Finishing Hunter Shea’s The Montauk Monster is akin to reading any book about the Holocaust and then deciding for yourself which one had a happier ending.
Wait! I liked Hunter’s book (I’m giving it 5 stars on Amazon) and hosted him on my blog last week! And Hunter’s book had zero to do with WWII, let’s clear that right up. But, man, did it drain me and dash my hope in mankind.
Let’s back up: It’s summertime on Long Island, N.Y., and some of the locals have been found ripped up on the beach (Hunter’s hat-tip to Jaws), and what hasn’t been torn apart will soon melt into gruesome gooey puddles. One by one, citizens, tourists and harmless pets are torn to pieces by giant dog-like animals, and it’s up to Suffolk County Police Officers Gray Dalton and Meredith Hernandez to figure out what’s ruining summer on Montauk.
Enter, the Montauk monsters. Hunter introduces us to Plum Island, a government research base off Montauk’s coast where the scientists clearly weren’t trying to create ice cream that never melts. No, these gods in white lab coats spliced together the DNA of a bunch of different animals (boars, wolves, hawks, Philadelphia Eagles fans, you name it) to create war machines—deadly animals whose sole purpose in life is to kill. Think of a Great Dane’s body with a head that has a boar’s tusks and snout, and the mouth is an eagle’s sharp beak. Stay with me! Just think of horrid amalgamations of animals that have blackish-blue diseased skin, and whose bites transmit a deadly virus (Hunter’s hat-tip to Alien). Imagine dropping these things into enemy territory to root out the bad guys, because that’s why they were bred. However, the monsters got off Plum Island and swam for Montauk’s shore.
(Side note: AC/DC’s Black Ice album has a song called War Machine, and I couldn’t help but think of these monsters eating people to the tune of Angus and Malcolm Youngs’ grinding guitars and Brian Johnson’s werewolf howls.)
Montauk’s soon overrun with war machines. Enter the Army, FBI, CIA, CDC, HAZMAT, EPA, DHS, and just about every acronymed government agency out there converging on Long Island to try to stop these monsters and this virus that causes your infected body to bubble and explode.
Hunter’s novel never slows, but that doesn’t stop him from developing characters you want to survive—and that’s tough for the heroes to do in The Montauk Monster. It’s like riding a roller-coaster through hell because of what’s happening to those poor people in the book. Spoiler Alert: Don’t read this sentence if you don’t want to know that you should not get attached to any character in The Montauk Monster.
Here’s what I enjoyed the most about the book: You loathe the monsters because of what they are: merciless killing machines. The only way you could like them is if they were deployed inside the Kremlin to root out Vladimir Putin. But I soon found myself loathing more the faceless people who created the beasts, and the indifference these men and women show toward the innocent men, women and children they just prefer to firebomb rather than rescue if it means stopping the monsters from escaping Montauk. It dawns on Gray and Meredith that monsters need not have fangs.