observer. She isn't passive, but in this, the mid-section of the story, the meat of the character arc is given to Loki. As a narrative device, it's effective, with Amy's mundane and relatable problems serving as a counterpoint to Loki's much more emotionally compelling struggle.

Cute series with just the right mix of angst and funny.