Normally I prefer to read books myself rather than be subject to another reader's verbal interpretation. Bronson however is superb at making the book come alive.
This is a classic "can't judge a book by its cover" case for me. I looked at the cover of this book, read the blurb about a magic private eye, and I doubted. I doubted a lot. Happily, I was desperate for something to listen to/read, and I had credits to burn, so I figured what the heck - and I was treated to 16 hours of one of the most entertaining stories I have ever heard.
Bronson Pinchot is a virtuoso of audiobook narration. He is a genius. He was born to read books to people. I will listen to him read cookbooks. It's worth buying this book just to hear audiobook narration done amazingly, crazily right.
The story: the description makes it sound like this will be like "The Maltese Falcon" with magic in it, but it really didn't have much in common with a detective novel or the noir genre. It's more of a speculative fantasy thing - if I were describing this to a friend, I'd tell them to think "The Untouchables," except with magic powers, and instead of Al Capone they're trying to stop a shadowy cabal based on WWII's Axis powers from destroying the world. If you mashed "Star Wars," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and "The Wizard of Oz," you'd get something not totally unlike this book.
So: fun, fast-paced and totally over-the-top story plus mind-bogglingly good narration. Fantastic combination! I'm glad I stumbled upon this deservedly well-reviewed book!
Mr. Correia does it again. I have become a big fan, and I approach each of his new series with trepidation expecting a disappointment. I was far from disappointed. This series is as good as Mr. Correia other series. It re-writes history and covers it with a blanket of magic. Any fans of super powered heroes fighting super powered foes will love these books. The characters are great and the action is furious as the author manages to pull you into his new imaginary world while keeping you on your toes with plot shifts. I gave the performance a 4 instead of a 5 because the narrator, from time to time, reads with a certain sarcasm. This sarcasm does not fit the characters he's narrating. It is not frequent, but it can be quite distracting.
I bought this audio book, because of the good reviews. I have tried and tried, but fell a sleep after 5 minutes of listening, which was good since I have sleeping problems. I finally got to finish 1 hour and 27 seconds, but the story and the narrator aren't for me.
I picked up this book because of all the great reviews I've read for both the author and the narrator. The book itself is fantastic - great characters, great world, great story. It had surprising depth. I had recently listened to Brilliance by Marcus Sakay, which had a similar premise (granted, Hard Magic was published first), but where Sakay delved into the social repercussions of people with powers, Correia went deep into the system of magic and its use. It was fast paced, exciting, a bit brutal and gory, and I will definitely continue the series...
But maybe not as an audiobook. I had heard so much praise for Pinchot, perhaps I had unreal expectations. 75% of the character voices were fantastic and worthy of a 5 star rating. But the two main characters... UGH. Sullivan sounds like a cross between Forrest Gump and Bubba with a mouth full of marbles. I realize he is supposed to be a big, "slow" man from the backhills, but this is your MAIN CHARACTER. I think it improves towards the end of the book (maybe I just get used to it a tiny bit), but I'm not sure I want to listen to another 14 hours. I had issues with Fay's voice, too, but I'm not sure if that's because of her dialogue or because of how she was read. She came off as either a smart 12-year-old or a dim 16-year-old. Because there was a need to make her old enough to be in a relationship, you get the dim option. I considered these two characters at the 3-star level, so I averaged for a 4.
I'm just a big kid.
Full disclosure: I'm a hard science fiction fan, not at all into magic/fantasy type fiction. I did listen to Monster Hunter International, just because I like Larry Correia's blog. Essentially MHI was pretty close to a classic alien invasion story, just with magic creatures instead of aliens, so I felt like it was worth the audible credit.
I bought 'Hard Magic' when Correia put it on sale for half price one day.
Hard Magic is set in a magical steam puke alternate history, just after WWI. As a fan and student of history I enjoyed the slightly altered historical quotes and the historical characters that Correia weaves into the story. I can take or leave the steam punk stuff.
I didn't like 'Hard Magic' as much as MHI, mostly because of what I came to think of as 'magic power escalation'.
There is a McGuffin that both the Good Guys and the Bad Guys are running all over the place trying to find. If the Bad Guys get it they will do [Really Bad Thing].
The basic story outline is:
1) Character development, reveal a clue about what is Really Going On.
2) Gun porn
3) Good Guys and Bad Guys fight. Bad Guys kick the living daylights out of the good guys, but just when all hope is lost a Good Guy suddenly gets better magic or a new magic power that saves the Good Guys from the Bad Guys for the next battle.
go to step 1 until Final Battle.
4) Fight Final Battle, I won't spoil it by telling you which team wins.
5) Reveal a clue about the next book in the series.
I hear what you are saying: 'Well Jim, why did you give this book four stars overall'?
That's a fair question. The answer is in Step 1 above, and in the excellent of the narrator and overall high quality of the audio production.
Correia isn't Mr.Original when it comes to plotting, but he excels at creating interesting characters.
The characters, both Good Guys and Bad Guys are fascinating. I really enjoyed how the Bad Guys had what for them were very rational reasons for doing what the reader perceives as Bad Things.
Likewise the Good Guys really are motivated to do what the reader will perceive as good things, yet the Good Guys are far from perfect, having many weaknesses and frequent mixed motivations.
The Bad Guys don't feel bad at all about collateral damage along the story. Collateral damage makes the Good Guys kind of sad. But really, the Good Guys don't lose a lot of sleep over that either.
The complexity of the characters and the motivations for their actions kept me going to the end of the book, even though the fight scenes got a little tiresome as time went on.
[Caution, this is a very bloody book, not suitable for small children.]
The narration was excellent, Bronson Pinchot does a great job of voicing each of the many characters in the huge ensemble. The audio production overall was first rate, no bungled edits, no distracting breathing, no compression artifacts.
If you like the idea of an alternate steam punk post WWI magical war with lots of magical fighting, then this book is for you!
If, like me, you are fan of military or history related hard SciFi don't be afraid to give one of Correia's books a chance. You might, like me, enjoy it!
The first 2/3 pacing and plot is very good.
the first 1/3 was written with such epic style (i.e. like a movie trailer)
no, nothing hit me like a brick, but the whole thing was very smooth
The last 1/3 was too stereotyped for me. especially given the first 2/3 being so great
The story was epic and reminded me of the George RR Martin WildCard series. I can see huge potential for the series. Strange enough, after playing the video game Destiny I was constantly reminded of the book series.
If it wasn't for BP reading this story I would never have heard it. I find it very difficult to read due to my ADD.
It made me smile multiple times.
It is a completely different sort of world from Monster Hunters, which was great, as I liked this world much more.
I picked up this book because the third book in the series was nominated for the Hugo award and so I wanted to check it out. I'd never heard of Larry Correia or the book series.
I could not have been more blown away or had more fun with an audio book.
What makes 'Hard Magic' so much fun starts with its setting - it's the Prohibition gangster era, but with one big twist - human beings started gaining magical abilities 60 years prior with greater and greater regularity. The result is that the course of history has changed in many ways while still being somewhat recognizable. In this alternate world the great thinkers, inventors, politicians and athletes of the time are all the same, but augmented through their magical abilities. The result is a very lively and vivid world where Zeppelins still fly, prohibition gangsters spy on each other with demons and assassination can be done with magic.
However, a great setting is just the begging. As we get to know the characters and their magical abilities the come across as very real, human and they have great dialog. As their paths cross and the story arcs come together quickly there is never a dull moment.
The plot moves quickly and the story line builds as we come to understand the motivations of the Grimnoir society - I won't put any spoiler alerts in this review don't worry. In short order the characters start moving toward a worthy and daunting goal and the plot twists start coming in from all sorts of different directions as the story quickly moves from a midwest focused gangster story to a world wide geopolitical thriller pitting a powerful magical Japan against the western powers. (Germany takes a different arc after World War I in this world.)
I really loved the World War I alternative history and felt like the whole story came alive. It was a blast to listen to this story and I immediately picked up the next two books in the series and listened to them without stopping. The whole series is a lot of fun.
The narration by Bronson Pinchot is world class - some of the best narration I've ever heard. His range of voices is fantastic and his emotions comes across with real grit. He has one of those voices that makes you wish every book was narrated by him.
Can't say enough good things about this book. If you like the following, you'll love this book: Turn of the century prohibition era, alternative history, martial arts combat, gun fighting, magic, geo political thrillers and zeppelins. Honestly, what's not to love?
This book was fabulous. Great story. Great characters. Great narrator. Exciting. Touching. Believable. Hard Magic is unlike any other magic book I have read, and I have read many. I haven't written an Audible review in several years. But, I wanted to voice my enthusiasm to encourage others to read/listen to this book.
I have already downloaded the follow up in this series and look forward to checking out Larry Correia's other books.
I also want to give a big shout out to Bronson Pinchot for his awesome narration. It is so refreshing to listen to a narrator who is a gifted actor and who is truly great with voices. Each character was unique. Each voice distinct. Kudos.