The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig (Angry Robot Books, May 28th, 2013)-Below New York City, among other places, is the Great Below. Is it Hell? Who knows, but what certain people do know is it’s filled with some of the most evil, vile creatures one could ever encounter. For a while, they stayed below, then a door opened up. Now they want what we have above, and they aren’t afraid to take it. The criminals and lowlifes of our society aren’t averse to using what the denizens of the Great Below have to offer, but there’s always a price. In fact, one of the most profitable things to come out of the Great Below is a blue powder that can make a person faster, stronger, and suddenly not blind to the throngs of “others” that roam the streets of New York above. Gangs run the city and Blazeheads roam the streets, which brings us to one of the most fearsome enforcers for the Organization (the central authority for all of the gangs), Mookie Pearl. Don’t let the name fool you. Mookie isn’t a cuddly guy. In fact, he’s a hulking brute of a man, a meat lovin’, head smashin’ guy that breaks legs for a living. He’s not particularly proud of his profession, but he’s awfully good at what he does, and it is what it is. However, when his daughter Nora approaches him with the news that Zoladski, Mookie’s boss, the Big Boss, is dying, and she plans to take over, at any cost, he’s shocked and begins to see his already crumbling world start to topple. He never wanted his daughter to be a part of this world, but she is, and it turns out that she’s much more entrenched than he ever could have imagined.
Mookie soon finds out that the old man’s grandson, Casimir, is to take over when the old man dies, but he’s not ready, and it’s pretty obvious, not only to Mookie, but to others that would love to step in and take over. Weaknesses in the Organization are a bad, bad thing. In hopes of healing the boss, therefore avoiding having to take over, Casimir asks Mookie to head into the great below to find Death’s Head, a pigment that could heal the boss. Mookie is dubious, since its existence is a rumor at best and a fairy tale at worst. In fact, there are supposed to be five pigments in addition to the Blue, and they all do different things. Supposedly. Mookie doesn’t like those odds, but he really doesn’t have a choice. So, into the Great Below he goes.
If you’ve read anything by Chuck Wendig, you know how wonderfully twisted his imagination is, and it’s certainly on fine display in The Blue Blazes. The Great Below is a dark, vast, terrifying place, with things that slither and hiss and goblins, or gobbos, a plenty. And these are NOT your momma’s goblins. They’re nasty, brutal suckers, and you don’t want to see a hoard of them coming your way. Luckily, Mookie won’t be alone in his quest. He teams up with Skelly, the tough as nails head of an all-girl gang The Get-Em Girls, who take roller derby and rockabilly very seriously, and aren’t afraid to smash a few heads. He also finds some very odd, very dead, and very unlikely allies down below, and he’ll need ‘em, because the quest for Death’s Head soon becomes a quest to save his daughter. There’s more action and goo that you can shake a stick at in The Blue Blazes, but at it’s core is the story of a father’s love for his daughter and the lengths he’ll go to in order to save her. Don’t worry, there’s nothing mushy here, but it is rather poignant in Chuck Wendig’s rough way, and as brutish as Mookie is, I kinda fell for the big guy, and hope you will too. You’ll blaze through this one (sorry, couldn’t help it), and I can’t help but hope that we’ll see Mookie again in future novels. The Blue Blazes is something very different, very twisted and very, very good. You’ll have lots of fun-I know I did!