Hard Magic – by Larry Correia – A Fantasy Book Review

Larry Correia is the author of the Monster Hunter urban fantasy book series.  I’ve enjoyed these books for years and also enjoy his comical Tom Stranger audiobook series.  So recently I looked around and decided I should check out some of his other writing.

Back in 2011 Correia wrote an urban fantasy, alternate history book called Hard Magic – Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles.  In this alternate reality magic starts appearing on Earth in the 19th century and by the time of the story, the 1930s, there are various magical powers that have become part of everyday life and corporate policy.  For instance, dirigibles and blimps do not disappear from the airs because magical practitioners called “Torches” have the ability to prevent fires from destroying the explosive hydrogen filled balloons with their powers.

There are humans called “Healers” with the power to heal disease and injury by a laying on of hands.  And alternatively, there can be an individual called a “Pale Horse” who has the power to cause disease and even horribly painful death with just a touch of his hand.  And there are dozens of other powers out there.  “Brutes” are able to increase their strength tremendously and toughen themselves to withstand enormous punishment.  Some can walk through walls, some teleport from place to place and some can control gravity and density and even the weather.

The outlines of history are similar to the actual history.  World War One occurred and the rise of the Japanese Empire is happening but each of these things included large-scale use of magical power.  Historical figures like Teddy Roosevelt and Black Jack Pershing exist but they are involved in the magical events.  Nikola Tesla is a “Cog” which is an individual whose intellect has a magical quality to it and in this world, he invents magical doomsday devices such as the Geo-Tel which can destroy everything within a thousand-mile radius at the push of a button.

The book has a couple of main characters.  Faye Vierra is a teenager living on her adoptive grandfather’s dairy ranch.  She is a “Traveller.”  Grandpa was able to teach her how to safely use her power because he also is a “Traveller.”  What she doesn’t know is that he is a retired member of the Grimnoir Society, an order of magically gifted individuals who pledge to use their power to protect society from the misuse of magic.  When evil men show up Grandpa sends Faye off with a dangerous device that he tells her to give to Black Jack Pershing.

The other main character is Jake Sullivan.  Jake is a Gravity Spiker.  He can change the force of gravity.  He can make it stronger of weaker and even change its direction.  Jake is getting out of prison for a justifiable homicide that was declared murder.  Jake has agreed to a parole condition under which he will assist the FBI and local law enforcement with super strong magical individuals like brutes in exchange for a shortened sentence.  But during one of these operations he finds out that there are magical agents working outside the law but not against it.  And it leads back to Pershing.

The story knits together a cast of characters inside the Grimnoir Society that are working to prevent the capture by the Japanese Imperium of a Geo-Tel device.  A shadowy leader, the Chairman, is a powerful, almost godlike leader whose forces are bent on world domination and the destruction of the United States.

Correia crafts an enjoyable narrative with a full range of engaging characters moving across the country and the world pursuing their varying interests and racing against time to retrieve the pieces of the Geo-Tel before the Imperium can unleash Armageddon.  I highly recommend the book and am looking forward to the arrival of the sequel Spellbound.

The Monster Hunter Files – A Fantasy Book Review

Larry Correia has successfully built up the Monster Hunter brand to the point where other authors like John Ringo and Sarah Hoyt have now penned volumes of the series.  I have not previously read any of these non-Correia additions to the MHI world but I wasn’t worried about continuity problems when I picked up the Monster Hunter Files short story collection.  After all, when you let other authors share in your fictional world you are assuming that their writing style will be different and that they will be interested in different aspects of that world or at least emphasize things differently.

And this is definitely the case for the authors and stories in this collection.  In some cases, authors with established characters are embedding these known quantities into the MHI world.  When that happens the fans of that author will be the ones who can best judge if the character was faithfully transplanted into the MHI universe.  But Larry’s fans are the ones who will decide if the fit is successful.  There are seventeen stories in the collection with writers as well-known as Jim Butcher, John Wright, John Ringo and Jonathan Maberry.  And there are authors that are less well known.  But the success of the stories also depends on whether the author’s take on the material fits well with the MHI style.  And finally, the individual reader will provide the most important component of what is a good or bad story, namely his individual tastes.

And indeed, that is the case for me.  Regardless of the skill of the author or even my taste for that author’s work, the primary consideration is whether the story is entertaining.  And that will be a continuum.  Some stories are enjoyable on several levels and can be easily identified as the stand outs.  Others may be okay and don’t rate top billing.  And some just plain don’t work for me.  Relevant to that is the interesting situation that the one Larry Correia story is not actually my favorite story in the collection.  I have to assume it’s not because the other stories are more genuinely MHI than his.  That would be hard to argue.  It’s just because they happen to be better stories by my criteria.  And this is the beauty of the multi-author anthology.  You discover new authors whose work you find you like.  My personal favorites:

1)            “The Manticore Sanction” by John C. Wright

2)            “The Gift” by Steve Diamond

Plenty of the other stories are good and were enjoyed but these two were the best for my tastes.

I would say the story collection is a success.  In fact, I see no reason why additional volumes couldn’t be published.  One idea that I think would be interesting is a volume of stories entirely from the point of view of the monsters.  This is actually sort of the case in the story “Huffman Strikes Back” by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Julie Frost.  The stories in such a volume would have to be handled carefully to make it interesting but it would be a departure and provides totally different points of view on the familiar characters and situations from the conventional monster hunting narratives.  After all there are a number of important monsters including some of the Shacklefords.  Highlighting their points of view in the stories would be entertaining and could provide insights that can’t be easily obtained from the conventional perspective.

For you Monster Hunter Intl. Fans, Larry Correia Has Posted Part X of his Annual Christmas Noun Saga

Larry was the guiding spirit behind the original Sad Puppies campaign and the author of the best-selling Monster Hunter International series.  He’s also an extremely amusing fellow and his Christmas Noun parody is a yearly institution on his site.  The earlier installments are linked there and provide background on the various goofy story conventions involved in the tale.  And it’s free.  Enjoy.

CHRISTMAS NOUN X: THE GHOSTS OF DIE HARDS PAST