THE BLUE BLAZES by Chuck Wendig

Angry Robot
Pub date: May 23rd, 2013

Chuck Wendig never does anything half way. Whether it’s his nonfiction library of books on writing, or the cult of personality that he’s built on Twitter, Wendig and his creations are literary forces that can’t be ignored.
It’s no secret that for the last few years I’ve been building my To-Be-Read pile based on my Twitter feed. That’s the magic of being a reader in the age of social media: being able to support the authors that you interact with daily. And when you finally get the book in your hand, it feels like you played a small part in its success. That’s right, IT FEELS GOOD TO GO OUT AND BUY THE BOOK. Support the creators that you enjoy. It’s like voting with your dollar.

Having been completely knocked on my ass with BLACKBIRDS and MOCKINGBIRD, I was chomping at the bit for BLUE BLAZES. What I found was more than I expected. And that turned out to be OK. With BLAZES, Wendig spends a good portion of the novel fleshing out his version of Manhattan. Who is our hero Mookie Pearl? How did this expert miner end up with the criminal outfit, Organization, and what is their connection to the Underworld that exists below the streets? And why does his daughter Nora hate him so much? Why does she want to kill him?

Showing wonderful restraint, Wendig spends the right amount of time explaining how his version of New York City works, letting the reader know the rules for his ambitious urban drama. Sure, there are daemons conspiring to bring twisted Elder Gods to the surface of New York, and undead smartass burn victims driving four-wheelers at lunatic speeds through the caverns of the Underworld, but the real story here is the drama and tensions that have grown between Mookie and Nora, estranged father and daughter.

THE BLUE BLAZES is a fantastic read. It works not only because of the emotional weight between father and daughter, but (here’s the stickler for me) also because Wendig spends the time to explain to the reader how his supernatural elements work. This is the stuff that I get to geek out over. How many Underworlds are there? What was the fate of the last person to attempt to explore the depths? And goblins lay eggs?! ICK. (But so cool…)
All the little details are explained because Wendig knows the details matter. The New York in the pages of THE BLUE BLAZES is fleshed out and real.

So what was I expecting? With Miriam Black’s adventures in BLACKBIRDS and MOCKINGBIRD, she IS her universe. The world revolves around her, and she pummels through it at lightning speed. Swearing and causing wonderful havoc wherever she goes. But with Mookie Pearl here in THE BLUE BLAZES, the big lug is more a silent engine of destruction. He doesn’t speak unless he has to, preferring to be left alone to eat fine meats and sausages, or bash skulls if he must. Mookie is reacting to the plot that springs up around him and this is what allows Wendig to craft the rest of his epic.

I would be remiss if I didn’t spill a little electronic ink to sing the praises of the good folks at Angry Robot Books. They are quickly becoming one of my favorite publishers. With a wonderfully diverse line, their books always stand out on the shelf. The cover art for THE BLUE BLAZES was done by previous Wendig collaborator, Joey HiFi. Done up in blues and whites, the book jumps off the shelf.

Dan Malmon