I still prefer to read books with my eyes, not my ears. Hence why I don’t review a lot of audio works. That being said, when Audible approached me about reviewing something from their catalog, I thought “Murder on the Orient Elite: A Tale of the Grimnoir Chronicles” by Larry Correia looked intriguing. It is a short story set after the events of Correia’s Grimnoir Chronicles series, which is set in a timeline where magic has existed since the mid-19th century. Deciding to temporarily forget my hang-ups about audiobooks, I downloaded a copy to listen to on my morning commute.
“Murder on the Orient Elite” is set in 1937 after the events of the first three novels in the Grimnoir Chronicles. Protagonist Jake Sullivan is tracking down some bandits in Morocco when sometime friend Dr. Wells asks him for a favor. His luxury airship, the Orient Elite, is on its maiden voyage and Dr. Wells believes someone is trying to sabotage the vessel. Sullivan takes up Dr. Wells on his offer and discovers the ship infested with unfriendly Japanese, German and Soviet agents. Still the evidence points to someone trying to sabotage the ship, so Sullivan decides the best way to flush out the baddies is to do a little sabotage himself.
First off, I should compliment Bronson Pinchot for his narration. He was able to differentiate voices skillfully, although it probably helped that most of the characters were males and there were only a handful of them that he had to worry about. Sorry if that sounded like a back-handed compliment, but I really did think he did a great job. As for the story, it is a fine adventure/mystery tale. Jake’s a very likable character and the magical system has an internal consistency that made it believable. To be honest, I thought this was a steampunk book at first, but the setting and technology mentioned put this squarely in the dieselpunk genre (even with the aforementioned magic), a sub-genre of science fiction I would like to read more of myself.
“Murder on the Orient Elite” does have its issues. It does not quite stand on its own as a story. Since it features the main character of the last three novels, you get a pretty big spoiler for the series right off the bat. There are also references to characters from the novels with few details about who they are and why they are important to Jake. Fans of the Grimnoir Chronicles won’t have any issues, but noobs like me will be lost. Meanwhile, alternate historians might find the timeline to be uninspired. Despite magic existing since the mid-19th century, history really hasn’t changed all that much (there are tiny changes like the 10th anniversary voyage of the Titanic, but otherwise history played out a lot like we know it). Of course, if you expected a hard alternate history in a series where someone can magically manipulate gravity, then you really need to look harder for your entertainment.
Despite those issues above, “Murder on the Orient Elite” did accomplish one thing: it made me want to read more about the Grimnoir Chronicles. Yeah the series’ ending may have been spoiled, but that happens all the time (spoiler alert: Tom Hanks made it back to Earth in Apollo 13). It helped pass the time on a boring commute and for that I will be forever thankful. Final thought: did it make me more interested in audiobooks? Not exactly, but I think I will withhold my final judgement until I get a chance to listen to a novel length work again.