Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review: Warbound by Larry Correia

Warbound by Larry Correia
Published: Baen, 2013
Series: Book 3 of the Grimnoir Chronicles
Awards Nominated: Hugo Award

Warning: This is the third book of a series, so there may be spoilers of the first two books below.

The Book:

Only a handful of people in the world know that mankind's magic comes from a living creature, and it is a refugee from another universe. The Power showed up here in the 1850s because it was running from something. Now it is 1933, and the Power's hiding place has been discovered by a killer. It is a predator that eats magic and leaves destroyed worlds in its wake. Earth is next.

Former private eye, Jake Sullivan, knows the score. The problem is hardly anyone believes him. The world's most capable Active, Faye Vierra, could back him up, but she is hiding from the forces that think she is too dangerous to let live. So Jake has put together a ragtag crew of airship pirates and Grimnoir knights, and set out on a suicide mission to stop the predator before it is too late.”

This is the first book I’ve read by Larry Correia, and I have jumped in the middle of a running series. I did this because I wanted to make sure I had finished reading the nominee novel before the Hugo voting ended, but I would recommend for readers start at the beginning of the series, with Hard Magic. There’s enough information in Warbound about past events that I never felt lost, but I think the series would be more effective when read in order.

My Thoughts:

Though there are differences between them, Warbound reminds me quite a lot of X-Men stories.  For instance, the Power-wielding “Actives” of this world are treated with suspicion by ordinary people, and they are even battling their own Active registration act in the US legislature. The story also focuses on a ragtag group of interesting people with various superhuman powers, fighting against a superhuman evil that threatens all of humanity. However, I felt like the magic system in Warbound was much more codified, with a finite set of the different kinds of abilities that Actives could use. Since the tools at the characters disposal were pretty well established, their problem-solving tended to involve the creative use of the collective skills of the group.  I feel like I’ve seen far too many Hollywood films involving people who use their super-powers to “punch really hard”, so I enjoyed seeing how these characters utilized their magical potential, both in and out of combat.  

There are a ton of minor characters in Warbound, but I felt like the main characters were Jake and Faye.  Jake is an exceptionally intelligent gravity spiker, who is organizing a group to go out questing to kill the Pathfinder, the being that will show the predator the way to Earth.  Faye, a simple teenage girl from Oklahoma, is the recipient of a spell that ties the magical power of every person that dies to her.  This makes her the most powerful Active on the planet, as well as a potential future threat that might rival the predator. Jake seemed a little like a standard action-hero to me, but I thought Faye’s predicament was pretty intriguing.  Given Faye’s complicated moral situation, though, she has a remarkably simplistic sense of right and wrong.   For instance, she plans to keep from ‘going bad’ by only killing ‘bad guys’, but she never really stops to question her ability to distinguish who does and does not deserve to die.

I think this simple morality is characteristic of the save-the-world action-movie sort of story, though, where the good guys and the bad guys are clearly defined and the use of violence is generally seen as justified. The heroes also have to be forgiven for the massive amount of collateral damage they inflict, in terms of infrastructure and human lives, in the process of trying to save the world.  I think these are all things that just need to be accepted, in order to enjoy this kind of story.  In general, I think Warbound is a novel that is meant solely to entertain, and in that I think it is largely successful.

My Rating: 3/5

Warbound is an action-packed fantasy adventure story, and it's pretty entertaining.  The magic system is interesting, and allows for characters with various classes of super powers that are used in a satisfyingly creative way in the many action sequences of the story.  The main characters and the many side characters were pretty memorable, though only the main characters get much development.  The morality in the story is of the simple ‘us-vs-them’ variety, where our heroes are the good guys, out to kill the bad guys and save the Earth.  It’s probably not a novel I’ll be thinking about years from now, but I feel like it accomplishes its goal—to be a violent, action-oriented, entertaining fantasy about people with superhuman powers.

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