Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hot Gat, Hard Fists and Magic

Spite can be a marvelous thing. You never want to anger a writer. But when someone else does so, something marvelous may come of it.

I hear there was a Science Fiction Con whereon there sat a panel of authors of fantasy novels. This panel was relatively diverse, being represented by the typical sword and sorcery types, horror, and at least one urban-fantasy writer. An individual asked a question of the panel about magic. When the urban fantasy writer answered, the questioner said he wanted to hear from one of the real magic writers.

You never want to anger a writer.

Larry Correia was the guy on the panel who didn't write real magic. Angered, he did what the best writers do: he channeled his ire into writing. He wrote out of spite. And it is delightful.

I've written stories mocking the Xena-style sword and sorcery genre. And I am pleased that when challenged to write a magic story, he chose a 1930s noir setting.

A Chicago private dick named Jack Sullivan is a war hero fresh out of prison for smashing a Louisiana sheriff into a red paste. In old noir stories, a heavy was the sort of character played by a pre-Perry Mason Raymond Burr. In hard-boiled detective fiction you could usually count on heavy named Rocco to break bones at the direction of his gangster boss.

But "Heavy" means something different in "Hard Magic." It means a particular type of magic-user who can manipulate the force of gravity.

The magic-users in Larry Correia's world aren't fellas in pointy hats holding gnarled wood walking sticks (or even hockey sticks). They are all segregated into distinct categories depending upon the type of magic they do. Cracklers can manipulate electricity. Brutes are unstoppable fighters. Fades can walk through walls. Travelers can teleport.

On top of that there are magic spells and wards that are acquired by careful study into the source of magic itself. With one exception, everyone gets one magical power to develop as best s/he can. The exception is the villainous Chairman who understands magic best, and has developed a system of spells that he brands on his Iron Guardsmen.

If you are familiar with 1930s pop culture, you'll recognize a lot of names. Larry Correia likes the idea of giving parts to the people of that time, like J. Edgar Hoover, Melvin Purvis, John Moses Browning, General Blackjack Pershing.

Mix in airships and you've got a rollicking yarn.

The good guys get chased around by the bad guys while they're gathering their forces and trying to keep a doomsday weapon (invented by Nicola Tesla) out of the hands of the evil Chairman. Meanwhile, the evil designs of both the Chairman and the traitors among the Grimnoir society collide in a most satisfactory fashion.

I sure hope that Larry Correia gets along with his brothers, because I've seen a pattern in both Hard Magic and Monster Hunters. The hero is a big buy who has to negotiate familial conflict with some Other Big Guy with a bad eye.

Larry Correia write fight scenes as well as anybody I've seen this side of Louis L'amour. If you want to see how someone wades into a fight with two hard fists and a hot gat, I can't see any writer doing a better job of it than Correia.

Five stars. Easy.

I have also reviewed Spellbound, the second book of this series. As well as Warbound, the third book of this series.

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