The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig
Read by Patrick Lawlor
Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio
Length: 11 Hrs 44 Min
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Quick Thoughts: Chuck Wendig’s Blue Blazes reads like a desperately thrown haymaker, it doesn’t always need to land solidly to knock you off your feet. Luckily, more often than not, Wendig connects with a nose breaking wallop and follows up with enough gut punches to leave you reeling.
I have always been more of a fan of brute force methods. It’s not that I am some big strong bruiser, because I am not, nor do I lack the intelligence for cleverness, it’s just I believe that sometimes the simple solution is often the best. Today’s books are full of complicated heroes who use their wits and resourcefulness to outsmart ruthless criminals. This is always fun, seeing some badie get their comeuppance based solely on the wit and resourcefulness of our everyday heroes. Yet, the literary world is also full of brilliant evil geniuses. These brilliant brainiacs come up with these overly complex plans that require everything to fall into place in just the right way in order for our heroes to fall into their perfect trap. They have big goals, and these goals are achieved through their almost balletic machinations. These plans are so perfect, that they ensnare our smart heroes in such a way that they can’t even think their ways out. This is why I like brute force heroes. There is a sort of cleverness to simplicity. Sometimes, all it takes is to punch the smarmy bastard in the kisser then run like hell. Sometimes, a randomly tossed Molotov cocktail in the chaos of a fight is more effective than the most intricately placed block of C4. I think so many times heroes over think thing. They spend so much time coming up with complex plans to battle the villain’s complex plans, that the best solution escapes them. Let’s face it, sometimes the best way to bring down a ballet, is to just push over one of the dancers. I like to apply these principles to all aspects of my life. I’m no writer. Put me in a war of words with those who sling words for a living, and I will lose. I won’t tell you about sentence structure, or narrative flow or any of that stuff. I like the brute force, Chris Farley method… "Remember that time when the big dude just punched the bag guy right in the face…. THAT WAS AWESOME!"
Mookie Pearl is a thug. Honest, with a name like Mookie Pearl, how could he not be? Mookie is a connected man with THE organization, an organized crime syndicate in New York City. For the most part Mookie is muscle, a big leg breaker, the kind of intimidating force you send in when the best solution is the punching kind. Yet, Mookie is also connected with his army of mole men, underground dwellers who have knowledge of the Down Deep, the subterranean cities of goblins, the dead and old gods, with access to mysterious drugs that open users up to various supernatural abilities. Mookie has always been loyal, but when a shuffle in management leaves him on the outs, and with his reckless vindictive daughter stirring things up, Mookie may finally have found a situation he can’t punch his way out of. Chuck Wendig’s Blue Blazes reads like a desperately thrown haymaker, it doesn’t always need to land solidly to knock you off your feet. Luckily, more often than not, Wendig connects with a nose breaking wallop and follows up with enough gut punches to leave you reeling. I love the Blue Blazes. I loved that Wendig did things that really should have come of corny or contrived, yet through a sort of literary self awareness, actually seemed fresh. There is a sort of retro feel to The Blue Blazes, with characters just a bit too colorful surrounding a man who is a dark chunk of granite. Mookie, by being Mookie, makes all the other characters around him glow just a bit brighter. Mookie isn’t a good guy. He’s a criminal, a neglectful father, and really, not all that clever. Yet, he has a solid core that he doesn’t violate, and a penchant to get things done. With so many of today’s anti-heroes being unrepentant douchebags who use their own complicated lives and self doubt as excuses for their horrible behavior, it was nice to have a character with self awareness enough to realize what type of person he is, and not try to excuse it. Then there is Nora, his petulant, bratty little hellhound of a daughter, who is playing well over her head to rectify her daddy issues. Oh, how I wanted to hate Nora. I just couldn’t. She was delightfully misguided, a bad ass chick held back by her own inability to deal with her issues. The interactions between Mookie and Nora were frustratingly fun. At times The Blue Blazes felt like a stew of all the things that Chuck Wendig wanted to fit into a novel, but had to cut out. An orgasmic romp through a twisted authors most bizarre imaginings. Part horror, part fantasy, with of strange creatures, rolled girl gangs, colorful criminals, and a dead stunt drivers with a souped up quad, The Blue Blazes is a freakish tour through a weird alternate New York City, and one really messed up family.
Audiobook narration isn’t always about having a wonderful, pitch perfect voice. It’s about finding the right feel for a book. This is exactly what Patrick Lawlor does in The Blue Blazes. Lawlor doesn’t read the book, as much as sneer it, flinging it from the page into the reader’s general direction. There is a brutal gruffness to his reading, and almost anti-poetry. Lawlor captures Wendig’s brute force descriptive language perfectly. In The Blue Blazes, a flower is a flower, and a stone is a stone, and Mookie is a big, thug. There is no need to flowery metaphors. Lawlor just goes at the prose, reading is with a machine gun pacing, firing each moment at you with a staccato burst. It was the perfect delivery for this novel. Lawlor’s voicings were not often very distinctive from one character to the next. He uses a few, traditional New York thug voices for the characters, yet, he manages to make each of the feel right. He did a good job with the singsongy nature of Skelly, the leader of the roller girl gang’s retro diction, and capturing Nora’s petulance. All together it was a lot of fun to listen to. The Blue Blazes won’t win any prizes for elegance, but it was the right narrator paired with the right novel, making it a really fun listen.
Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.