Baen, 2013, 448 pages
Only a handful of people in the world know that mankind's magic comes from a living creature, and it is a refugee from another universe. The Power showed up here in the 1850s because it was running from something. Now it is 1933, and the Power's hiding place has been discovered by a killer. It is a predator that eats magic and leaves destroyed worlds in its wake. Earth is next.
Former private eye Jake Sullivan knows the score. The problem is, hardly anyone believes him. The world's most capable Active, Faye Vierra, could back him up, but she is hiding from forces that think she is too dangerous to live. So Jake has put together a ragtag crew of airship pirates and Grimnoir knights - and set out on a suicide mission to stop the predator before it is too late.
Warbound is the third book in the Grimnoir trilogy, set in an alternate history in which a magical being came to Earth in the 1850s, pursued by some sort of world-devouring elder god thing. It bestowed magical superpowers on 1% of the population, thus creating an elite underclass of RPG-suitable player character classes: "Brutes" (super-strong and invulnerable), "Heavies" (gravity controllers), "Cogs" (super-geniuses), "Readers" (telepaths), "Fades" (intangible bodies), "Torches" (pyrokinetics), etc.
In this alternate world of the 30s, the great navies are made of airships, and the Japanese Imperium is out to conquer the world, with no distractions from Germany, which got half-overrun by zombies and killed Hitler years ago.
Although the Imperium are the bad guys, this is the volume in which that elder god thing comes to Earth, so there is a lot of trying to convince enemies to team up against the greater enemy, but mostly just a lot of blowing shit up.
Larry Correia makes no bones about being a commercial author out to entertain his audience. Being a superhero fan, and also at one time a huge Champions nerd, I recently discovered that Correia's Monster Hunter International series (which I have not read) has been turned into an official Champions sourcebook. If Hero Games published a Grimnoir Champions book, I would buy that so fast.
A summary of the plot would be kind of pointless. If you are not grabbed by the premise, this series won't interest you. However, Correia does an excellent job of working within the setting he has created and taking it seriously. And how can you not love a teleporting Okie girl who destroys a flying Japanese battle cruiser in three minutes flat? Or a dude jumping out of a zeppelin to make a crater in a stadium where there's a staged duel between the Big Bad and the Anti-Hero, which culminates in a great big bloodbath between superpowered Grimnoir knights, samurai in battle armor, and magical ninja?
The Chairman extended his hands and lightning blasted upward into the sky.
There was another horrendous boom, much closer and stronger now. The windows cracked. It was as if the man falling through the air had suddenly accelerated. He fell quicker than any bomb, streaking downward impossibly fast. No amount of concentrated magic from the Movers could turn that aside. He hit the ground so hard it caused a massive explosion of earth. It obliterated a huge circle of the parade grounds. The Chairman disappeared beneath a rolling cloud of dust.
Serious literature or deathless prose this is not. But it's awfully damn fun and yes, for an alt-history superhero novel, well-written: fast-paced, plotty, and full of interesting characters who are actually characters. I enjoyed it even more than the first two books.
So, I find myself conflicted about this book being on the Hugo list.
Because here's the thing: do I think it's objectively a better book than Neptune's Brood or Ancillary Justice? Not really. But unquestionably, of all the Hugo nominees, it is the novel I enjoyed reading the most.
Hugos are fan awards. Now a lot of hay has been made about Correia's "Sad Puppies" slate and his campaign to get himself and fellow conservative authors nominated this year, and part of his point was that the Hugos are just a popularity contest (and, according to him, a heavily politicized one dominated by quiche-eatin' librulz).
And yeah, Correia gets his digs in with making FDR an evil mastermind.
“Of course.” Roosevelt’s smile went away too quickly for it to have been real in the first place. Regardless of the fact that Francis had helped save his life, this was politics now. “I must remember that you are a titan of Wall Street, a captain of industry. Your time is so very valuable.”
“No offense intended, Mr. President.”
“You are correct though. Time is of the essence, and every day my proposals are stymied makes our situation that much worse.” The pretenses were gone, and now Francis was clearly speaking to the man who thought it was a fine idea for Actives to have to wear identifying badges like they were livestock brands. “I heard about your testimony earlier.”
But there is nothing wrong with voting for what you love. So, should I vote for the book I think is the most memorable milestone in SF literature this year? Or the one that makes me likely to buy more books from the same author? Hmm, decisions, decisions.
Verdict: This book is cheesy big guns blazing noir superhero action, and I loved it. The author is doing nothing more and nothing less than entertaining his audience. Is it deep? Is it literary? Is it a classic of the genre? No. But would I read another Grimnoir series? Absolutely.
Also by Larry Correia: My reviews of Hard Magic and Spellbound.
My complete list of book reviews.