The Montauk Monster is a solid monster novel of the conspiratorial type. Strange killer beast. Contagious epidemic. Mysterious island with military lab. It’s all there and it is very entertaining even if it seems on the verge of creating a severe epidemic of Deja Vu.
Hunter Shea’s novel is inspired by an real-life concurrence on a beach near Montauk, New York in July of 2008, The body of a strange creature was found that, depending on who you believe, was either the rotting corpse of a raccoon or a previously unknown creature of the creepy variety. The corpse was lost (why do people keep losing these weird bodies?) and the controversy continues. In Hunter Shea’s novel, we have a similar creature which is now alive, very deadly and the carrier of a vicious disease that reacts like a cross between Ebola and a grenade. It’s a somewhat gruesome novel with scary creatures and lots of thrills.
Yet it all seem a bit familiar even if the author’s monsters have some unique capacities. We have as the setting, a small resort town with two or three main characters returning in between episodes involving other unfortunate townspeople. There is a lot of switching back and forth to various characters often in the middle of action. The problem is that the reader can never latch on to one focus. We never really have the time to empathize with any one character. The fast switch of venue and plot that we are so familiar with in the modern TV drama is not necessarily the best literary device. No one character is given room for development. So even with a clever plot, a deliciously vicious monster, and a disturbingly gruesome virus, we end up with a somewhat formula driven novel. There is certainly plenty in this book to keep the reader clued to their seat and Hunter Shea is a good storyteller. Yet I wanted more to involve me, such as real protagonists. Also, while mad doctors and government conspiracies will always hang out in horror novels, it takes a special hand to make them seem new and refreshing. The Montauk Monster is actually a little old fashioned in plot, theme and environment despite an excessive amount of contemporary violence and gore.
Yet it is still an exciting novel and just in time for the beach, where this summer read really belongs. Just watch out for those weird looking dog-like creatures coming out of the surf.