Emergence: Dave vs. the Monsters
by John Birmingham
Cover Artist: Larry Rostant and Scott Biel
Review by Wes Breazeale
Del Rey Mass Market Paperback - T ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345539878
Date: 28 April 2015 List Price $9.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
John Birmingham has written a couple of complex, sprawling trilogies--books that feature sites around the globe and require character lists to help readers keep track of who's who. The books are detailed and technical, getting into politics, technology, and asking far reaching questions.
His latest saga, Dave vs. the Monsters, falls into a much different category. It has little of the above, instead focusing primarily on one character, Dave of course, and staying pretty close to one location. That doesn't change the thrill of the book, but it is certainly a much different reading experience than one might expect from John Birmingham. Whether this was an intentional choice on Birmingham's part, or simply a by-product of his decision to write an urban fantasy book of sorts, is likely a moot point.
Book one of the trilogy is called simply Emergence, and one can infer rather easily that Dave is going to fight some monsters. Dave himself is a rather unlikeable fellow, as both his wife and readers would agree. He's a safety engineer on an oil rig, both working and playing hard. Approaching middle age, Dave has little to show for his life. An estranged wife and kids, a drinking and drug habit, and a growing midsection. In short, Dave is a bit of a loser.
At the start of the book, Dave is heading back to the rig after blowing much of his bonus on drugs and prostitutes. He's hung over and not looking forward to the ride to the rig. What he isn't expecting is a blazing fire when he gets there. Disembarking from the helicopter, he's faced with terrified and wounded rig workers screaming about monsters eating people. Confused, angry, and somewhat apprehensively, Dave follows his friend Vince deep into the bowels of the rig, where he faces a scene out of a horror movie.
What transpires leaves Dave changed, both emotionally and physically, and sets the tone for the rest of the book. Much of the book covers Dave's, and the military's, attempts to come to grips with what's happened to him out on the rig. Naturally, things don't stay isolated to just the rig, and Dave gets to fight some monsters on the mainland.
In many ways, Dave vs. the Monsters is perfect summer reading. It's not too deep, not a hard read, and has a blockbuster film quality to it. There are some slow parts in the middle, much like any summer blockbuster, but the overall excitement keeps you turning the pages. Birmingham also throws in a bit of background on the monsters themselves, allowing the reader to have a glimpse inside what's going on on their end of things. This sets up the potential for deeper and more engrossing stories to be told in the follow ups-- Resistance and Ascendance.
Fans of Birmingham's work may or may not like this book, as it is much different than his past techno-militaristic thrillers. But fans of such TV shows as Sleepy Hollow or Grimm will likely truly enjoy this adventure.