Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hard Magic by Larry Correia

I'd had Larry Correia's Hard Magic the first book of the Grimnoir Chronicles on Mt Toberead for a while, but only just now got around to picking it up.

Larry Correia is best known for his Monster Hunter series (a collection of three of them is also somewhere on that mountain), and this is a newer addition to his growing bibliography.

I think the name of the series as a whole is a little misleading. It literally means grimdark, but I didn't see it as being part of that new subgenre, it was much lighter and far more fun.

I've seen it classified as steampunk, but I can only think that the presence of dirigibles as a major form of transportation is why people would slot Hard Magic in there. It's a mix of alternate history and urban fantasy and has a  noirish feel to it in terms of when and where it is set.

It's the 1930's in the US and many members of the world's population have become Actives. An Active is someone with a type of power that makes them something more than normal. Almost superhuman. There's a rather useful glossary in the back of Hard Magic that goes into the various Actives and their powers. It's not specified exactly when Actives started to manifest, but there is an excerpt from a speech given by Abraham Lincoln that seems to suggest it started to happen in the latter half of the 19th century.

I had an issue with the blurb on the back of this book. It states that one of the main characters; Jake Sullivan (a powerful Active known as  Heavy, it means he can manipulate or Spike gravity) is a private eye. If he was it isn't shown in the book. Jake's history seemed to suggest that after he returned from WW I he got himself into some legal difficulty and was imprisoned. At the start of Hard Magic he is working with the Feds to apprehend Active criminals in order to remain out of jail. The cover kind of plays up the private eye idea, too. In saying that it's one of Baen's rather more subdued covers.

The second major character is Faye. A young Active who can Travel or teleport. She started life as a refugee from Oklahoma (one of the book's departures from our history). Because the bad guys of this one; a Japanese consortium known as the Imperium, who have designs on world domination, have gone after people close to Jake and Faye, the two find themselves teaming up with an order of Actives known as the Grimnoir Knights to battle the Imperium.

Conceptually Hard Magic shares a bit with Myke Cole's Shadow Ops series, although I think Correia's world is better built and makes more sense. The powers are more fun and the characters themselves are stronger and more consistent.

I really warmed to Faye, her gruff and reluctant mentor Lance and Heinrich, the German Fade with the tragic past. I found it hard to do the same with Jake. He plays the hard as nails noir hero and his slang spouting exterior is often at odds with his well read highly intelligent interior.

The inclusion or mention of real people is both a nice touch and adds depth to the alternate 1930's that Correia has built for this series.

It's a really good old fashioned pulp style adventure story with a dash of fantasy added in. Definitely recommended and I'll be getting to the sequel: Spellbound, sooner rather than later.

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