I’ve been a fan of John Birmingham since I picked up the first book of his Axis in Time series. It felt like a more sci-fi infused Clancy series. The concept was pure geek day dream - send a fleet of modern day warships back in time and see how they impact history. But Birmingham did a great job of of showing the cultural impact of this transfer as well as the providing epic battle scenes.
I first heard of his new series, “Dave versus the Monsters” a few months ago, but had to wait until his novels became available in America. The premise is simple - an oil rig digging deeper than any before it opens a portal to another world. Take all the bad guys from a typical fantasy setting (orcs, demons, dragons, insect ninjas) and you’ve got the UnderRealms. (Yes, no space. My only complaint in the entire trilogy. It felt like the bad guys came from a Silicon Valley start up - which probably is how the world will end.) The denizens of this realm used to have contact with us and considered us nothing more than cattle. Obviously in the thousands of years since they last saw us we’ve changed a bit.
As the portal between our worlds opens up, we meet Dave, the main character of the series. As a hero he leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, he is a complete and utter ass. I’ve read through books before with a main character who is essentially an asshole, but I never found myself bothered by it in this series. As much of a disappointment this guy is, you can’t help but root for him as the story progresses. Early on, he does something that grants him - essentially - super powers - which helps him fight against the untold millions of creatures from the other world.
On one hand, you’ve got your basic geek fantasy - what happens when very strong fantasy creatures encounter a modern military force? You can probably guess. But things take a rather interesting turn after the first few massacres. The bad guys wise up and react in a way that I would never have guessed. I think any genre nerd could write a few cool battles between orcs and SEALs - but Birmingham takes this story in a much more intelligent direction that made the series very satisfying.
What was truly surprising though was the humor, especially after the first book. I’ve read and enjoyed multiple books by Birmingham but I don’t think any of his previous books ever made me laugh at loud. There was one scene in the second book that I distinctly remember having a stupid big grin on my face as I read it.
I definitely recommend picking it up (and the Axis of Time series while you’re at it). Birmingham is also on Twitter (@JohnBirmingham) and one of those author’s who actually respond to questions:
@raymondcamden the talons of the Lore Keepers kept missing the space bar. So they just typed it as one word— John Birmingham (@JohnBirmingham) July 8, 2015
You can get all three books below: