The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Before I begin, first the disclaimer. I don't know if this review would spoil anything for you people looking to read this book, but think of this as a warning just in case something comes up you don't want see.
I'm going to confess my undying love here. I love this man's work. LOVE with caps and italics, even in my voice. I hardly get excited over things that are released: movies, television, video games, and most books. But when Wendig announces that he has a new book hitting shelves in a couple of weeks (and he releases a lot of them) my reaction is often, "Now! Give it to me! I fling my cash at you! I demand you move faster, Time! No wonder people say you're old." My enthusiasm could even drown out the enthusiasm of my SuperWhoLock friends, and those fangirls smack you in the face with their fandom. (But I usually play it down. Being that devoted to people you don't even know is weird. Especially when you have their faces plastered all over the wall, digital and real.)
That said, I'm not afraid to point out the flaws of things I love. I see no point in being unrealistic if it still isn't going to change how you feel about something. This is where I admit that there isn't one thing I didn't love about Blue Blazes. It's very hard to find urban fantasy these days that isn't strong chick falls in love with vampire/werewolf/monster/human-male-with-personality-disorder. Face it, you know I'm right. It's like trying to shake a stick and not hit a bra or panties in a lingerie store. After reading books by genre-benders like Wendig and Lawrence (who I also worship by gushing over his books and recommending them often) I'm always looking for more.
Mookie Pearl is a thug for the Organization. They keep everything in line between the gangs and anything that wanders up from the Great Below, especially when it comes to Cerulean. Cerulean, most commonly known as Blue Blazes, is a drug created from veins found in the Underworld. It lets you see the true nature of the creepy-crawlies, makes you faster, stronger, and can lead to addiction like all substances. Mookie is a Blazer because he has to be. He needs to see these other things so he can crack their skulls. That's his job. Then his daughter Nora, whom he is not on good terms with, tells him that his Boss has cancer. And naturally, everything starts to spiral down.
Wendig does something not seen in his other novels, he world builds. He has made his own type of hell, and doesn't just borrow from other lore. It certainly influenced him, but this is all him. The most distinct thing is that there are three pigments: Blue Blazes, Red Rage, Golden Gate, Green Grave, and Violet Void. Blue is common, it does as described. Red is Hulking Out, going Super Saiyan. Muscles bulge like you're some roid-raging freak and anger takes over. Yellow takes you to the very heart of the Great Below. Green we never see. And Purple, well, let me just say that I don't want to spoil it.
Then there are the different layers of the Great Below. The first level is the Shallows. It's the more accessible part. It's where the town of the dead, Daisypusher, is located. (I recommend reading Bait Dog and his Miriam Black books so you can spot the easter eggs.) After the Shallows is the Tangle, a place of twisting catacombs where anyone can get lost. At the bottom of it all is the Expanse. Worm-like gods wallow in perpetual hunger in the Expanse. They're just the right amount of unsettling to make them ominous. I loved it.
Mookie himself is a great rounded out character. He's the loyal lug-head, but you don't want to get on his bad side. Scarred head to toe both inside and outside, he'll do anything for people he loves and anything to people who screw him over. Mookie is solid and predictable in the way you want your character to be. You know he'll fight tooth and nail, even if he looses in the end. Giving up isn't in his DNA.
And that brings me to his daughter, Nora. Nora still harbors teenage vitriol towards daddy for not being around. While she's mostly hot air, we know she's not afraid to put a bullet in someone if she so desires. Nora guards her hurt close, like her father, making them more alike than just as people I wouldn't want to wrong. Oh, and she's written just as well.
And then there's Skelly. She's a tough as nails former derby girl turned gang leader. I loved her character development. There was something refreshing about it. You don't see many tough chicks, a urban fantasy staple, question the image they give to people. What Skelly goes through makes her discover what she's made of and not made of. I want to see more of her.
Face it, Wendig can write a female character. He can write just about any character really. They all come out well done with their own distinctions. Even his side characters. Hell, even his made up gangs all have personality just in their descriptions. (The Get-Em Girls rock my socks.) Every part of Wendig's little world in Blue Blazes has a well finished touch, and I know we're going to be seeing more of it in the future.
Sorry if I did nothing but gush again, but what can you do when faced with good writing?
View all my reviews