2014 Hugo Nominee Readthrough: Larry Correia’s Warbound

So I was going to try and wait until the controversy around Larry Correia died down a bit before posting this, but, uh… well. He either lacks a controversy avoidance mechanism or chooses not to use it. Despite the many positions of Mr. Correia I strongly disagree with, I’m going to try and not let them affect my opinion of Warbound on its own. (I’ll probably fail, and I definitely won’t succeed in full). I did read the first two books in the trilogy as well, just to give the book a fair shake. Anyhow, on to Warbound.

First Time/ Reread: First Time
Acquired: Library

Other Nominees:
Ann Leckie: Ancillary Justice
Charles Stross: Neptune’s Brood
Mira Grant: Parasite
Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson: The Wheel of Time

Background: Warbound is the third book in the urban fantasy trilogy The Grimnoir Chronicles. (Hard Magic and Spellbound are the first two). It is in the Hugo Voter’s packet in its entirety. Baen Books, the publisher, has been one of the pioneers in DRM free books, and has their own library of free ebooks on their website.

Sypnopsis: The Grimnoir Chronicles are set in an alternate 1930’s where superpowers exist, the Nazis never rose to power, and Imperial Japan is the most powerful nation in the world, engaged in a colossal war of conquest. The magic in this world is provided by The Power, an extra-dimensional non-corporeal lifeform fleeing from a world destroying superpredator. The protagonists have to find a way to stop the Japanese expansion, the predator, and the predator’s minions on Earth.

Verdict: This was a tricky one to judge, for a couple of reasons. First off, all the controversy around Correia of late. I try to be neutral to that stuff in these reviews, but I don’t think I’m capable of anything approaching perfection there. Secondly, it’s the last book in a trilogy. I’m definitely biased towards stand-alone books during award season. (WoT is an exception, I’ll grant you.) Past that stuff: This was a pretty good book in a lot of ways. It definitely stood out for its action scenes. One of the scenes during the climax was, well… it involved a HALO jump without a parachute through a fleet of enemy warships. Enough said. The action scenes are constant, rapid fire, and awesome, and… well, that actually brought about my actual problem with the book: It’s too violent. I never actually thought I’d say that about a book, I love fictional violence, and I’m a fan of a number of ultraviolence selections (Shoot ‘Em Up, Luther Strode, etc.) The redeeming factor of ultraviolent works is that it usually shows the psychological effects of the violence on the characters, usually in a negative fashion. Here… not so much. The characters solve damn near every single problem in the book with insane quantities of violence, then feel totally fine about it. (Usually. There are a few exceptions). One character, Faye Vierra, is possibly the most terrifying character I’ve ever read about. She’s one of the main protagonists, and by far the most powerful superhuman individual in the series. She kills literally THOUSANDS of people during the books. Not in distant, impersonal ways, either- most of her kills are up close and personal, many of them in horrifying, brutal ways, like ripping people’s arms off, teleporting them into the sky, beating them into bloody pulps, etc. She then feels absolutely no remorse about it. Nothing. She’ll occasionally reflect on how little she cares, since they were evil or serving evil. I was left with a genuine sense of disquiet through a lot of this book. Also, posing FDR as a B-List badguy (Sort of, at least. He doesn’t get violence done to him, unlike almost every other badguy, so…) irritated me, but that’s more due to how irritating I find modern conservative interpretations of the New Deal and FDR. For the purposes of the books, he made a perfectly serviceable enemy. Correia hasn’t done nearly enough to make me want to judge his fiction on anything but its own merits (unlike Vox fucking Day). Being argumentative and belligerent on the internet isn’t a crime. A lot of people are wanting to rank No Award above Correia in the Hugo voting. I personally wouldn’t (not that I can afford to vote for the Hugos this year), but I am ranking Warbound below the other books thus far, for a combination of the character Faye and being a single book in a series. (Which yes, also hurt Mira Grant in my rankings). (Also, I’ve done a fairly crappy job of keeping controversy out of this review. I tried, at least.) If you are in the mood for ultraviolent alternate history/ super heroes/ urban fantasy, definitely give the Grimnoir Chronicles a look. I’d recommend avoiding Correia’s blog and online discussions, though, unless you really want to see lots of drama and controversy on the internet.