An edgy thrilling ride, the intro to the Mookie Pearl series is as enticing as the name The Blue Blazes implies. Page after page, I was reminded why Wendig is a writer’s writer through his gritty storytelling. With a cast which is perfectly raw, Wendig unabashedly spins a tale that is truly the definition of great urban fantasy- a story which blurs the lines between fantasy and reality.
Meet Mookie Pearl.
Criminal underworld? He runs in it.
Supernatural underworld? He hunts in it.
Nothing stops Mookie when he’s on the job.
But when his daughter takes up arms and opposes him, something’s gotta give…
Chuck Wendig has the high honor of being one of the few modern authors whose reputation and body of work meld seamlessly. I am not new to his writing and have noticed the matter of fact style Wendig has. Without pomp or circumstance, Wendig simply writes and leaves readers with a story that has unparalleled realness. This pattern is ever present in The Blue Blazes, making it draw fans and newcomers alike.
The Blue Blazes is a true action adventure tale. The opening expertly sets the tone for the rest of the novel. Immediately I was under the impression that everything was on a need to know basis and I wasn’t wrong. While this concept can often go awry, becoming muddled and unsatisfying, this is not the case with The Blue Blazes. Instead, Wendig capitalizes on the underground, mob-like mentality; which many of us have come to know well through popular culture. This tone matches the protagonist’s, Mookie Pearl, way of living. Though he may seem like the typical lackey, Mookie soon shows the reader that he’s smarter than he looks. He may take orders, but it’s not out of laziness. Instead there’s a certain brilliance to how on track Mookie can be and the adventure, or trouble that this causes him to get into. I couldn’t help but like Mookie and I imagine that no matter who you are, you couldn’t help but like him too.
Reading through The Blue Blazes oftentimes feels like a collage of great action flicks. It is rare for me to find a book which I enjoy reading action scenes in. This was a delightful exception. Perhaps, the greatest thing about each element of action is that it fits the tone, setting and plot of the book. At no time did I feel like Wendig was trying to create an epic climactic battle. Instead, each entanglement was unabashedly what it was- a bunch of thugs using whatever they had on hand to reach their goal at that moment.
Through the catalyst of rival gangs, Wendig created a fully realized world. With a setting of Manhattan, each smaller gang had a unique identity that reflected their turf without being sterotypical. As a New Yorker, I found Wendig’s assessment of each neighborhood to be a bit off. While I love the concept, I wish the execution had been a bit better as none of the gangs seemed to truly capture the essence of the neighborhood. Though only a portion of the gangs’ identities were shared, each of them still seemed a bit generic urban. For instance in Chinatown, the reigning group was the Lantern Jacks, cocky pumpkin head white kids who took over when the initial Chinese gang had imploded. While this could be the case, I question why the writer didn’t take into account the current demographics of Chinatown or the surrounding areas. Afterall, to the north is Little Italy and in the projects there have been generations of Puerto Ricans. I can identify that this complaint is mainly because I know my city. For me, this rang as a lack of consistency as the rest of The Blue Blazes truly felt genuine. Despite the fact that I felt Wendig tried to match the gang with the neighborhood without succeeding I thought one gang was pretty cool. Overlooking the fact that The Get ‘Em Girls are more LA than NY, they are by far the most well thought out gang in The Blue Blazes. This roller derby chicks, take no prisoners girl gang had stellar rockabilly style, trickling down to their lingo and tag. I even grinned at Wendig’s use of the term dieselpunk. All together these gals are a fun highlight in the book and truly evolve.
The plot is not something I will give much away from but I truly enjoyed every aspect of the quest. Wendig mixes mythology with modernity in his take on The Underworld, bringing classic characters to new life. Perhaps the most classic element of the plot was the search for an obscure item- in this case occult drugs with different shades of the rainbow and equally different effects. It is one of these which the title, The Blue Blazes derives. This plot concept was for me, the perfect meld of old meets new.
I am a true fan of Wendig’s style which is reminiscent of Martin Millar and Joe Meno. Fast paced and action packed, there’s a naturalness to the way Wendig writes which unparallaled. There is a consistent thread of knowing who Wendig is because of this. However, there are instances where Wendig purposely breaks his tone and style to bring clarity. In The Blue Blazes, he does this through snippets of a character journal at the beginning of each chapter. As I said before, most of the book is on a need to know basis, yet these excerpts fill us in an academic, almost encyclopedic way. It fills the reader in sometimes before the character, sometimes after but always brings a new light to the plot and making the world of The Blue Blazes that much more realistic.
There are few books I can truly recommend for a range of people but this is certainly one of them. Whether you’re a fan of The Godfather or Die Hard, this book is for you. If you’re a Greek Mythology buff, you certainly need to check this out. If you’re a foodie who’s not a vegan, you may enjoy the expansive detailed meat scenes. As I write this, I realize that I just described pretty much every guy I know. Don’t let that deter you if you’re the Twilight fan! The Blue Blazes has a bit for everyone and you won’t regret trying something new.
The Blue Blazes
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