Review: The Blue Blazes / Author: Chuck Wendig / Publisher: Angry Robot / Release Date: Out Now
Mookie Pearl isn’t as sweet as his name might suggest. He’s a thug enforcer for the Organisation, a brute of a man who has left his wife and daughter behind in favour of his gangster life. Yet New York has more than a criminal underworld; below the city lurk goblins, snake-like Naga, ghosts, and vile dark gods that are stirring in their pits, waiting for release.
Only by taking a blue powder can a normal human see where these creatures have infiltrated our world, and it’s Mookie’s job to find them and stop them doing harm to his employers. Add to that the fact that his daughter has returned into his life, this time in opposition to the Organisation, and Mookie’s clearly a man with his hands full – especially as one of them wields a meat cleaver. All this adds up to something which, in the wrong hands, could have been a mess, a brainless hack-and-slash trip through a sinister city. Instead, we have something akin to the Die Hard of urban fantasy; one man against everything, protecting those he holds dear.
Keeping company with Mookie isn’t the easiest of journeys – it’s violent, brutal and full of foul language – but it’s a good one. Wendig’s a writer who grabs hold of the reader as if to strike a blow, but instead an arm slips around the shoulder and leads us deep into his fiction; we’re there, right in the thick of it, thanks to his superb present-tense narrative, but we can do nothing to alter events. To say he’s economic with words would be an understatement, but this means that every one matters and while his terse, often abrupt, style may not suit all tastes, it does guarantee a relentless ride through Pearl’s worlds.
For something so fantastical, The Blue Blazes is remarkably believable. The characters who populate the novel feel real, their motivations and actions understandable and relevant. To call this ‘hard-boiled’ would be an understatement; the dialogue is sharp, the stakes are high and, because we are so involved in the story, most twists come as a complete surprise, even though on later reflection they seem obvious. Rounded off with an emotional finale, The Blue Blazes is a serious contender for book of the year.