I’ve been stuck inside most of the day, as another half-week-long Spring storm meanders through. We had lightning and thunder this morning, lots of cold wind, on-and-off rain that probably won’t amount to much but has gone on all day.
It’s a lovely mash-up of noir and alternate history and magical fantasy, set in an early 20th century in which people have started sprouting magical abilities like they were X-men, apparently (but not really) through evolution. It’s been going on for almost a century and has had an effect on history, to say the least.
It’s got genuine Correia characters, characters you can actually give a damn about, that keep you interested and entertained. It’s got an intricate, complex and fairly consistently logical plot. It’s got dialogue you won’t see in a Twilight episode…
She was an odd one. Thin, gawky, with hair like wet straw, and the strangest grey eyes he’d ever seen. She held out one little hand to [Sullivan] in greeting. He took it, surprised that she had calluses that would make anyone running a pickax at Rockville proud. “You look just like your brother, only not evil. Sorry about murdering you.”
“Attempted murder,” he corrected her.
“On, no, you were totally dead when I found you under the magic jellyfish,” she smiled. “Good thing you followed me back. I’m Sally Faye Vierra. You can call me Faye.”
Sullivan and Faye are the principal protagonists, and I won’t give away any details but Faye is worth the trip all by herself.
Sullivan, though a fully-fleshed character, is one of the weaker points – since I’m praising Correia characters I may as well damn one with faint praise – because he’s a bit of a cliché. He’s a fairly recent Great War veteran, a very recent convict in a fedmax prison, he’s basically a perpetual warrior, and he’s got every reason in the world to be PTSD’d into palsy. But when you’re the hero, jumping at shadows and yelling at girlfriends doesn’t play well so Sullivan does the traditional noir hero thing: he broods. It doesn’t ruin the story or anything, but it is kind of noticeable. Now and then we have to pause for a few pages while Sullivan broods over some imagined self-fault or a comrade he failed to save at some point. It gets a bit predictable.
Having said that, I still enjoy the character and in fact all Correia’s characters. He’s good at everything that goes into escapist fiction but I especially love his characters. They’re real people, with genuine arcs – or at least really great death scenes. Sometimes more than one to a character. I would go so far as to class Correia as the best, most consistent currently-working fiction writer I know of. Admittedly it’s a small pool. I will go to the extreme, ignore my pounding heart and declare that in this one thing, character development, Larry Correia is a better author than Robert Anson Heinlein.
If I’m not struck dead in the next ten seconds, there is no god.
But Grimnoir, especially the first volume, does have one shortcoming that bugs me every time I pick up the book. What – oh what – is with this cover?
Seriously. Sullivan looks like a punk. Delilah, the petite beauty that – one way or another – stops every man in his tracks here looks like young Barbara Streisand. With a handful of magic poo or something, I don’t even know what that is. The other two covers are awkward, but this one is distractingly dreadful. Just saying.
But getting back to the kudos – Larry Correia is the greatest living producer of rainy-day escape lit I know. And he knows his guns. And he’s basically a libertarian, if I’m a little unclear on whether he’s tipped over the edge into freedomistahood. I own every book of his except the collaborations and love them all but my favorite is the Grimnoir books. If you like escapist fiction at all and haven’t checked him out, you really ought to. Start with Hard Magic or Monster Hunter International. You might not go out and get more if it’s not your cup of tea, but I promise you won’t find it time wasted.