Review: The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig (4.5/5)

A Rollicking, Riotous Rampage

The Blue Blazes is the most fun I have had in years.

I love Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series and love that it is more urban than fantasy. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find the same grit and edge amidst the fantastical elements of an underworld lying in wait below New York City.

I needn’t have worried.

All the trademark Wendigisms are there: damaged characters, broken relationships, settings that unsettle and some not-so-wee doses of the ultraviolence. Those fantasy aspects I was worried about? They amp everything way the hell up.

Did I mention the Joey HiFi cover?

As readers of my reviews know, I am a slobbering Joey HiFi fanboy and the cover for The Blue Blazes is perfect. Look at it. Linger on the details. Ponder the use and placement of blue.

Wanna read it now, dontcha?

Chuck Wendig gets another gorgeous Joey HiFi cover

Chuck Wendig lucks out with another gorgeous Joey HiFi Cover

Mobsters, Monsters, Mayhem and Mashups

I love books that make me feel. That make me feel like I did at some point in the past. Not “make me think of“, but “make me feel like.” Exactly how that happens is a mystery, but it happens in spades, fast and furious, in The Blue Blazes.

Somehow, Chuck Wendig taps in to long-forgotten memories and stacks that emotional charge on top of the dynamite already on the page. Big Ba Da Boom Ba Da Bang!

When I was a much younger Cheffo, I played Dungeons and Dragons. Most of the time, our campaigns were set in elaborate castles and dungeons and were pretty cool. There was this one guy, though, who always dragged us into his underworld adventures, replete with dark, claustrophobic passages and wide, wondrous caverns. There was an amazing tension and we never knew what would come next.

It was fun as hell and I felt that again reading The Blue Blazes.

Wendig’s all-girl roller-derby gang, The Get-Em Girls, are the 21st century offspring of The Lizzies and The Punks from Walter Hill’s The Warriors. In fact, the whole book reeks of Walter Hill and that feeling of being caught up in, and trying to survive, events beyond normal understanding and control. Oh shit, did I just read a Western? Heh.

And, then, there is Mookie.

Mookie. Fucking. Pearl.

Think John McClane meets The Incredible Hulk, with a side order of Mr. Hyde.

Just when you think things can’t get any more desperate and crazy, Mookie rages the Red (Red Rages is one of the narcotic Occulted Pigments found in the underworld, like the titualar Blue Blazes) and the resulting rampage calls forth the frenetic euphoria of blasting through the final levels of Doom, fueled by good French Roast and better Scotch (yeah, I was already grown up when Doom came out. Code Red is for kids. Get the hell off of my lawn!).

I end this post much as I ended reading The Blue Blazes: giddy, breathless and in awe of the way Wendig can crank up the intensity, crank it up some more and then crank it up even further before finally giving us our release.

Apparently, Chuck Wendig has a knob that goes to eleven.

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