Thursday, March 31, 2016

Review of Hard Magic

Book #12. Hard Magic, by Larry Correia. Unabridged audio.

Hard-boiled detective story + A world with magic wielders = Larry Correia’s “Grimnoir” world.

In addition to being a great name for a genre, “Grimnoir” is a great concept for a genre. The story takes place in the early 1930s, about 80 years after powers emerged. At this point, about 1% of the population has powers. About 10%of these have enough power to be considered an “active.” The presence of magic during this period has changed world events, adding “alternate history” to the book’s mix of genres. In this world, the Titanic didn’t sink, Hitler was assassinated early in his political career, and Tesla’s Peace Ray ended the Great War.

PI Jake Sullivan has the stereotypical hardboiled attitude that comes with literary interpretations of his profession. He is an ex-con, as well as a military vet. But he is also an active, possessing the talent to make nearby objects light as a feather or as heavy as lead. So the government turns to Jake to take down a suspected killer who's been engaged in a magic-powered crime spree.

By the time Jake realizes that the girl behind the robberies is an old friend, he realizes that the G-Men have pulled him into a secret war between opposing groups of magic-users. And both groups have powerful powers on their side.

The novel presented these emerging powers as magic-based, although the source of those powers is not revealed. But as a comic book fan, I categorized these as “super-powers,” and that reading worked. The range of powers that Correia comes up with are interesting, and the uses that he finds for these powers is unpredictable.

There are at least two more novels in the series, and I anticipate checking out the next one. I like the world, I like most of the main characters, and want to see where the story is headed.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:
Grab your current read.
Open to a random page.
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

From Chapter 1 of The Warlord of Mars, a Barsoom novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

"The smoke from the burning temple had come then to blot out the tragedt, but my ears rang the single shriek as the knife fell. Then silence, and when the smoke had cleared, the revolving temple had shut off all sight or sound from the chamber in which the three beautiful women were imprisoned."

Saturday, March 26, 2016

This Week in Reading

Hard Magic, by Larry Correia, pages 313 – 385.
Rebuilt, by Michael White & Tom Corcoran, COMPLETED. Review here.
The Warlord of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, pages 63 – 82.

Bugs Bunny 115
Doc Savage Magazine 4 & 5
Legion of Super-Heroes 303
Secret Origins 32 & 33
The Shadow Strikes 1, 3 – 6
Underworld Unleashed tie-ins: Extreme Justice 11, Impulse 8

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Review of Rebuilt

Book #11. Rebuilt, by Michael White & Tom Corcoran. Paperback.

This is an excellent “how to” resource for pastors and church leaders. The authors are a Catholic parish priest and a lay leader who realized that their parish “wasn’t working.” This book is the story of how they turned around Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland.

White and Corcoran stepped out of the “Catholic bubble” to attend evangelical church-growth seminars. This led them to the works of Rick Warren and Bill Hybels. They even attended some successful mega-churches in their area to develop a blueprint for change that could work in their Catholic context. Some steps seemed simple, like making the church entrance more appealing and greeters more friendly.

Other changes were harder, and the authors are honest about their struggles, and about their failures. They spend a lot of time talking about their hiring strategy, including their mistake of filling positions too hastily as they were endeavoring to make changes. They also talk about the struggle of changing the entrenched culture of their own congregation.

The book explains how their process was rotted in Catholicism. The book certainly has quotes from Warren and Hybels and other evangelicals, but a number of Popes and other Catholic thinkers are also referenced. They also include ideas from management experts, such as Jim Collins and Seth Godin.

The mix of resources referenced in the book is a strength, as well as the authors’ transparency in discussing their experiences. No matter the organization, church or other, the principles presented in this book are worth considering.

Note: I heard of this book from Father Roderick, on a recent episode of his podcast The Break.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

This Week in Reading

Hard Magic, by Larry Correia, pages 215 – 313.
Rebuilt, by Michael White & Tom Corcoran, pages 151 – 223.
The Warlord of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, pages 30 – 63.

Birds of Prey 39
Constantine the Hellblazer 10
Doc Savage Magazine 1 – 3
Doctor Who: Eleventh Doctor 11 – 15
The Shadow 4 – 6, 8 – 10, 16
Starfire 10

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Review of At the Mountains of Madness

Book #10. At the Mountains of Madness, by H.P. Lovecraft. Unabridged audio.

Geologist William Dyer of Miskaotnic University led a group of academics on an expedition to Antarctica. The story is both his account of the team’s experiences, as well as his plea to stop another scientific expedition to the same area.

Dyer’s account includes finding ancient ruins bearing terrible secrets, in mountains taller than the Himalayas. During a time when the party is divided, the majority of the men and dogs left at the camp are slaughtered, while one has disappeared. Bodies are found nearby, as is evidence of dissection experiments.

Eventually, the group discovers the walls of an abandoned stone city, with what seems to be alien architecture. Interpreting hieroglyphs in comparison to myths from the Necronomicon, the builders of this ancient city are called “The Elder Things.” Their discoveries continue to point toward alien involvement in Earth’s development. The surviving members of the crew manage to escape, but one makes the tragic mistake of looking back to the mountains.

Lovecraft does a nice job of slowly building the tension. This is truly a story of “mounting terror,” as the group slowly discovers secrets that are increasingly disconcerting. The sense of dread escalates at regular intervals throughout the story.

It is hard to overstate the impact that this novel has had on succeeding generations of fiction. The Necronomicon and Elder Gods have become tropes of horror and RPG scenarios. And the argument can be made that the “Ancient Astronaut” theory – which some people believe to be true – began in this short novel.

The common style of storytelling has changed very much since the 1930s. Compared to modern works, this seems to move slowly. But in the right mindset, the languid pace actually adds to the sense of suspense.

Source: The Classic TalesPodcast. B.J. Harrison does an excellent job narrating the story.