Ascendance: Dave vs. the Monsters by John Birmingham
Dave Hooper gets a well-earned reality-check in this third installment of Dave vs. the Monsters series. Dave is no longer the only one with special powers, and the war finally gets personal. The daemons are getting trickier and more skillful and everyone has to step up their game to protect the world.
Publisher’s Description: Kids, there are no monsters under the bed. They’re in the front yard.
As a hardworking monster-slayer, Dave Hooper tries not to bring his work home with him. But nowadays it’s hard to keep them separate. Email, cellphones, empath daemons, they never let a guy rest.
The Horde has been raising hell and leveling cities from New York to Los Angeles, keeping Dave and his fellow monster-killer, Russian spy Karin Varatschevsky, very busy. But when the legions of hell invade the small seaside town his boys call home, Dave has to make a call. Save the world? Or save his family?
Not as easy a choice as you’d think, since Dave’s ex-wife expects to be saved too. And there’s no convincing her that the supersexy Russian spy isn’t his girlfriend. She’s just his sidekick—and an assassin.
Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel (in other words, SPOILERS!).
The reveal was so totally on the money. The explanation rang true and with Dave’s background, southern upraising, father that was disrespectful to his wife and sons as well as abusive. Dave is not only fighting himself with how he feels in his heart, he’s fighting what he was taught by his no good, rotten excuse for a man that is supposed to be a moral compass.
Nervous Nellie says…
Ascendence is war at its pinnacle. Humans vs. the Daemonum is on the ticket with odds favoring a draw. That’s pretty much the only good thing that comes out of this mess. “Threshy” is a master stratagist and is only so because of eating Compton. I say “yay” on eating Compton, but “nay” at the intel the other side gains. Luckily for the Wonder Twins, Karin and Dave, they have the US military on their side as well. Humans are holding their own, but just barely.
Dave plays a “grown up” much better in this book than the last, which I am happy to see. So many times in the past books, I’ve just wanted to punch Dave’s lights out. He steps up responsibility and even recognizes that everything does not revolve around “Super” Dave. Professor Boylan is absent from this episode, which saddens me. We could have used some comic relief after witnessing the massacre of so many humans and monsters. I will tell you that Dave saves his “boys”, Jack & Toby – just in the nick of time. I would love to see Dave win his family back, but I just don’t know if it will happen. He’s screwed over a lot of loved ones in his life just by being selfish. Speaking of loved ones, I learned more about Dave’s brother, Andy, who died in service of his country and why Dave feels crippling guilt over Andy. It makes sense now, and I should have seen it, but I was too caught up in the carnage.
The ending isn’t exactly a cliff hanger, but it does lead up to the next book. There are now 5 “champions” – a female chaplain, a female sheriff, a female Russian super spy, a male military and Dave. I got a bad feeling that even though Heath has 4 out of the 5 champions, Trinder has the fifth. Yikes.
I do not have information on when the next book will be released, but I will tell you this: If you hated Dave and his moronic escapades in Book One, just hold on. Mr. Birmingham will reward you with better superheroes and a better Dave as time goes on and the war escalates.
In Ascendence, the daemonum are learning more about the humans, and with the ingestion of Professor Compton’s knowledge via the little Thresh daemon, they are improving their battle tactics. At the same time, Dave meets up with Colonel Ekaterina “Karen” Varatchevsky, a Russian spy posing as an American art dealer, who has become a Champion like Dave by killing one of the Threshrend empath daemons. Dave and Karen fight together against the daemon invasion of Manhattan, but by watching Karen’s battle tactics and occasional disregard for human life, Dave starts to examine himself. Karen, being an empath, smacks Dave on the head with the truth of his own thinking, which challenges Dave’s world view.
Of the three Dave Hooper books, I enjoyed Ascendance the most. Dave seems to take things more seriously in this book. He is being intellectually and emotionally challenged by Karen and the daemon’s improved tactics, and he is forced to face the consequences of his own actions. This time, there is no distance, work, or substance abuse available to hide behind; the cost of his actions is bloody, visceral death all around him.
Through all three books, I have enjoyed the perspective of the daemons and the UnderRealm. It’s been very interesting learning about their culture, about their traditions, and seeing the human world through their eyes. The little Thresh daemon that serves as the bridge between worlds is my favorite character. In Ascendence, Threshy is starting to feel the strain of being a daemon with the thinkings of many humans in his brain. Not only are we learning about the demon world through Threshy’s perspective, we’re learning a lot about who Professor Compton was – before he was eaten. The conflict between daemon and human in Threshy – and sometimes where there is NO conflict between the daemon and the Compton personality – is very good storytelling.
I am sad we didn’t get to see any more of Professor Boylan. Boylan is a great character. NOTE: I didn’t say “hilarious” or “funny”, or anything that implies humor. Okay, Paul? Surely, “great” is okay. You can get behind “great,” can’t you, Paul? 🙂
I was disappointed that there is no real ending; as with the first two books, the ending is “To Be Continued.” After the emotional and time investment of three books, I didn’t get the payoff I wanted in Book 3. I was hoping for some sort of satisfying closure, some sense of completeness.
Despite the non-ending, I’m happy Dave went after his family (though I would hate to be anywhere near Dave when he realizes Heath used his family as bait), and I’m intrigued by the introduction of two more Champions. According to the story, there will eventually be twelve, and now we’ve met four of them.
If you have a strong need for closure, I will say this series will frustrate you. But if you like action, snark, and fantasy, a hero that’s not very heroic, and can wait for a complete ending, you’re going to love this series.
If you like this book…
If you like Dave, you might look up James R. Tuck’s Deacon Chalk series. Chalk is another diamond-in-the-rough, kick-ass hero. Nell tells me that the Monster Hunter International series by Larry Corriea would be good for Dave’s fans as well.