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Literature / Monster

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Monster Dionysus's life sucks. He's got a dead-end job which he absolutely hates, a nagging Tsundere girlfriend from hell, can barely afford the roof over his head, and worse yet he has to face the inevitable prospect that one day he'll be completely out of a job.

Wait, did we mention that his job was capturing and retrieving cryptozoological creatures? Because if not, it's really important that we do...

Things get worse for Monster when he meets Judy on the job when the convenience store she works at is attacked by yetis. Though she's a light cog and therefore physically incapable of understanding The Masquerade, she still makes a point of intruding on Monster's life. And let's face it, after her workplace is wrecked by yetis, and her home is destroyed by a bunch of trolls and a kojin, there's really nothing else you can do.

However, whenever Monster and Judy meet, cryptozoological creatures seem to follow to the point where it's impossible to not notice. Before long it is revealed that Judy isn't quite what she appears to be, and it's up to her, Monster, and Monster's paper gnome Chester to stop an evil that has existed since the beginning of the universe. In fact it's the reason the universe even exists.

Oh, and his girlfriend from hell? Yeah, she really is from Hell.

This covers the book written by A. Lee Martinez, not the manga or the film by the same title. Or the 1999 young adult novel Monster. Or the similarly titled short story by A.E. van Vogt.

In the 2013 anthology book Robots versus Slime Monsters, one of the stories — "Work Ethic" — is set before the events of the novel.

This book provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil:
    • Lotus maintains a polite, eerily-gentle demeanor in spite of her greed; even her end-goal for humanity is surprisingly gentle.
    • Ed, despite being The Brute to Lotus, is generally pretty sweet-natured and bubbly, particularly in contrast to Ferdinand's more stoic, surly attitude.
  • Almighty Idiot: The universe, in essence. Monster describes it as an idiot savant.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Lotus is responsible for the Dark Ages, the fall of several Chinese dynasties, and the invention of the cell phone and reality TV.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Monster believed that contracting a succubus girlfriend would be awesome, especially the part about getting to have sex with her every day. And it was...for a while. But now the bloom is well off the rose, they're both sick of each other, and they're long weary of having to have sex with someone they aren't in love with anymore. Every. Single. Day. Unfortunately the last time he tried to break things off, she nearly killed him.
  • Beyond the Impossible: When the fireproof succubus Liz tries to kill Monster and hits the Stone, it manages to send back a bolt of fire that incinerates her.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Subverted - only Monster thinks that it's a bittersweet ending. It's actually a straightforward happy ending. Basically, Lotus is dead, the Stone is free to restore the universe, Judy is no longer troubled by her connection to it, the magical ecology is enjoying a boom, and magic itself has become much more powerful without Lotus draining the energy from the universe. In fact, the haze which stopped Muggles from noticing or remembering the supernatural has ended, not only giving them a chance to witness and even learn magic, but also allowing magicians more control over their spells. The only reason Monster thinks otherwise is because while he's enjoyed the upsurge in magical creatures for him to capture and/or rescue, the fact that magic has become widespread again means that he's no longer indispensable, and he might be out of a job soon. Plus, he's been forced to kill his girlfriend. Then Gracie shows up, asking for a lift...
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • Being a light cog is no fun, as you have enough awareness to recognize the supernatural but not enough to remember it, meaning that you're stuck in a perpetual loop of noticing and forgetting. Some light cogs can use magic because of this, but rarely reliably or impressively. Plus, the lobe that allows them to perceive the supernatural will continue to atrophy throughout their lives until they revert to being ordinary incogs... but unlike most incogs, they also have a much higher likelihood of suffering from mental illness or crippling senility in their golden years.
    • Judy actually has it worse than most light cogs, as monsters are supernaturally drawn to her and directed by her emotions. Consequently, she's been saddled with a huge array of misadventures that she can't remember or explain, leaving her constantly in trouble with her parents, teachers, employers, landlords and the police for something she has no control over. By the start of the story, this power has effectively ruined her life - and this is before Lotus begins targeting her.
  • Bubbly Waitress: The aptly named Chipper, all bubbles and smiles in a poodle skirt, who is described as skipping with two mugs of coffee without spilling a drop. Judy, the protagonist, declares "I swear, if she calls me ma'am one more time..."
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Played oh so literally.
  • Cosmic Keystone: The Stone Tablet, being the source of the universe and all its previous iterations.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: Once Monster comes into mental contact with the universe, it gifts him with a large amount of magic which allows him to change colors (and therefore powers) at will as well as allowing him to reverse Lotus's magical transformations—this allows him to both neutralize Lotus's henchgirls and fight her to a standstill. Unfortunately the amount of magic is limited and eventually runs out, leaving him back at zero.
  • Evil is Petty: Minor demons will irritate people into destroying the objects they're bound to, releasing and sending them back to Hell, but not before putting an annoying curse on the destroyer. It's mentioned that they're perfectly happy being stuck in an object for a thousand years just for the chance to give someone sonic flatulence for a day.
  • Extra-Strength Masquerade: Muggles are neurologically incapable of believing in or remembering that magic exists, even if they want to. By the end of the story though the masquerade is just starting to break.
  • Forced Transformation: Several of the cats in Lotus's house and, for a short while, Monster used to be human, but there are also quite a few of them that used to be other animals; one, in particular used to be a dragon. As it happens, this is actually Lotus's plan for the entire human race.
  • Friendship Denial: Every time Julie encounters monster, something gets destroyed. Every time Monster meets Julie, he nearly gets killed. They both stubborn, cynical people who don't like each other much at first, and Chester notes that people have trouble getting along with someone too like like them. Even in the end, Monster denies that they're friends, stating that Fire-Forged Friendship sounds like movie bullshit, though it's implied that this statement is something of a defense mechanism.
  • Glamour Failure: The cats around Lotus's house are actually transfigured humans and animals, and they can be recognised as such by their shadows.
  • Handshake of Doom: Judy's attempts to tag along with Monster go horribly wrong when she tries to capture a sea elf (a sentient parahuman and therefore not a pest). Chester is eventually able to talk the sea elf out of pressing charges, allowing a suitably-embarrassed Judy and her victim to resolve the situation with a friendly handshake... only for the vengeful sea elf to curse her the moment he makes skin contact: for the next few chapters, Judy has even worse luck than usual.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Monster doesn't think of himself as a hero, just a guy with a job. And since he's not a hero, he doesn't stick his neck out for other people and is generally a somewhat selfish person. But Chester sees potential in him, and he ultimately does the right thing when he could've just walked away.
  • Horned Humanoid: Hardy has ram's horns. He claims they're a legacy from a demonic ancestor, but Monster suspects the guy is just a half-satyr trying to sound like he's something cooler than that.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Monster and Judy's view of the human race.
  • Humans Are Idiots: Chester's view of the human race; apart from the nicknames of "monkeys" and "protoplasm," he frequently doubts that human beings can even be classified as sentient.
  • Humans Are Special: Lotus's view of the human race; according to her, human beings are the only race in the cosmos that voluntarily make themselves miserable.
  • The Immune: As a side-effect of being bitten by a basilisk and undergoing two months of alchemical antivenom treatments necessary to save his life (without ending up being melted into a puddle by said treatments), Monster is completely immune to toxic substances, as well as having an unstable enchantment.
  • Jumped at the Call: Once Judy learns magic exists, she absolutely refuses to let herself forget, to the point of writing on her arm and getting a memory glyph cast upon herself.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Very minor demons can be summoned and bound into objects, usually dolls, and made to do a task. If the object is destroyed, the devil is sent back to the underworld, but has enough time to put a minor, inconvenient, and annoying curse on whoever's nearby (generally catching the destroyer). This gets weaponized a few times.
  • MacGuffin: The Stone Tablet which turns out to be the origin and sustaining force of the universe itself.
  • The Magic Goes Away: Magic and the rest of the supernatural are in serious decline as humans lose their ability to comprehend it and Lotus continues draining energy from the universe.
  • The Meaning of Life: There are implications that there is a meaning of life, but no one knows what it is. Not even Lotus (who's outlived various realities) or the Cosmic Keystone (which stores all knowledge in the universe) know what it is.
  • Milkman Conspiracy: According to the Cosmic Keystone that records all information in the universe, there are a group of super-intelligent dairy cows in Iowa plotting to overthrow humanity.
  • Muggles: At the beginning of the book, the human race can be classified as either Incogs, Light Cogs, or Cogs: Incogs are classic Muggles who can't interact with or even notice magic no matter how hard they try. Light Cogs can observe magic without the Weirdness Censor and even learn to cast the odd spell from time to time, but forget what they saw very quickly; plus, they're also prone to suffering from Alzheimer's disease later in life. Finally, Cogs are capable of seeing and remembering the supernatural, and can also perform magic following a certain degree of education; however, thanks to Lotus's influence, they have trouble remembering spells without easy references.
  • Mundane Utility: Lotus uses the Cosmic Keystone — the indestructible tablet that records and channels all knowledge and power in the universe — as a cutting-board in her kitchen.
  • Mythology Gag: When Monster interrogates Judy on a number of things she could have done that would cause an abnormal amount of cryptid activity, one of which is "behead an evil wizard." This is actually one of the reasons the titular witch from one of Martinez's other novels, A Nameless Witch, was born as a form of undead; her ancestor beheaded an Evil Sorcerer and his dying head cursed his family line.
  • Never Mess with Granny: The Big Bad looks like a kindly old lady.
  • Obliviously Superpowered: Judy is a magnet for supernatural creatures and unwittingly capable of influencing them with her emotions. However, the fact that she's a Light Cog means that she can't remember anything supernatural, so she has no explanation for any of the accidents caused by her powers - leaving her in constant trouble with her parents, teachers, employers, landlords, and the police. Of course, it's a very subtle power, so even when Monster gives her a memory rune that allows her to remember the supernatural, she still doesn't notice the power up until Monster points out that paranormal creatures have shown up at every location they've visited in the last few days. It's eventually revealed that this particular power is due to Judy's nature as the universe's chosen weapon against Lotus.
  • One-Word Title: Also a Protagonist Title, using the protagonist's first name.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Monster isn't his real first name, it's just what he's commonly called.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Gracie, who indicates she's allowed to have sex. It's lampshaded that angels all have "stripper names".
  • Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious: The yeti that eats all the ice cream in Judy's grocery store is just the start.
  • Our Demons Are Different: There are different denizens of Hell. Monster's girlfriend Liz is a succubus, and she makes a bunch of dolls in which are imprisoned minor demons that function as cell phones, alarm clocks, etc.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Not mentioned much in the story, but there is apparently a difference between a drake and a dragon.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: Chester is a being from a higher plane of existence, who folds himself into a creature that looks rather like a very short, skinny human being but made out of paper. In addition, this condition is about as close as he ever gets to dreaming. And they call him a gnome.
    • There actually are garden gnomes present in the story, working for Lotus.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: No, not the character. But there are enough monsters in the story to shake a hat at, including some that are so old and weird that humanity has forgotten about them (well, more than they already have).
  • Protagonist Title: Also a One-Word Title, using the protagonist's first name.
  • Psychic Children: Every child starts out as a light cognizant, meaning they can learn of the existence of and perceive magic and magical; creatures. As they age, most kids lose their Merlin's lobe and so their memories of the magic things they see fade into fantasies and fairy tales. Some keep their lobes into adulthood, though even they will lose them eventually...and very likely end up with senility or mental illness.
  • Real Event, Fictional Cause: Elvis's death was actually an assassination engineered by vampires, or at least that's what the Cosmic Keystone that records all information in the universe claims to have happened.
  • Sealed Evil in a Teddy Bear:
    • Instead of a cellphone, Liz summons imps and has them possess dolls, which then take calls and have built in reminder alarms. While the dolls themselves are harmless (albeit annoying) in this state, breaking the dolls frees the imps, who then go one to commit acts of petty inconveniences to the poor soul (usually Monster) that freed them.
    • Lotus's home is full of dozens of cats, which cast the shadows and make the sounds of the creatures they were before she transformed them. One of them has the roar and shadow of a dragon.
  • The Stoner: Judy's neighbor Paulie spends most of his free time baked out of his ass; amusingly enough, Judy notes he's the one exception to the rule that most human beings are unhappy.
  • Succubi and Incubi: Monster's girlfriend is a succubus, requires daily sex to keep her happy, and can give a man an erection by just waving a hand. It hasn't stopped their relationship from going sour, though.
  • Super Power Lottery: Thanks to being under an unstable enchantment, Monster has a number of abilities which reset every time he wakes up from sleep or unconsciousness. And they're Color-Coded for Your Convenience — Monster changes color from head to toe. Often, these abilities also come with a Weaksauce Weakness or difficulty of use. The ones he demonstrates in the book and sequel story are:
    • Disability Superpower: Purple leaves him with no sense of taste or smell—situationally useful, but some monsters have a literally nauseating stench.
    • Eye Beams: Peach
    • Fireproof: Red
    • Flight: Goldenrod
    • Healing Factor: Turquoise
    • Invisibility: Golden yellow, but only when Monster closes his eyes. If he closes one, he becomes semi-transparent.
    • Light 'em Up: Orange, but letting off bright flashes dehydrates him. He has only a handful of uses before he dehydrates himself into unconsciousness.
    • Nigh-Invulnerable: Blue
    • Rubber Man: Emerald, minus the stretching and shapeshifting—his body becomes rubbery and excessively flexible, to the point where his limbs become difficult to control. On the upside, it's hard to harm him in that state.
    • Shock and Awe: Gray skin and white hair, but it really stings to use the lightning.
    • Monster is unaware of this, but even though he has no control over them his powers may not be as unstable as they seem: somehow whatever power he develops (at least from what the viewer sees) turns out to be just what is needed for a situation (e.g. "Randomly" ending up with purple just before having to deal with particularly stinky monsters).
  • Time Abyss: Lotus, who has not only seen all of human history play out, but has lived through previous iterations of the universe. She's why there's even a universe to begin with.
  • The Transmogrifier: Lotus is capable of many powerful feats of magic thanks to her connection to the Stone. However, her favoured method involves transforming individuals into other species: her house is populated by numerous cats, all of them previously other life-forms, including nosy neighbours, elephants, and even a dragon - which can still breathe fire, incidentally; her two human minions, Ed and Ferdinand, used to be a horse and a cow; finally, her Evil Plan is to stop the Stone from correcting the balance, namely by transforming the entire human race into cats.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Judy's stoner full-cog neighbor Paulie doesn't own any shirts—but he's super-buff, so he can get away with it. He's also often without pants, too bad about his chicken legs.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Mostly averted, naturally, but there's one...odd example. Near the end, Ferdinand, who was a cow originally but was turned into a human for Lotus's purposes, is fighting with Chester. Monster takes advantage of her distraction to turn her back into a cow. While this was her natural form, she's clearly sapient now and horrified at turning back into a non-sapient animal. There's no mention of her turning back. Was this murder, then? (Or perhaps once Lotus was dead...)