Larry Correia’s “Monster Hunter Legion”: A Review

June 27, 2012

WARNING: This post contains spoilers of Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter Legion. Head over to Baen E-Books and buy the Advanced Reader Copy before reading.

No? Well, you’ve been warned.

First off, the beginning of the book was great. I loved the first seven or so chapters. Getting a perspective as to what all the characters do/behave like on their down time was great (Eat a lot, have fun, carry lots of exotic weapons. The list of all the guns the LVPD confiscated was hilarious.). Meeting international monster hunters was great. Lacoco and Pitt’s “reunion” was great. The description of the convention was great. The First Annual Monster Hunter Death-Dealing Marathon as everyone blasts out of Vegas on everything from crotch rockets to Lear Jets was great.

Pretty much everything about the first seven to ten chapters was great. I read all the sample chapters last night and then hyperventilated until I was able to buy the eARC this morning.

As much as I hate to say it, though, after I finished the book, I was disappointed. I’m too tired to be all fluent about why, so I’ll just lay it out. 

I) No resolution. This may be rather petty, and stemming primarily from a desire to hurry up and understand the MHI universe, but I found the prospect of having to wait for even more MHI books before the ultimate denoument (haven’t had to use THAT word in a while) a little frustrating. I mean, it’s been three years and four books (although Alpha was a bit of a detour. Still my fave book, though), already, and we’ve got at least three more to go.

Oh well. Good things come to those who wait, and I imagine that once I have a foot-high stack of Monster Hunter novels on my bookshelf next to my arthritis medicine it will all be worth it. ;)

II) Overdone. Again, this is all just my opinion, but Legion struck me as overdone, almost bordering on cartoonish at times. It was a feeling rather like at the end of Spellbound, where a rampaging demon the size of the Chrysler Building attacks DC. We have casinos being sucked off into . . . Heck, who knows where, dead people coming back, but not really, but kind of; and a dragon the size of an aircraft carrier flying through Las Vegas pursuing an impossibly maneuverable flying Russian tank.

It just didn’t work for me. I know the response to this will be “Dude, it’s monster fiction. Get over it,” but hear me out. The Monster Hunter series, and indeed all of Larry’s stuff (except the only-hinted-at “epic fantasy trilogy”) attempt to take place in our universe by being set in modern-day times with things around that actually exist (Las Vegas, Ford trucks, normal society, etc.). Thus, when something as astronomically impossible-sounding as a monstrous demon or all of Las Vegas being stomped on happens, it bends the rules way too far, in my opinion. This doesn’t bother me as much when a story doesn’t make any bones about trying to take place in our universe. For instance, if there are aircraft-carrier-sized dragons in the “epic fantasy trilogy” (which sounds awesome, I have to add), I probably wouldn’t bat an eye, but when an author tries to have them exist in the same world we do, it strikes me as difficult to get on board with.

III) Matryoshka Villains. Matryoshka are those little Russian stacking dolls. You know, you pop open one, there’s another, pop him open, there’s another, and on and on down to where you can barely see the doll on the inside. Larry’s villains are like this, in that there is never just The Bad Guy. There is always someone worse, always someone scarier, etc. You can see this in Dead Six where Big Eddie rants that he’s only doing something because someone even he’s scared of told him to. I find this frustrating, because it kills any sense of resolution. Matryoshka Villains show up in Legion in that Satan (or whoever the heck keeps having his mark scrawled everywhere) is even worse than the Old Ones, and then you’ve got the Others, the Old Ones themselves, Stricken and STFU . . . Oy. It just gets a little frustrating to have progressively worse villains continually pop out of the woodwork.

 This is a phenomena that shows up in a few of Larry’s books, and one that I don’t think is necessary to project a sense of how big and scary the villain is. What’s wrong with having the villain continually escape the protagonists before they eventually bring him down? (As opposed to having the protagonists beat the villain, then beat his boss, then beat his boss, and then beat HIS boss, etc.) 

Well. That was pretty much a novel, and probably WAY too long for a blog post. All that said, though, I still love the Monster Hunter series. The action is well-written, the exotic guns are great, and the characters and dialogue drag you like you wouldn’t believe. I wouldn’t go anywhere else for great monster-punching action, but it does sometimes leave a bit to be desired.

The Grimnoir Chronicles: Hard Magic – A Review

May 4, 2011

For those of you who don’t know it, I’m a very big fan of Larry Correia‘s books. And the purpose of me writing this review is to explain why I was so incredibly impressed on finishing his most recent one, The Grimnoir Chronicles: Hard Magic, from Baen Books.

I will try in this review to avoid spoilers as to happenings in the book. This will unfortunately result in me not being able to titter like a schoolgirl over which parts in the book I found particularly awesome, but hopefully will force me to look a little deeper into why (behind the guns and the explosions and the magic powers and the ninjas and the dirigibles and the Tommy Guns. . .) Hard Magic is such a fantastic work.

Here’s why: Correia is not lazy. There are no copouts in Hard Magic.

Bear with me now. There are several reasons for me saying this. The first is the characters, namely the evil ones. All of the bad guys Correia writes are very well-done, but the Chairman (the main antagonist in Hard Magic) is nothing short of incredible. All of Correia’s bad guys are certainly evil, and the Chairman (the main antagonist in Hard Magic) perhaps most of all, but he is also a very complicated character. Unlike most antagonists in fiction, the Chairman is not driven by cruelty, hatred, or even a lust for power. He is not out to accumulate material wealth, get revenge, or right some past wrong.

On the contrary, the Chairman displays what is becoming a uniquely “Correian” characteristic in bad guys: He does not consider himself evil or simply not care about the results of his actions. On the contrary, he views himself as the world’s savior. He knows what Evil is coming, and is trying his level best to prepare humanity and the world for the coming storm. Certainly, a few will be killed, a few lives destroyed, a few tortured almost to insanity, but in the grand scheme of things (in the Chairman’s reasoning), this is the cost of saving the world. One could almost make the argument, therefore, that those in Hard Magic who battle the Chairman are destroying the world’s only hope of salvation by valuing the lives of the few harmed by the Chairman’s actions as more valuable than humanity as a whole.

The second opportunity for a copout is in the explanations. For instance, in Hard Magic‘s world, there is (suprisingly enough) magic. Many fantasy/science-fiction authors have magic in their books, but choose not to develop explanations for how the magic is there, why it is there, how it works, etc. Instead, they choose to devote their time to other things in the story.

Now, this is not in and of itself a bad thing. Perhaps it is acceptable for explanations for the unnatural in a story to be sacrificed in order to construct a marvelously complicated character, for instance. And having great characters may just make up for not not having good explanations for things. However, many authors simply don’t seem to care enough about providing explanations for the unnatural,  and it is my opinion that this is nothing more than literary laziness. Too many authors, in my opinion, set up fantastic concepts in their fiction (magic, superpowers, unbelievable technology, etc.) and never devote even a paragraph to explaining how it’s possible for these to work, even in the fictional universe they have created.

To a detail-oriented person like me, this is pure torture. Thankfully, Correia never falls into that trap in his works, and in Hard Magic least of all. When I finished Hard Magic a few hours ago (after buying it mere hours after my local Books-a-Million got it on the shelves and reading it until 12:30 this morning), my head was whirling, trying to understand Correia’s immense explanations for the overarching concepts in the book.  I don’t understand them completely as of now, so I know that I will be able to immediately begin re-reading it in an effort to do so. It is the rare book that can be immediately and enjoyably re-read upon completion. 

In the vein of explanations, it is the even rarer book that treads the perfect line with them. If an author fills his book with incredibly complex explanations for  absolutely everything, the reader is likely to toss the book back onto the table in frustration and go find something else to do. If there are no explanations whatsoever, a reader like me is likely to finish the book, but be left feeling shorthanded (and therefore, not too likely to read the author again). Correia avoids both these extremes, however, and Hard Magic‘s explanations fall perfectly between them. You will be left with your brain spinning, yes, but with a passionate desire to understand, as a good deal of the story hinges on how well you understand certain concepts Correia presents.

The final, perhaps less weighty, thing in Hard Magic that demonstrates Correia’s attempt to avoid literary copouts is in the battles. Many(probably all, actually) fantasy books feature a climactic  battle, in which good triumphs over evil, the sun rises again, and rainbows and ponies emerge. A climactic battle and a happy ending are highly necessary to a good book, I believe, but too many authors don’t seem to devote much energy to writing their battles.

For examples of this, think back over the last few fantasy/sci-fi novels you read. How many climactic battles in theses books feature the underdog killing some superbeing just because he got really really mad and somehow that granted him a ton of extra skill (As if the demon/monster/what have you that he was battling hadn’t fought angry people before . . .)? Or how many of these books had reinforcements exploding out of the background in just the nick of time to obliterate all the evil?

Probably more than a few, I bet. Correia doesn’t do that, though. I can’t fully explain this without spoiling everything, but the inevitable good ending is assured by tiny, minute, seemingly completely unrelated actions that occurred towards the beginning of Hard Magic. Actions that you would not even dream were in any way related to the ending, or even to aiding the protagonists at all!

All these things appear to demonstrate one thing: Larry Correia is committed to filling the cracks. He writes his stories with a refreshing depth that so many authors seem to lack, providing the reader with mind-boggling puzzles, characters with complex motivations, excellent antagonists (that one periodically struggles to believe are evil at all!), believable battles, and equally believable, happy endings that you didn’t exactly see coming.

Go buy Hard Magic. You will not regret it.

Ways Obama Has Bungled “The Libya Thing” So Far

April 9, 2011

Wow, it has been a long time since I’ve posted anything here! I suppose a good reason for this is that I only blog when 1) I have free time and 2) Something has infuriated/interested me.

“The Libya Thing” (Hereafter referred to as TLT) has done both. Specifically, the way our President has handled it has both fascinated and infuriated me. Seriously, is it possible for anyone to screw up in so many ways in just one thing? So, let’s take a look at how I believe Obama has bungled TLT so far:

1) No good reason for going in in the first place. During his speech on TLT, Obama said the following: “To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and – more profoundly – our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.” Peachy. However, did he ever think that it is not exactly America’s responsibility to solve everyone’s problems. We are not (or at least should not be) the world’s spiffy Globo-Robo-Cop. The world is a lousy place, Mr. President. Trying to solve every little problem that arises will get you nowhere. Also, the President’s responsibility is to American citizens. He has no obligation to Libya’s citizens or anyone else’s.

2) No clear objective. When Bush went into the Middle East during both Gulf Wars, he had a clear set of priorities, which I won’t post here in interest of space. The decision was made to leave the conflicts when Bush and his advisors went over that list and determined that all of the pre-set priorities had been reached. Obama has no exit strategy; he’s just committed the military with no idea of when to get them out.

3) Ignoring historical precedent. What happened the last time we helped out some rebels? Remember the mujahideen? They were our buddies against the Soviets. That didn’t turn around and bite us at all, did it? That was sarcasm, for those of you that didn’t catch it. Seriously, though, Exhibit A: South Tower. Exhibit B: South Tower. Helping out rebels is almost always a bad idea; they could turn on you as soon as they’re in power.

4) Failing to adequately consult Congress . . . but talking to the UN and NATO plenty. Obama consulted with the UN Security Council and NATO extensively before beginning TLT. However, he never once consulted Congress; he didn’t seek their approval or their opinion. My cow, even BUSH did that! In reality, Obama consulted Congress three days after he had made his decision to commit troops to Libya. And even then, he told them less than two hours before bombing was scheduled to begin. Why bother consulting them at all? Less than two hours before bombing was scheduled to begin the jets doing the work would have already taken off, rejoined, hit the tanker, and been on their way in. The decision was beyond made at that point, and informing Congress was pointless. If Bush had pulled something like this, calling it serious congressional consultation, raging Senators would have called for impeachment hearings. Seriously, though, what did you expect from someone who calls himself a “Citizen of the World“?  Obama clearly shows here that he values international organizations as more worth his time than the United States Congress.

5) Damaged American credibility. Obama said that Gadhafi needed to step down . . . and then proceeded to make a few half-hearted steps to try and make him do so. Nice work, Mr. President. Like Karl Rove put it, “When an American president says someone should go, they really must. If they stay, America’s credibility is undermined and adversaries are emboldened.” This is exactly the case. The last time we said a dictator needed to step down, we destroyed his entire military and then dragged him out of his rat hole and handed him over to his people, who hung him. With Obama, we say a dictator needs to step down, and then drop a couple bombs. He cannot even do things all the way . . . even when he is doing something he is convinced is justified (Like TLT), he cannot bring himself to go all the way.

6) Outright lies to Americans. Obama said he and his administration took “a series of swift steps in a matter of days.” False. He sat on his hands and did nothing for two weeks. He also claimed “At my directive, America led an an effort” to “create a no-fly zone.” Also false. The major push for this came from French, the Arab League, and the British. Obama also said that this mission will be transitioned to NATO, to give the impression that it will not be our problem, but that of an international body. This impression is untrue. WE provide most of, if not all of, the muscle in NATO; we founded it, for Pete’s sake. Also, who commands NATO? Four-star Admiral James G. Stavridis . . . An American. In other words, the responsibility for TLT was just transferred from Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Admiral Stavridis.

Is that enough for you? Gosh, our President ticks me off . . . I think I’ll quit my (lousy) job and start volunteering full-time for whoever’s running against him.

Some Inconsistent Logic In the Pro-Gun Mindset

September 17, 2010

No, I have not lost my mind. Honest.

Many people who support gun ownership and the second amendment (commonly referred to as “those who are not batcrap insane”), say they support the 2A exactly as it is written. “No infringements!” is their battle cry, as is “This means that none of the restrictions on gun ownership are constitutional!”

Catch that?

Many pro gun folks are in favor of taking away the regulations on gun ownership, which on the surface seems good and constitutional. However, it just wouldn’t stack up in reality. Observe:

Person A: “So, you want the government to stop regulating gun ownership, right?”

Person B: “Yep!”

Person A: “These regulations are bad?”

Person B: “Yes. Regulating firearm ownership is unconstitutional.”

Person A: “So we should allow convicted felons to purchase guns?”

Person B: “Umm . . .”

Person A: “And those who have restraining orders against them?”

Person B: “Uhh . . .”

Person A: “And minors? And illegal aliens? And those who are addicted to drugs? And those who are on day leave from mental institutions?”

Person B: “Err . . . ”

If anything, one of the best quotes I can think of concerning gun regulations is this:

“Given the unquestionable threat to public safety that unrestricted private firearm possession would entail, various categories of firearm-related regulation are permitted by the 2nd Amendment.” ~Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement

I believe this is correct. SOME (keyword: some) regulations on firearms are necessary in today’s world. These regulations should be few, sparing, and far between, but some regulations are necessary. (I’ll add in a disclaimer here . . . there is absolutely nothing Clement said in the article I linked to that I agree with, other than the quote included in this post. Everything else dear old Paul said is complete bunk.)

There are, of course, those that disagree with me. Take this guy, for instance. Scroll down to 1-14-08. Despite the fact that George is normally a super-sharp guy, very smart and on the ball, he plainly says that “The 2nd A doesn’t permit any regulation. It says in language that is not even questionable, “… shall not be infringed.” Regulation is Infringement.”

A lot of people think this, but it’s my opinion that they should give their position a little more thought. While regulations on guns can be annoying and invasive (and usually are), regulations also keep felons, minors, and druggies from legally buying guns like law-abiding citizens.

Here, many of you are probably thinking that regulations on gun ownership hardly stop criminals from getting guns. Indeed, you’re correct. So, you might say, let’s get rid of those regulations. Criminals get their hands on guns despite the existence of the regulations.

However, it is my opinion that using that argument to call for abolishing gun regulations is like saying “Well, rape is illegal now. Still, people rape each other a lot anyway . . . Ah, heck with it, let’s just make rape legal.”

If we destroyed all the federal regulations on guns tomorrow, you might be standing in line at Cabela’s behind a convicted murderer who is carrying three AR15s and a shotgun. Behind you, there might be a kid toting a brand-new Glock, desperate for his next hit off a crackpipe.

And I ask you, does that sound safe at all?

“Hollywood With a Touch of Twang” – The Death of Country Music

August 19, 2010

This article will be a bit of a departure from what I normally write about (politics and other things that matter), but I feel I need a break. At any rate, this has been nagging me for quite a while.

Country music had its proud roots in the 1920s and ’30s. It gained popularity from the ’40s to the ’70s, and has remained a part of American life, particularly in the South since then. Now, however, country music is dying a slow death.  It is moving slowly but steadily and ominously away from the dock of twanging steel guitars and fiddles into the dark and diverse sea of pop music and rock ‘n’ roll. 

It is my opinion that country music is now all but in its death throes, disfigured by slowly changing opinions of increasingly careless people. Nowadays, aspiring singers seem to think that all they need to do to be a country singer and, therefore, sing country music, is cultivate a Southern accent, pull on cowboy boots, and don a battered hat. As this new “country music” gains popularity, more and more will flock to get a slice of the pie, burying old, proud country music even further underneath glitter and electric guitars.

However, few of these budding stars or starlets, or even those that are old hands at the music game, seem to care much for the roots of country music and what made it so unique in the first place. As I said before, what passes for country music now is more light rock or pop than country. At times, it seems the only requirement for a country band is that someone in the band play a fiddle. How else do you get away with calling the music of a band like Emerson Drive country music? (And yes . . . every band I reference I have personally heard on “country” radio stations).

I can’t deny that this irritates me (“No, really?” you say, “You’ve only tried to make country music sound like Macbeth II for the last five minutes.”) I can’t deny that I grimace when I hear one of Big & Rich‘s admittedly awesome guitar solos and realize someone somewhere considers this country music. I flinch whenever I hear the latest Rascal Flatts hit and realize they sound like the next .38 Special or Lynyrd Skynryd. Is all country music turning into southern rock?

No. Of course not. It’s far too busy turning into pop music too. Take Taylor Swift, who, while by anyone’s definition is quite talented and rather gorgeous, has the gall to call what she sings country! Don’t you tell me that’s country . . . compare it to this here-yesterday-soon-to-be-adios pop princess: Demi Lovato. Not much difference, is there?

More examples? You want more examples that county music is going to the dogs (or at least to pop and rock ‘n’ roll)? Alrighty then: Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, Kellie Pickler, Miranda Lambert, and the list goes on.

But so what? Why does all of this matter?

It doesn’t really. The arts, of which music is of course one, have always changed and evolved, and old stick-in-the-muds like me are always around to complain bitterly at each stroke of the evolutionary brush. It’s just what we do. 😉

For the steel guitars no longer cry
And the fiddles barely play
But drums and rock ‘n’ roll guitars
Are mixed up in your face
Ol’ Hank wouldn’t have a chance
On today’s radio
Since they committed murder
Down on music row

– George Strait, “Murder on Music Row”

Should a mosque be built near Ground Zero?

August 3, 2010

Perhaps a more accurate title for this article would be “Should a mosque be ALLOWED to be built near Ground Zero” . . . I certainly don’t endorse any branch of government building a religious center of any kind.

At any rate, in NYC, mere miles from where the Twin Towers were destroyed, Muslim leaders are planning build something called the Cordoba House, a 13 story Islamic community and prayer center. Basically, it’s a mosque. As you can imagine, this announcment has caused explosions of emotion all over the country, running the gamut from indifference to joy to absolute fury. I’d like to give you my take on the whole situation.

As usual, I will state my opinion first, and then explain it: This mosque should be allowed to be built, and here’s why.

Quite simply, there are no exceptions to the First Amendment. The government is simply not allowed to “prohibit the free exercise [of religion].” It is not allowed to deny any religion the right to worship, and that certainly extends to building a house of worship. It’s pretty open-and-shut. The government does not have the authority to stop this mosque being built.

Now, the arguments against it. Since this situation is addressed so clearly in the Constitution, none of the arguments against it are based in any sort fact; rather, they are based on emotion. Take Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker who has loudly attempted to stop this mosque’s construction. He has made the absurd claim that this mosque should not be built until Saudi Arabia permits Christian churches.

Right . . . right. Let me see if I understand this. We should suspend the First Amendment until Saudi Arabia adopts something like it themselves? This argument is so ridiculous it actually hurts my brain to try and understand it.

And Gingrich isn’t the only one! Let’s look at Palin, who (despite being totally awesome and would have my vote if she ran for Prez) has a slight propensity for saying boneheaded things (Let’s be fair, though . . . what politician doesn’t?). She said it would be “An intolerable and tragic mistake [to build a mosque] on hallowed ground.” Like Gingrich, she uses emotion to push her point: the government should stop this construction of a religious building.

And THAT, my friends . . . is a very dangerous road to start down.

Well . . .

July 5, 2010

If you’ve been reading my blog recently (and thanks if you have), you’ve probably noticed that I have posted virtually nothing of substance for a while. You have my most sincere apologies for that; I despise not being able to post.

Now, excuses time: I was laid off a little while ago, and have been scrambling recently with several part-time jobs and prearranged summer activities (visits to relatives, etc.). This has left me busy and exhausted, neither of which are conducive to good blogging.

This is likely to change sometime towards the end of the month, and I will strive to post more after that. Thanks for hanging in there, to those of you that have!