Read by Bronson Pinchot
Length: 15 Hrs 59 Min
Genre: Alternate History/Fantasy/Super Powers Saga (heck, throw in a bit of everything)
Quick Thoughts: Hard Magic is a blend of science fiction, fantasy, superhero tales, Steampunk and alternate history told with a Noir flair that makes it greater than the sum of its parts. Full of intensely visual action and set in a well researched and intriguing altered America, Correia has created something that will resonate with listeners long after the adventure is over. Bronson Pinchot’s narration is proof that a well performed and produced audiobooks can sometimes take a novel beyond the written word better than almost any other kind of medium.
Hard Magic is nominated for two 2012 Audie Awards in the Paranormal and Solo Narration – Male categories.
I have to admit, sometimes I can be a moody listener. This occurs mostly when I’m stressed with work, or everyday life or actually ill. There are a few audiobooks I have listened to that seems like something I would love, yet, for one reason or another, the listen conflicts with my mood, and I end up switching it up for something else. This happens with music as well, sometimes I want something folksy, while other times I just want to band my head and scream. Matching your listens with your moods can be a challenge. The problem for me comes when I choose something that doesn’t reflect my mood and end up putting it aside, I rarely ever go back to it. Like most book addicts, I have a huge pile of books both past, present and future that I want to listen to, and a limited amount of time to listen, so I find it hard to restart an audiobook. This is something that occurred to me with Larry Correia’s Hard Magic. I am a big fan of his Monster Hunter International series, and I remembered the first book started with this huge, hard knuckled violent altercation between an accountant and a werewolf. About 6 months ago or so, I was having a particularly stressful time at work, and needed some major carnage. I downloaded Larry Correia’s Hard Magic without really doing much research. Instead of starting off with a bloody, face ripping, limb rending bang, the book started with things like complex world building and character development. About an hour or so into it, I knew I just wasn’t in the right mindset for it, and turned to something involving cannibalistic undead hordes. One of the reasons I was excited about the Armchair Audies was that I knew that Hard Magic would be in one of the categories I selected and it would give me the motivation to pick up this title that I had neglected, due to no fault of its own. I have to say, I am really glad I did.
Hard Magic is the first book of Larry Correia’s Grimnoir series. It is an alternate history of our world in which magical talents begin developing sometime in the 1800s. The novel takes place during the Great Depression, when J. Edgar Hoover was just beginning to exert his power, and thousands of Okies where escaping the Dust Bowl and heading to California. Hard Magic focuses on two main characters, Jake Sullivan, a Heavy who can seemingly control gravity, and a young, naive teenager name Faye, who is just beginning to understand her powers of teleportation. As one may expect, these two get mixed up in an international conspiracy involving secret magical institution, a powerful hidden weapon and some twisted Eugenics. It’s hard not to sound pat describing Hard Magic, because Correia fully embraces the tropes of superheroes sagas, and alternate history, but he blends and butchers them as he sees fits creating something that feels unique and exciting. Correia writes some of the meanest action sequences around, and the second half of this novel is a never ending ever escalating action sequence that manages to keep you enthralled the entire time. But, it is the first half of this novel that had me realizing I had underestimated Correia as a writer. Correia builds a brilliant world and fills it with fully realized characters. It was as if Harry Turtledove actually finally began meeting actually people, and writing about them, besides just having cardboard cutouts interacting with historical figures. I really think that is one of the hardest parts of alternate history, creating a world that stays true to the history, but populating it with fresh, real characters, and Correia pulls it off. By the time the action really takes off, I feel like I actually know those in jeopardy, and care about what happens to them. Hard Magic is a blend of science fiction, fantasy, superhero tales, Steampunk and alternate history told with a Noir flair that makes it greater than the sum of its parts. Full of intensely visual action and set in a well researched and intriguing altered America, Correia has created something that will resonate with listeners long after the adventure is over.
So, about the narration. It’s Bronson Pinchot. Bronson friggin’ Pinchot. Come on, do I really need to say more. I have now listened to a bunch of his narrations, and somehow each time he manages to surprise and amaze me. I mean, he takes this novel, from a writer with a reputation for pulp filled action tales, and gets it nominated for the an Audie Award not just within its genre, but for Male Solo Narration up against authors like Arthur Conan Doyle, James Baldwin, Joseph Conrad, and the novel that inspired an Academy Award winning movie. No disrespect to Larry Correia, but Pinchot transforms this novel. He creates a voice for each character as lovingly as the novelist who breathed life into them. He gives the soft, underestimated Jake Sullivan such a true authentic voice, that it allows the violence that Jake is forced to resort to, seem that much more jarring. He captures the impulsiveness, and naiveté of Faye perfectly, allowing for some genuinely touching and funny moments, making you want to protect her while she’s out there unrepentantly kicking ass. And just thinking of the Pale Horse gives me the willies. Everything about this reading is proof that a well performed and produced audiobooks can sometimes take a novel beyond the written word better than almost any other kind of medium. The only complaint I had is that my listening schedule is so full right now, I won’t be able to get to the next book in the series, Spellbound, until sometime this summer.