It’s a gloomy, dreary morning so far here in the Darkest Jungles of Appalachia. This says to me that it’s a perfect time to gather essential supplies (lemonade, popcorn and a pile of books) and retreat to the safety of my pillow fort. But what books to read? Decisions, decisions….. Today I’m in the mood for something that involves fight scenes and adventure.
Little Voice in my Head: “Quit blowing smoke, Allene. You’re ALWAYS in the mood for something that involves fight scenes and adventure.”
Okay, it’s a fair cop. And when it comes to books with lots of fight scenes, shooting, the barest hint of romance, more shooting, supervillains, square-jawed good guys, and even more shooting, nobody does it quite like Larry Correia. I first encountered Correia’s work with his Monster Hunter International series, which I’m ambivalent about; some of it I really enjoy, some of it doesn’t do anything for me. But I liked him well enough that, when I heard he was doing a Dieselpunk series, I was quick to pick it up. The first book is Hard Magic, which is the one I’m focusing on today. The other two books so far are Spellbound and Warbound.
The Grimnoir series is set in a 1930’s America that is still struggling to find its footing after the Great Depression. Which sounds pretty much like our America of the 1930’s, except for one significant difference. In the Grimnoir universe, “magic” began appearing in the population about a hundred years prior. It only appears in a small fraction of the population and are called “Actives;” they’re what we might call superpowers: things like teleportation, gravity control, telepathy, etc. There is no Masquerade; everybody knows about magic, and everybody has their own opinions. There is a certain amount of X-Men type prejudice, but there is also a market for the Actives: people with a magical affinity for mechanical or electrical things, for example, are highly sought after for research and development. Another interesting aspect of the setting is that Correia doesn’t shy away from using real public figures from the day, even imbuing some of them with magic; Nicola Tesla had a magical affinity for electricity, for example. General Pershing, FDR, J. Edgar Hoover, and several other people get mentioned, are quoted or actually make appearances in the story.
Our titular hero is Jake Sullivan (“titular” in that this book has lot of protagonist; it really is an ensemble piece). Jake is a private eye, a veteran of WWI, an ex con, and has the ability to control gravity. At the beginning of the story, he has been convinced by J. Edgar Hoover to help the FBI capture magical criminals; the deal was, they get him out of prison early (where he had been sent for murder), he becomes their magical enforcer for a certain number of cases. Only this time, they’re going after somebody special: Jake’s old girlfriend and fellow gravity manipulator Delilah, who apparently has been on a bit of a murder spree. So anyway, the FBI and Jake go in, they attempt to apprehend her and her gang, and it all goes tits up pretty quickly.
In the course of the botched arrest and the aftermath thereof, Jake discovers that Delilah and her “gang” aren’t really bad guys. They’re part of a secret group calling themselves Grimnoir. The government has been lying to them, and a secret war has sprung up between the Grimnoir and the Japanese, who have a secret enclave of Actives and have designs on the West. Jake finds himself hooking up with the Grimnoir, and from there we find a lot of action, a lot of adventure, and at least one very cool firefight on the back of a zeppelin in the midst of a storm, pitting our heroes against a bunch of teleporting Active ninjas.
Yeah, that’s what I thought, too! I’ve SOOO simplified the plot. There are a dozen more viewpoint characters, a long lost brother, a very cool Okie girl named Faye, secret weapons hidden around the world, pirates, you name it.
I liked this book. It was fun stuff. In the Monster Hunters stories, Correia has a tendency to obsess a little too much about the firepower (which makes sense; he used to own a gun store before he started writing); this time he didn’t. The characters all worked for me, which is something I have to praise Correia for. Considering his background and the style of his work, I really wasn’t expecting him to write women as well as he does. Is that sexist of me? If so, apologies. But Faye, the main female viewpoint character, was surprisingly well written; she skates right up to the edge of being Mary Sue, but Correia navigates that boundary well, keeping her just on the safe side.
I was less enamored of the second book, Spellbound. But then again, anything that smacks of either McCarthyism or The Manchurian Candidate are personal bugaboos of mine; I find them frustrating beyond belief. So my opinion on Book Two should be taken with a large grain of salt. The third book, Warbound, I’ve not read yet. But there is a free, online short story in the Grimnoir Universe, Called Detroit Christmas. It’s set between Books Two and Three and is a teaser for Book Three. You can find it here.
In short, if you enjoy Dieselpunk and superheroes by any other name, you wouldn’t go wrong by checking out Larry Correia’s Grimnoir series.
And that’s about it for me this morning. Next up: Fun Friday, and have I got some cool stuff to show you! In the meantime, don’t forget to share, comment, tweet, email. And don’t forget to share your Fun Friday stuff so I can post it!