Larry Correia has already made a name for himself in the sci-fi/fantasy world with his Monster Hunter books, but now he's written the first in new series that takes place in New York in the 1930s, filled with dubious federal agents, hardboiled detectives, and dames with a whole lotta chutzpah. Except this isn't quite the New York you might expect, but an alternate universe where zeppelins moor at the top of the Empire State Building, the Titanic never sank and mad scientist Nikola Tesla has created a devastating weapon called the Geo-Tel. Oh, and people have magical powers. They are known as Actives. It's become commonplace for some people to defy gravity, teleport, manipulate animals, and heal by touch. The hero here is Jake Sullivan, a detective and ex-con who is set free by the FBI to track criminal Actives, which J. Edgar Hoover (yeah, he's still around) would like to eradicate.
Actor Bronson Pinchot has become a regular go-to for audiobooks and the reason is obvious – the guy knows how to bring a story to life. Far from his manic days as Balki on Perfect Strangers, Pinchot is a warm, imminently listenable narrator. He's obviously having a ball with Hard Magic, gruffing up his voice for the hardboiled Jake and the various G-men and employing a countrified voice for Faye, a young farm girl who can teleport across great distances and becomes vital to saving the world from destruction by the Geo-Tel. Pinchot gives each character a different voice, so it's easy to keep up with the big cast. Correia writes long, colorful descriptions of his characters and their situations, but those passages never become boring and never get in the way of the action, thanks to Pinchot.
Steampunk lovers will find much to love about Hard Magic, but listners who love big guns and explosions will be in hog heaven. There are epic, cinematic battles including one over-the-top of a dirigible that is audaciously impossible. Hard Magic almost defies categorization, because Correia has no problem blending science fiction with more fanciful fantasy, even managing to slip in double-headed dragons and imps. The second book in the Grimnoir Chronicles, Spellbound, is coming and let's hope Pinchot has signed on for the audio version. Collin Kelley
Jake Sullivan is a licensed private eye with a seriously hardboiled attitude. He also possesses raw magical talent and the ability to make objects in his vicinity light as a feather or as heavy as depleted uranium, all with a magical thought. It's no wonder the G-men turn to Jake when they need someone to go after a suspected killer who has been knocking off banks in a magic-enhanced crime spree.
Problems arise when Jake discovers the bad girl behind the robberies is an old friend, and he happens to know her magic is just as powerful as his. And the Feds have plunged Jake into a secret battle between powerful cartels of magic-users - a cartel whose ruthless leaders have decided that Jake is far too dangerous to live.
©2011 Larry Correia (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
Marvel meets Chandler
Well done, but I saw it coming.
There were points where I laughed out loud. The "tear-jerking" bits came off as rather forced.
I applaud the author's ambition - he manages to blend together several different genres in a relatively seamless manner. This story is what would happen if Raymond Chandler had envisioned the "X-Men" running around the United States during an alternate version of the Depression. Mr. Correia's construction of an alternate reality where magic has been in existence for about 80 years is unique and fun and he does a particularly good job of tracing the chain of cause-and-effect throughout history.
Mr. Correia's other strengths are that he writes great action sequences and the story as a whole moves quickly and logically. His characters, for the most part, do tend to be archetyppes (the tortured hero who is much smarter than he appears, the tough dame with the sensitive soul, etc.) but they serve the story well. The plot is somewhat predictable and the author puts in enough foreshadowing that there were no real surprises. If you're interested in guns, you may find the author's detailed and loving descriptions enjoyable - I did not. I also felt that his explanations about the technical aspects of the magic - while logical and well-thought-out - got somewhat boring and repetitive.
Bronson Pinchot does, on the whole, a very good job reading this book. He speaks firmly and clearly and I had no difficulty hearing or understanding him. He does a particularly good job with the action sequences and I found that I was riveted through most of them. He also understands--and is able to convey--the author's humor. My only real quibble is that he chooses some very strange accents for some of the characters which can be extremely distracting.
In conclusion - I enjoyed this, but I doubt I will get the sequel.
So, I enjoyed this audiobook, it's a fine way to pass the time, but I have to alert any English professors and writers among you that this author writes as though he has a personal grudge against Strunk and White's Elements of Style. Nearly every sentence is in the passive past tense, even in action scenes like combat or chases. "There was a gun in his hand, he had racked the slide, and he had been shooting a stream of bullets." If you removed the words "had", "was", and "had been" from the text, it would cut the book's length by a third. Also the author persistently uses conflicting pronouns, for example "he had not seen him in the shadows and he knocked him to the floor." The writing is also laden with cliches in every description, but to be fair I cannot tell whether the author did that on purpose, considering the series is intentionally drawn on the cliches of the hard-boiled noir story.
As long as you can overlook these complaints about the writer's craft, there is much to enjoy here. The story rolls along at a good steady pace, there are many characters in play at once, and each character is given a decent amount of interesting back story. Some people may find this obvious from the title and cover, but the book is aimed at a "young adult" reader, maybe up to high school level. There;s nothing wrong with that, and nothing wrong with a person of any age enjoying a brisk story; but you may be led by other reviews to think this is a classic of modern adult fiction, and it is not. But again, it's a fun way to pass the time.
Bronson Pinchot does a very good workmanlike job with the reading, I'd give him a solid B. He doesn't really bring the characters vividly to life, and but on the other hand he does give them each their own voice tone, and he doesn't make many mistakes. Even his female characters are acceptable, not too grating as can often happen with a male reader. He didn't convey much feeling through his voice, but it's possible the fault in lack of emotion lies with the writer, not the reader.
I had such a hard time getting into this book. The narrator made everyone sound like a complete idiot and it really annoyed me for about the first 1/2 of the book. Normally I don't stick with a book that long but I had nothing else to "read" at the time so I powered through the first 1/2. Once all the characters were finally introduced and the story really got rolling, it was an ABSOLUTE BLAST! In the end I loved the book and couldn't wait to pick up the 2nd book in the series (which got off the ground running a lot faster than the first book did). Overall it was totally worth the time it took to get into it. I'd highly recommend it!
As a fan of sci-fi and fantasy with an interest in early 20th century entertainment style this book piqued my interest. When I saw Bronson Pinchot was narrating I was in.
I was thinking something along the lines of Dick Tracy or Who Framed Roger Rabbit thinking back on Balki Bartokomous in "Perfect Strangers". I was assuming the prototypical gruff Private Investigator and some helpless leggy Dame that makes the narrator hear drum beats every time she walks. His attraction to her getting him in over his head with bad guys.
This story and Bronson Pinchot was SO much more than that. Although the story starts off this way, the plot is much more intricate and Bronson Pinchot's narration isn't silly and whimsical but engaging and incredibly varied between characters. I quickly switched from Roger Rabbit to The Green Mile. Bronson's narration reminds me of Tom Hanks and all of his characters are distinct authentic which is helpful since there are quite a few characters throughout this story.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys...a great story (and can handle a bit of graphic fight scenes).
Good story but the narrator tried valiantly to put me to sleep. He should confine himself to reading bedtime stories. It speaks for the quality of the story that I did stay awake after all.
Great characters all of them. Intriguing chairman too.
This story deserves a better narrator. He does the various characters well. I just wish he would not sound so sleepy most of the time.
I bought Part II as well....
Not quite as good as the Monster Hunter series but I'm seriously thinking about buying the paperback so I can really enjoy the story.
The characters are so well done, very nuanced. I also liked how Correa worked historical events into the book's universe.
At first, the deep country accent of Fae was off putting, but as I got to know the character, it really worked. The voice for Sullivan was perfect.
For a while I passed this book by because the cover looks ridiculous, I wish I hadn't, this is a great book.
A nice fusion of magic, steampunk, and crime noir. Good characters and a fairly smooth story narration.
Where does lively writing end and great narration begin? I don't know, but the true voices of a deep-throated ex-con and an Oaklahoman school girl come shining through in this light and fun piece of fiction. Pacing is great and it left me wanting more.
SO MUCH FUN! The story is a solid good vs evil with over the top (but still so easily believable) action and characters. The characters are all carefully crafted and "complete," so that we can easily identify with and understand their motivation. The narration is probably the best I've ever heard - Bronson Pinchot is perfect for this. I spent every moment of my commute for the last 2 weeks hanging on his every word!
And the fight scenes?!? Unbelievable exciting - detailed, fast paced, with tons of unexpected twists and turns.
Did I mention that this book is SO much fun?!? Great story, great characters, and amazing narration. I can't wait to start Book 2!
Bronson Pinchot is now my favorite narrator. I can’t convey the mastery Mr. Pinchot brings to this reading of one of my favorite authors. His characters are nuanced and very distinct, he does great female voices. Had to buckle down and get this finished, it was keeping me from the rest of my life. I really enjoy the little bits of gun lore and facts.
As an aside, I also think the 1911m1 is the finest firearm ever made.
Another reviewer mentioned that they found the narrator's accent difficult to understand in places, but I thought all his accents and voices were spot on and superb. I didn't have any trouble understanding him.
The story is excellent and unlike anything I've read before: a comic detective novel with plenty of action-packed magic, and more than a few moving scenes.
The Grim Noir are a magical organisation sworn to protect the innocent - usually humans with magical abilities persecuted by both non-magical people and the sinister Chairman, who experiments on children and performs other atrocities in the name of strength and race purity.
Jake Sullivan, former prison inmate and P.I., reluctantly joins forces with one of the few remaining units of the Grim Noir to protect the magical world from the Chairman and his most evil and feared Iron Guard - who also happens to be Jake's older brother...
The whole story is told in exciting and action-filled chapters from the perspectives of several different characters - each with varying degrees of both magical ability and morality - that help draw in the reader and explain the rules of this reality, its history, and its current political situation, without any flagging of pace or feeling that you're having to get through a lot of boring exposition (which is often a common failing in the sci-fi / fantasy genre).
The villains were realistic, their motives were understandable (if deeply flawed), and every single character was so brilliantly crafted, with such unique voices and perspectives, that it was truly a pleasure to listen to and I was sad to reach the end.
I really hope there is a sequel, I would love to know more about the Knights of the Grim Noir (especially Fay, Sullivan, and Heimrich) and to know how they will tackle the continuing threat to the source of all magic.
Lastly, I agree with the other reviewer; the 'historical' quotes at the beginning of each chapter added a sense of realism, and I loved them.
This book just didn't gel for me. There are a lot of fight sequences and I found these difficult to follow. I got the end of Part One and didn't bother with Part Two. I wasn't engaged by any of the characters. Entirely my fault as I wanted to try something I wouldn't usually read but sadly this genre isn't for me. As always though with Audible the quality of the reading is terrific.
"Truly recommended listen"
My only gripe with this book is that, on very rare occasions, about twice in the entire fifteen hours, the otherwise superb reader becomes difficult to understand due to his accent. This was nothing that couldn't be remedied however by a quick rewind and a little bit of effort put into a second listen.
On the other hand this is an excellent piece of fiction superbly mixing a world of magic and power with 1930's America. The main characters are to a one engaging and more than enough to carry you through this pleasingly long tale on their own. The author has obviously put a lot of effort into altering earth's history to accommodate the power of sorcerers and this is emphasized by short sections at the beginning of every chapter, my favourite being a speech aboard the Titanic on its fifth anniversary voyage.
If you enjoy this audible book then be sure to check out the Skulduggery Pleasant series while you wait for the no doubt excellent sequel.
"Really Great Pulp Book"
I just wanted to say i totally love this book. Interesting story and interesting setting to have it in. Really looking forward to the follow up.
Great story, creative narrator who voiced each characters differently and made the characters come a live and each their own personality. Loved it. Already got next book in series.
"Lary does it again"
yes i would. I love worlds that dont do info dumps and let you pick it up from the rich world. laary creates a rich world that you fall into like no ones business.
browning as he made it possible to have 50 cals ina siege . it was awesome people.
he really brought a politicians skill to the story of changing everything round. was a dizzying ride.
yes there was joy and fun and definite kick ass moments.
there are some many reasons to listen to this books. strong characters. strong powers . kick ass moments all over the place. i mean he fell out of a zeplin. you just need this book in your library all over.
The Characters of Faye and Sullivan are great action hero protagonists. The rich story blended with real history make for a great listen
At first I wasn't sure about how fantastical the story was (I expected a more subtle noir story). Once I readjusted my expectations of a more bombastic action fantasy I loved so much about the story. Great characters, interesting historical anchoring and the richness of the world and peoples magical abilities makes for a fun ride. Prep two more credits for the sequels!
Honestly, I got used to Faye and Sullivan's voices as performed by Pinchot, but something was a little off for me. However his performance overall is worthy of five stars as he keeps the rest of the characters charming and interesting. I particularly liked Lance and Heinrich, but all of the supporting characters are great.
Smile more than laugh. Frown more than cry.
A great listen which begs the question: how could a sequel top this, but they some how do. Give it a try if your up for something different.
"Alternative timeline detective novel, with magic!"
A great story, well narrated!
Some really strong characters (literally), a solid plot and a great concept.
This book was on offer from audible and it seemed a little extreme for my scifi/fantasy tastes and so I picked it up with scepticism, I was really pleased with my choice and after listening to the first chapter I was hooked.
The book kept me gripped all they way through and left me feeling a little disappointed when I had to put it down, a good mix of magic fantasy and noir.
For a sceptic I went on to progress through the next three books pretty much back to back, I would certainly recommend.
"Love a bit of Magic!"
Very enjoyable - although not at all my usual sort of thing! I got quite caught up with the characterisation too!
"A good start"
Once you get past the first few chapters things settle down and start getting good. As this is the first book in a series you can see just how much world building the author is doing and how much of a slog it's going to be getting through it all but it's worth it. The world is full and fun, the characters are wide and varied, in style and abilities, and the story is simple enough not to confuse while your dealing with the origin story
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