I’ve finished two books in the last few days. Warbound, the conclusion to Larry Correia’s Grimnoir trilogy, and Outcasts and Gods, the kickoff to Pam Uphoff’s Wine of the Gods series (which I see is several books long. yay!). I’m going to do a read-through of the whole of the Grimnoir books for a story dissection just as soon as I find the first two.
If you haven’t read Larry’s work yet, you’re wrong. No, don’t protest. For your own good, that of humanity, and of the universe in general, get them and read them. Don’t talk to me until you have. You obviously drown kittens for fun.
Where was I? Oh, yes: Grimnoir. Hard Magic, Spellbound and Warbound. This is prime superhero diesel-punk set in an alternate 1930’s. An Imperial Japan is ascendent, and the US can barely seem to manage itself (as usual). Sometime in the previous century, individuals across the face of the planet developed magical abilities of various kinds. Some people move objects with their minds. Some heal others by an effort of will. Some can make their skin tough as stone, while still others can fade through solid matter. Some can even blink out of existence in one place and back into it in another.
This has given rise to a bit of chaos.
Those with passive abilities are feared, those with active abilities are often hated. Some nations round up their magical citizens and confine them to camps. Some round them up and train, or alternatively experiment, on them. Some take a little more hands-off approach, though everyone can feel the winds of change blowing.
Heavy Jake Sullivan, Active Magical, hero of the Great War, ex-convict and J. Edgar Hoover’s personal bulldog gets caught up in international machinations between the elite of the world. Airship battles, Tesla weapons, intrigue, daring-do and good old two-fisted adventure abound as Jake takes on the weight of the world. But he’s a Heavy, so he’s used to carrying massive burdens.
Warbound is the last of the trilogy, and wraps up the story started in Hard Magic. That’s all I’m going to give you, as anything more would be full of spoilers. Suffice to say that the read-through and dissection I’ll be doing is because, of all the writers I read right now, I most want to write like Larry. Though I need to get Under A Graveyard Sky. A lot.
Pam Uphoff’s Outcasts and Gods is purely good science fiction. A mess (in so many good ways) of genetically engineered children are taken from their parents, as they’ve been legally deemed “non-human” or “partial human.” The trouble is that these children, the outcasts and gods of the title – ranging from 12 to nearly 18 – have genomes engineered for superhuman capabilities. Nothing on the level of Larry’s Grimnoir books. At least to start with. As they mature, the young telies (telepathic-telekinetic) develop the skills to mess with high-energy states, reach through dimensional membranes and ultimately travel to parallel Earths. And then things get really fun.
Outcasts and Gods reminded me of several different kinds of books. There’s national and international intrigue. There’s interpersonal drama, SF of a psionic bent and some decent adventure. Shades of Heinlein. The pacing felt slow, but I think that was mostly in contrast to Larry’s unapologetically pulp adventures, where the character barely have time to catch a breath. Outcasts may have felt slow, but it was consistent, and very solid. The pacing is an artifact of the timeline, which stretches over at least a few years, and across dimensions.
I’m hesitant to call Outcasts hard science fiction, but that’s really what it feels like. The science is all plausible, given the basic tenet that energy manipulation can be engineered into the human genome. (Of course, I say that as a layman. YMMV) The plot revolves around it, and how society more-or-less fails to deal well with children that are deemed “unnatural.”
In terms of critique, there’s a great deal of “action” that happens off-camera. The national politics have a great deal of significance for the gods, but we’re not given the political players as perspective characters or treated to a ring-side view of the actual proceedings. Said proceedings are often rather dull, anyway, and I agree with Pam’s decision to limit our knowledge (mostly) to that of the telies’.
One minor nitpick: there’s a portion of the book wherein one major character has enlisted in the army. The mission-related aspects of his military experiences felt off. The character to character relationships between him and his squad-mates were spot-on, but the relationships up the chain of command felt a little odd. This may be a result of differences in timing (set a century into the future, I imagine the Army should be a little different) and in lack of camera time to show those particular relationships. This is not military science fiction, though Pam borrows some things from milfic (self-avowed Baened books reader that she is) and consequently, I’m being nitpicky. As I said.
So, with that minor critique, I very much enjoyed Outcasts and Gods, and I’m very much looking forward to picking up copies of the rest of the Wine of the Gods series. Especially with the flashes of foreshadowing (precog abilities are just cheating!) given right at the end. Like, seriously, no denouement. I was disappoint. I don’t throw tablets, because fragile, but I felt like it. Stupid budget. Need moar book naow.