Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Monster MASH by Angie Fox: review

2/5 stars on Goodreads

The Monster MASH by Angie Fox

I’ve long meant to read Angie Fox’s comedic fantasies, and so I was eager to get my hands in The Monster MASH when I spotted it on NetGalley, and was thrilled to have an early review copy. The premise promised the same than the movie MASH and the subsequent TV series had, but with gods and supernatural entities: an endless war told from the point of view of the hospital staff that have no personal interest in the outcome, but who have no way of escaping, so they express their frustration with disobedience, disrespect and endless pranks. What was delivered was only a vague resemblance of that, and I’m afraid the book didn’t work for me at all.

The main character, Dr Petra Robichaud, has worked seven years on the front lines of a war between gods, taking care of injured gods, demigods and heroes. She’s been drafted against her will and she can only get out when she dies. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for her, nor does it affect her actions. She can see ghosts, which is apparently a big no-no among the gods, and might indicate she has a role to play in a prophecy that ends the war. The other main character is Galen, a demigod warrior who ends up on her operating table. He’s absolutely determined to see the prophecy to come to pass, though I never quite understood why now, when he’s been fighting for centuries already. He was overbearing and annoying, and as a love interest, a great disappointment.

This was a first person narrative and Petra the only point of view character. Problem for me was that I didn’t like her at all. She’s over forty, experienced trauma doctor and, according to her friends, a cynicnot a surprise when one has spent years at waryet she behaved like a schoolgirl, positively dying of embarrassment every time someone teased her of her alleged relationship with Galen. She didn’t take any charge of her life or have proper insight in herself. Her interactions with Galen were those of a teenager with her first crush, and consisted mostly of denial. There was no discernible reason that I could find why she nonetheless fell in love with him. I found her annoying, inconsistent and cowardly, and could only marvel when other characters described her as the opposite.

Other characters were odd and annoying too. Galen was the worst, a cardboard figure that showed up to order Petra around or save her. Other characters seemed to like him, but readers weren’t invited in their interactions and so can’t judge for themselves. The rest of the cast are oddities that were probably meant to be the comedic relief, but since they never did anything funny and their communications with Petra were mostly snarky, they didn’t come across as such. The only character I liked was the commander, but he had a fairly minor role.

But it’s not just my personal preferences that made Petra an unsatisfying main character. She had no agency. She didn’t influence the plot in any way at any point. She made no attempt to investigate or influence the prophecy concerning herthough apparently she had tried before the book beganand her only act of defiance was denying it had anything to do with her. There were some action scenes where she was usually saved by Galen, and although they had impact on the outcome of the story, they were accidental on her part. In the end, she watched the story unfold on TV. I kid you not.

However, what really made the book fail was that it had no plot. All the interesting bits had happened before it began: Petra’s fiancĂ© had died in the war between gods; she had been drafted to the opposite side, learned about the prophecy and acted on it with bad consequences for her. All this was revealed to the reader in due, and not so due, course, but it didn’t have any impact on the plot or Petra’s actions, apart from her trying to deny her role in the prophecy.

The book has an inciting incident that throws Petra and Galen together. After that, half the book is spent with Petra dragging her heels about the prophecy. Absolutely nothing happens to advance the non-existent plot. She hangs around with her friends, does some hospital stuff, and goes back and forth with Galen whilst apparently falling in love with him at some point too. After the half point, the prophecy suddenly kicks in and we’re following it on TV where Petra learns how it’s supposed to unfold. There are some action scenes that confirm it, and then the prophecy is fulfilled. We watch it on the side-lines. Petra has no part in it. Undying love is declared. The end.

All in all, the book was unfunny, boring and unromantic. It failed in every level that I expect from a comedic fantasy. There’s an afterword from the author where she says this is a revised version from an earlier one where she couldn’t follow her vision for the book. Without reading the original version, I’m inclined to think that she should’ve let it be. This is a start for a series, but needless to say, I’m not going to continue with it.

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