The Blues Blazes, newest novel from Chuck Wendig, introduces us to Mookie Pearl, whose name makes me smile because it belies the man that Mookie is: a big, hardass, thuggish, criminal demon-hunter whose descriptions of charcuterie could make a vegetarian drool. Sound intriguing? He is (and so is the novel).
Mookie is a bad guy (sort of), working for a crime boss in a New York that slightly resembles the city we know and yet doesn't, full as it is with demons and monsters and goblins and chaos and calamity and general insanity. Mookie's mob-like employer, The Organization, controls the distribution of a substance known as "Blue," a powder derived from a mineral found deep in the tunnels beneath New York City. In addition to giving users a surge of adrenaline and mad rush of energy and power, Blue opens users' eyes to the world of demons and monsters that live in said tunnels (and sometimes come up to surface level for a jaunt through the city that never sleeps).
Mookie is by no means the perfect father, model employee, or best friend, but he is, at heart, a guy with good intentions (if a lot of regrets), and so when his world starts to fall apart, we feel for him. His Boss is on his deathbed, leaving the Organization leaderless and in jeopardy. His daughter, who hates his guts, is starting her own distribution of Blue, countering the Organization at every turn. And he's been asked to hunt down a likely non-existent drug from the underworld known as Death's Head (or "the Purple"), which supposedly can cure any illness and perhaps-but-we're-not-sure bring people back from the dead.
If it sounds complicated and messy and slightly chaotic, that's because it is; but that's where Wendig excels, juggling competing storylines, multi-dimensional characters and downright fantastical creatures so skillfully that though the novel oozes the chaos of its setting, it never feels confused in and of itself. Wendig's characters are emotional, layered, and motivated individuals; his world-building is thorough and understandable; and his research into the actual tunneling under New York (a thing that is happening in the real world, according to our conversation at BEA) adds a layer of complexity to an otherwise other-wordly tale of goblins and monsters. For a non-urban-fantasy reader such as myself, this was the perfect entrypoint into the genre (and die-hard fans of the genre will want to make sure to pick up a copy sooner than later as well).
Also look for Chuck Wendig on Twitter @chuckwendig and on his blog, www.terribleminds.com.
Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-galley of this title via NetGalley.
The Blue Blazes | Chuck Wendig | Angry Robot | May 2013 | Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 | 400 pages