There can be no doubt that Chuck Wendig has a way with words. He writes in a style which has an edge of grim reality, merging with that of the fantastic in such a way that feels entirely natural. As I've said before his books are always adult in nature and he pulls no punches in his depictions, although none of his writing ever feels gratuitous.
I read The Blue Blazes while stuck on a Motorway after work and when I say I read it, I read the whole book (and another afterwards) I was stuck that long. Reading the book made the experience of being trapped for hours in the sweltering heat of mid-summer not only bear-able but actually quite pleasant.
The book is set in modern day New York and follows Mookie Pearl, a big hulking bear of muscle who works for "The Organization" - a group who control the trade of a rare illegal substance known as Blue. Blue isn't just any old drug, it's a powerful powder mined from " Cerulean" that gives the user a trip so that they see "hallucinations" of strange creatures from the very pits of hell. Most arn't aware that these visions are in actual fact real, as are the creatures themselves. Creatures that have come up from deep tunnels in the ground. It's those very same tunnels that are used to mine Cerulean.
Mookie has issues, not least being a daughter who seems intent on sabotaging his business and possibly trying to have him killed. He hasn't even spoken to his ex-wife for years and his boss is dying of cancer. The later is the reason for his mission into those same deep dark tunnels under the streets on New York to find an elusive drug called Death's Head, which is rumoured to be able to fight off death itself.
The world-building is superb; there is a whole sub-terranian existance explored, from a town of the dead (known as Daisypusher) to the very fiery pits of hell itself (called the Ravenous Expanse). The creatures which inhabit these hidden places are suitably horrific and at times I was reminded of a more modern HP Lovecraft. There is that same sense of vast timelessness and scale and on occasion the sense of insignificance against such awesome creatures. The characters fit into this dark world quite wonderfully, each one damaged; flawed in a way that seems to be the authors hallmark. Here the author plays with you, sometimes encouraging you to like the characters while at other times clearly encouraging the opposite. The bad guys are suitably bad, but then so are the "good guys" too.
The pace is set just right, enough information given without disrupting the flow of the story combined with a plot that keeps the reader on their toes. Its a very clever book written by a talented author whose voice is as powerful as any other writing today. Wendig is one of those authors you can trust to deliver, I'd quite happily pick up any of his books certain in the knowledge that it will be fun, entertaining and mature.
A must read for any fan of dark urban fantasy.
Written on Tuesday 30th September 2014 by Antony.
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