REVIEW – The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

The most common and deeply rooted story in the human psyche (according to Joseph Campbell, at least) is the Hero’s Journey.  We’re familiar with Frodo Baggins, Anakin Skywalker, Jesus, Tony Stark in Iron Man.  Their stories resonate with us because they are timeless.  We feel a deep connection with them because their struggle parallels our own so closely.  But up until The Blue Blazes, I’ve never seen a hero that could be described as a Mountain of Meat with a butcher knife.

The Blue Blazes

I’m going to avoid major spoilers, but if you want to be completely fresh and unviolated, you should stop reading this review.

The Great Below is full of terrible things.  Things we mere humans can’t see with our eyes.  You need to Blaze (with Cerulean, one of the five occulted pigments).  When you do, you’ll see the hordes of goblins, the venomous serpents, and the dark things that cover you like a blanket and cut you deeper than any knife.  And then there are the things that come up from the Fathomless Tangle, or from deeper yet, the Ravenous Expanse.

Then there are people like Mookie Pearl.  The aforementioned Mountain of Meat.  He is a mortar, and the world is his pestle.  Things don’t last long when they get in his way.  He’s an enforcer for criminal organization that runs New York City.  He’s a gourmet of anything meat, he’s an artisan sausage maker in his spare time.  Everything about this guy is meat and muscle and brawn.  He’s not a quippy one-liner, nor is he a strategic mastermind.  His brain is really the only muscle that he doesn’t flex that much.  And he’s the only guy that can save us from what’s coming up from the Great Below.

If you’ve ever read a work by Chuck Wendig, this one will add to your certainty that he will never pull his punches.  This is a fun, violent, heroic book populated by interesting characters.  There are half-demonic / half-human people that live topside, among us.  There are criminal gangs, featuring the rockabilly roller-derby thugs called the Get-Em Girls.  There’s a subterranean city of the dead called Daisypusher.  There are horrible plans being thrown into motion by an ambitious family, and there are even more horrible twists to ruin everybody’s day.  And Mookie.  Poor Mookie.  In any other story, he’s the bad guy.  But you’ve gotta feel for him.  Betrayed by family and friends at every turn.  He’s trying his best, but everything in the whole world just wants to reduce him to nothing.  Will he make it out alright in the end?

I liked this book a lot.  I’m a fan of urban fantasy, especially when it doesn’t feel like I’m reading a fantasy book.  There aren’t any bearded pipe-smoking wizards or talking trees or any other tropes that would otherwise stick out and take me out of the story.  It just feels like this is how the world is, and I was taken on a great thrill ride.

You should go on this ride too.  Don’t look back.

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