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5.0 out of 5 stars Wham, bam, thank you Chuck!, 9 Aug 2013
W. Taylor (Stourbridge, West Midlands United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Blue Blazes (Mass Market Paperback)
If you haven't met him yet, you are going to like Mookie Pearl. You shouldn't like Mookie Pearl, but you will.

Some people would say that Mookie is a mountain of a man, however mountains are likely to take this amiss. They would be offended by this metaphor since mountains have a richly deserved reputation for not hunting people down and beating them to a pulp or, just as another example, driving garbage trucks into them. Don't get me wrong, Mookie wouldn't do this to you unless you deserved it, or his boss told him to do it, or unless you happened to be one of the creatures which started climbing up from below since a gateway to hell was opened up below New York City.

This is the world in which Blue Blazes is set, where creatures, evil and not so evil, have climbed up into our everyday existence and are infiltrating our lives, crime syndicates and sometimes our bodies. The novel barrels along with the exuberant energy of the best graphic novel but with the turn of phrase of an author who clearly enjoys his characters, his writing and words. If you read this book in company, warn your companion that you are going to be reading out some of the choice phrases which you encounter: trust me you won't be able to resist it! With these phrases Chuck Wendig creates characters whose company you quickly come to enjoy and some of whom you might miss when you finish the book. Speaking of which, it would be best to start this book when you have a free day because you aren't going to want to put it down until you have finished and can start whining about there not being a second Mookie Pearl novel available...yet...are you listening Chuck?
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4.0 out of 5 stars Memorable and awesome, 9 Nov 2013
This review is from: The Blue Blazes (Mass Market Paperback)
Chuck Wendig is a writing machine and has a steam-roller personality. Not only has he published ten novels in the past two years, he also blogs almost daily on his site Terrible Minds. And if you read his blog and follow him on Twitter you can't help but be charmed by this, somewhat foul-mouthed, but always entertaining phenomenon that is the bearded one. Me? I've been a convert ever since reading Blackbirds, the first in his Miriam Black series, so to say I was looking forward to his first novel in a new urban fantasy series was a given. And in Mookie Pearl he's created a main character that is just as memorable as Miriam Black.

Like Miriam, Mookie lurks on the edges of society, though he is a hard-core criminal, where Miriam is more of a small-time con artist. Despite the dark nature of his occupation, he's a sympathetic sort of fellow and you can't help but feel for the man when he is confronted by his estranged, and angry, daughter. It's this painful and complicated relationship that is central in the novel and it was one I connected to quite strongly. Nora's need for her father's love and acceptance and her need to make him hurt for the pain he caused her came through the narrative on a visceral level and the way this conflict - which on a less intense level is universal to most children of broken homes - is handled and evolves during the novel was touching and really well done. But Mookie is more than a rather s***ty dad and a criminal; he's also an enforcer who keeps those above safe from the denizens of the Great Below. And he's also a guy whose hobby is charcuterie a.k.a. making fancy sausages, a fact which I love and which cracked me up the first time it came up. In short, Mookie is a complicated, well-rounded character, who comes across as a man who has regrets, but doesn't wallow in them. He is surrounded by an interesting and varied cast of characters, both human and supernatural, with especially Nora and Skelly and the quite creepy Ernesto standing out.

The world building for the book was amazing. I loved the way Wendig constructed the Mob being in control of not just the criminal underworld, but also the actual underworld. Mookie's talents place him somewhat out of the usual chain of command, which gives him a lot of leeway to go off the beaten path when it comes to doing his job. The underworld, ranging from the underground, to the sewers, to tunnels, to natural cave systems, comes fully realised and left me rather claustrophobic at times. My favourite part Mookie visits is the village of the dead, called Daisypusher, a shanty-town, where nothing living resides, but which has some surprisingly lovely touches in the flowers crafted from garbage, where what the world above discards finds a new life as decoration. The link between the Great Below moving up and the creating of a third water tunnel was creative and I liked the fact that there was a special Sandhogs sub-division to keep the goblins and other bad things from coming up the tunnel to the surface. The titular Blue Blazes is a drug that is mined from the Great Below that lets the user see the uncanny, which is usually hidden from mankind. It also serves as a regular party drug and is some of what the Mob is using to make money. Nut it comes in more colours than just blue and I loved how they all played a part in the story and the various powers they granted.

The plot is a combination of murder mystery and `save the world'-narrative and quite entertaining. At some points it seemed as if solving the murder of one of the Mob's soon-to-be main players would be lost in the scuffle, but everything circled back neatly and it never was really forgotten. The pace of the story is high, with lots of action and adrenaline, though Wendig lets the reader and Mookie take a few breaths every once in a while, so the narrative never becomes a breathless rush to the end. As ever, Wendig doesn't hesitate to throw in some profanity and his writing style is sharp and to the point, though sometimes something almost poetic sneaks into his descriptions. While tonally similar to the Miriam Black books, thematically The Blue Blazes is quite different from them; Miriam is a young woman trying to learn to be at peace with her gift - or curse, depending on who you are - where Mookie is a man who knows who and what he is, who is looking for a way back to his daughter and to keep his city safe.

The sad, but also hopeful ending resonates with mythical meaning and makes for a powerful and satisfying closing to this story, though since the work is listed on the Angry Robot site as book one in the series, it hopefully means `see you later' and not `fare thee well' and we'll be able to return to Mookie, Nora and Kelly for more adventures and more underground discoveries. Fans of Wendig's will gobble this one up and be satisfied he's still getting better with each book, while those of you not yet converted to the cause, can rest assured that The Blue Blazes is a perfect introduction to Wendig's writing. However, if blood, murder, and profanity aren't your cup of tea, you might want to steer clear of this one.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Urban Fantasy, 24 July 2013
Mookie Pearl works for the criminal underworld of New York City, dealing in the newest drug craze that's come to the streets of the Big Apple: the Blue stuff, Cerulean, Peacock Powder. It comes straight from the bowels of Hell itself. This is a New York that lives alongside an opening to the real underworld. And Mookie works for both. Take a hit of the old peacock powder and you'll see what you never saw before - everything that was once hidden in the cracks; the shadows; behind the eyes of people in the streets. It opens up a whole new side to the world around you - it opens up The Blue Blazes.

Chuck Wendig's latest is an urban fantasy thriller that uses a setting that's completely unique, and offers up a cast of characters who feel like a breath of fresh air to the genre. It's almost like Wendig has taken the cast of Goodfellas and dragged them, kicking and screaming into a fantasy reality of New York, opened up the playground and let them run loose. The story seems at its roots to be typical gangland mafia fare, but with the real underworld alongside the criminal one, and the different "pigments" of hell serving as our drug-runners delight. The plot concerns Mookie Pearl's quest to save the dying mafia leader by hunting out the fabled fifth pigment, Death's Head: the purple pigment; the lifegiver. Along the way, Mookie encounters a range of different mythical beasts and bizarre creatures, as well as seeing whatever The Blue Blazes show him. But things get complicated (as ever!) when Mookie's daughter, Nora, comes into the fray.

Wendig has really created a fascinating and original main character in Mookie Pearl. He's physically enormous - a real, old fashioned street thug. But underneath is a quieter, more contemplative individual with some deep regrets about his past and a driving passion for charcuterie. (Yes - charcuterie.) The side characters are all very well realised and contribute to the frantic plot in ways which are continually surprising. But Mookie is the star of this novel, and it's all the better for it. Wendig writes in a frenzied third person present tense which moves rapidly through the plot, and for most of the book Mookie acts as our POV character, with the occasional change to some of the other major players in the story. It's an excellent style that had me gripped from page one and always dying to read just one more chapter.

Wendig's writing style is quite specific to him - it's a take-no-shit, balls-to-the-wall style that fits in with the setting and characters of The Blue Blazes well. Wendig doesn't pull his punches when it comes to cursing and gore - and indeed, much of the humour derives straight from his swear-addled prose and blood-splashed pages. The dialogue is crisp and flows quickly, with a dark humour which Wendig relishes throughout. It's a style which Wendig is well-known for and as my first Chuck Wendig novel, I found it to be a real breath of fresh air in a subgenre which sometimes feels a little stuffy and manufactured. But it won't be for everyone - so beware.

The Blue Blazes was one of the most fun experiences I've had in fiction this year and it's got me chomping at the bit for more from Mookie Pearl - hell, just more from Chuck Wendig. He shows us an urban fantasy world which we've not really seen before, and manages to breathe some much-needed life into some tired gangster movie style clichés, with a distinctive vision of both the real and criminal underworlds. The Blue Blazes shows us Hell in Technicolor, and each pigment jumps straight off the page in High Definition Wendig-Vision. It's brilliant stuff, and I just hope there's more to come from Mookie Pearl and the five pigments of the Underworld.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Goblins, Drugs Rings and Daddy/Daughter Issues., 18 July 2013
All I can say is it's a VERY GOOD THING Chuck's as prolific as he is, because I can't wait to read more of his writing.

He takes a completely bizarre mixture of elements, genre stamps and conventions and creates something compelling and coherent despite any initial skepticism. The action is brilliant and completely balanced by a plot that twists and shocks but never stretches the boundaries of his world too much, and it's a delicate balance at some points.

The best thing by far, though, are his characters. Totally freakish but ah-may-zing. I should find a drug-dealing mobster - who stalks the underworld and harbours an overwhelming passion for charcuterie, which almost fills the void of his failed family life and now resentful and ambitiously criminal daughter - completely ridiculous. But I don't. I kinda love him. And, as a girl myself, I can't gush enough about his female characters, and that applies across all of his writing I have read so far. They are strong and individual and have agency of their own in the story. Best of all, they don't spend the entire novel talking about or worrying about men, but actually have an identity independent of the male characters around them.

The only negative I can find is that I didn't love it quite as much as I loved his Miriam Black books, but it didn't have Miriam in it so it was at a distinct disadvantage from the start. (Blackbirds is the first, then Mockingbird and the third one is The Cormorant and is out very soon, I believe.) So you should read those too and his blog [...] because it's hilarious and inspiring.

Anyway, I think it's great. And all packaged up in Wendig's unique style of writing, a blend of imagery so accurate and often fleshy that it can be sort of disgusting but great, and profanity. Quite a lot of profanity. I like profanity.

Overall: brilliant job, Chuck! More please! I know you have more ideas for Mookie.
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The Blue Blazes
The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig (Mass Market Paperback - 28 May 2013)
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