Welcome to Hey, You, Read This, my new weekly, book review column.
And what better book to start off this column then with the insane, twisted, wonderful book The Blues Blazes by the captain of penmonkeys, the wise wizard of word-slinging, Mr. Chuck Wendig!
Chuck, writer of the novels Blackbirds, Mockingbird, Dinocaplypse Now, Double Dead, with many before and forthcoming, (because he is surely a writing robot who has learned to love humanity), is best known for his hard and fast writing: it hits like a double shot of whiskey and espresso, speeds along like a Deleorean pushing 88mph, and burns like a . . . like a something on fire. (Shut up).
Chuck has a writing voice all his own: it is sincere but uncompromising, exotic but familiar, and even at its most absurd, will still pull your heart strings with its honesty.
And in a story about a man who loves his delicate meats like he loves crushing goblin skulls, who’s built like a brick shithouse with a heart of tarnished gold, that’s what is important: the emotional resonance.
Mookie the Meatman. Mookie the Mook. Mookie Pearl. Kneebreaker, Blue Blazer, Meat connoisseur. Working for the Organization, he keeps the Underworld in line, human and gobbo alike. Chuck has always been interested in broken people and seeing how they build themselves back up, (or tear themselves back down). And while you may find some echo of Miriam Black’s crass badittude in Mookie, that’s where it ends. Mookie is a boulder of a man, keeping a tight lid on anything that isn’t rage or intimidation or gruff humor. He’s a tired man, on the edge, and it’s his wayward daughter, Nora, looking to take down the Organization that will finally push him over the edge. Chuck does a beautiful job of breaking down Mookie over the course of the novel, showing just enough to let us know what drove this once successful young Sandhog, down the dark path he walks now.
Just as he does with Mookie, Chuck explores the heart and soul of his spurned daughter, and little by little, we learn what makes her tick. By the end, there relationship and the end of the world are threaded together tightly, and the payoff is bittersweet and wonderful. And while all of the characters sing in this book, it is especially the relationship between Mookie and Nora that drives the story and will keep you turning the page.
Well that, and Burnsey. And the mystical drugs. And Skelly, badass rollerblading gang leader. And-and-and MONSTERSANDMAGICANDEXPLOSIONSAND –. . . ahem, well, you’ll see.
As always, Wendig’s worldbuilding is top notch. Playing with various concepts of the Underworld, Wendig lets his dangerous imagination run wild across The Blue Blazes. Gobbos, Snakefaces, Half and Halfs, The Five Occulted Pigments, and many more mystical horrors lurk within the depths of The Blue Blazes. I was drawn in by all of it, and I’m desperately hoping that there is a follow-up to this book, if only to learn more about the world Chuck has built, unlock some of the secrets he has teased the reader with.
If you’re not reading Chuck’s work (his many novels, short stories, writing advice, Twitter page, mad scrawling on the wall of his writing prison), you’re doing yourself a disservice. His stories are like a bullet to the brain in their ferocity, but they have a strength of heart that’s unprecedented. The Blue Blazes is one such book, and succeeds on every level. Story, plot, character, action, worldbuilding, all of them blend together for a delicious story smoothie. A passionate writer produces powerful work and that’s exactly what Chuck has done in The Blue Blazes.
You can find him scrawling madly at Terrible Minds.
And for your viewing pleasure, Chuck and I, together, being bearded and fantastic, pointing at one another as if to say, “Hey, he’s got a beard too!”