The God of New Zealand

IntoTheMistIn Maori legend, there are stories of monsters living in rivers and swamps throughout New Zealand. Every child knows about the taniwha—vengeful creatures that slaughter warriors, kidnap maidens and eat babies in one gulp.

Nobody actually believes there are monsters dwelling in the vast forests of New Zealand, of course. That’s silly. The taniwha may inspire sleepless nights, but they’re simply creatures from Maori mythology.

But the forests of New Zealand are dense, shrouded in mist and largely unexplored. Even satellite surveillance is limited. In truth, no one truly knows what’s going on in the Aotearoa bush. For all we know, there could be millions of horny hobbits, smurfs and ewoks running around butt naked. There could even be giant gruesome monsters.

That’s exactly what a NZ Defense Force unit discovers while on a secret mission to the Urewera National Park. Sergeant Taine McKenna and his men are helping a team of scientists trying to determine the economic potential of the area. Specifically, they want to know if there are any natural resources to plunder.

The last thing anyone expects to see is a giant prehistoric predator nipping at their heels. But there it is. Three meters high, 15 meters long, it resembles a crumpled mud-colored tarpaulin thrown over a small caravan. It was a scaly fucking tank of a dinosaur. “That ain’t no taniwha,” says one of the locals. “That’s fucking real. There’s nothing mythological about it.”

And thus begins a one-week battle between nature and man. The taniwha, affectionately dubbed Sampson, chases its prey across the unforgiving landscape, and the ragtag group of explorers does it’s best not to be eaten. No surprise, the odds are stacked in the taniwha’s favor. “We’re like Wile E. Coyote with his latest ACME invention,” says one dispirited soldier. “We might as well be facing Goliath with a fucking slingshot.”

There are many things to recommend about Into the Mist. There’s plenty of suspense and gore. And the author uses the word “fucking” a lot. Plus, how many novels about giant monsters are set in New Zealand? If you’re tired of dinosaurs rampaging across Tokyo or New York or San Francisco, you should definitely pick up this book. The author (who lives in Tauranga) peppers her text with a generous amount of local color. At the very least you’ll pick up some Maori slang along the way. I’m confident that it’ll make you a better dinner conversationalist.

My favorite part of the book, however, is when the local thaumaturgist (matakite) engages the taniwha in conversation. Imagine a similar situation in which Ann Darrow sits down for a chat with King Kong. Or what if Pinocchio could somehow talk to Monstro? That would be cool.

“Why are you doing this?” asks the matakite. “What do you want?”

“I’m here to remind you that this is my forest,” says the unrepentant beast. After 200 million years, the creature had grown arrogant. It was no longer content to live in the jungle and keep to itself. It was time for Sampson to become god of the forest. “Tell mankind that I am here,” says the taniwha, “and that I am hungry.”

[Into the Mist / By Lee Murray / First Printing: April 2018 / ISBN: 9781925711769]