Wednesday, June 11, 2014

World War Noir

Larry Correia
Baen, 2013
ISBN 1476736529

There's a certain nostalgia to the stories and films from the 1930s - the time when my mother was born and lived through WW II. I enjoy the films, the stark lighting, the soundscapes, even the caricatures that peopled the story, like Hammett's Thin Man, or Chandler's Marlowe. Just the thing for a cozy evening.

So it's of course no surprise that even fifty years after the last bonafide film noir ran off the reel people are still occasionally imitating the style. Larry Correia's Warbound is an excellent example.

The Grimnoir Chronicles started with Hard Magic, where me meet Jake Sullivan, a former private eye who is doing hard time for murder. Jake has magical powers that let him manipulate gravity, and his warden thinks he's a good guy, which is why J. Edgar himself recruits Jake into a magical secret society, the Grimnoir.

Now it is not all that much later, and Jake has become convinced that an extra-dimensional monster that wants to suck all magic out of Earth is getting ready to attack. Chairman Tokugawa's Iron Guards aren't ready to fight because Tokugawa has been replaced by an impostor. The Grimnoir Knights must kill the impostor to save the world.

This latest of the Grimnoir Chronicles is a little less focused than the others, perhaps because we know more of the characters, and they are all doing important stuff, just not all in the same place. Still, it seems as if at least Francis' part of the story, which isn't central to the novel, should have just been left off stage. There isn't enough of it to be obnoxious, but it is noticable and interrupts the narrative flow.

Faye's part of the story is much more central. Like Luke Skywalker training with Yoda you know she will just arrive at the action in the nick of time, and it's not really possible to just ignore her until she does. My main complaint about Faye is really that I think she violates Sanderson's First Law of Magic. It's not as if Correia has to obey Sanderson's rules - I don't even entirely agree with Sanderson's First Law - it's just that this seems to be a case where that Law really has to be obeyed. Because Correia flouts the Law, Faye becomes little more than a deus ex machina. Correia doesn't lose all control over the plot's central tensions, but they are a lot less than they could have been.

This is the fourth of the 2014 Hugo nominees that I've read. It is not a novel about thinking or answering difficult questions. Might makes right, and the best answers come at the end of a set of magically enhanced knuckles. Testosterone oozes from between its pages. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the story. If you like this sort of thing, give it a try.

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