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Book review: <i>Blaze</i> by Richard Bachman

the cover of the book

A slow man, a dead man, and a baby - Blaze is a soft-pseudo noir novel with a little crime and a big personality, discarded then resurrected by Stephen King.

The story

Blaze is a big man, with a dent in his forehead from where his dad chucked him down the stairs and and inability to make a move without George, his wily accomplice in crime. George might be mean sometimes, but he tells Blaze how to do everything - from the right way to steal a car, to the one big job that will set them up for life.

But Blaze is hesitant about the one big job - kidnapping a baby for ransom. He finds himself in his cold cabin, with the wind whistling, hearing George's taunts about his inability to act. So he decides to act, on George's instruction.

Once he has the baby, he finds himself in over his head - one step ahead of the police only because of George's smarts. But is George's advice really any good? And can Blaze redeem himself through his attachment to the child?

The style

Blaze is a story with a difference from the pen of Stephen King's alter ego. The character of Blaze himself is very nicely developed in classic King style; with a lot of back character development and a gentle unfolding relvelation of Blaze's personality. King usually devotes time in his novels to the development of peripheral characters as well, but Blaze is an exception in that the other characters don't really get a look in. Which is fine, because the story is shorter and extra characterisation isn't really required.

The style of Blaze is choppy and noir, if you will - sharp prose, direct and well ordered words and structure that maintain a simplicity that suits the character. There is a sense of softness and yearning within Blaze himself, and this is relayed very nicely through King's style.

The storyline itself is more of an internal journey for Blaze and the external action - which involves a kidnapping and a prolonged police chase - feels more incidental within the story. While the character of Blaze is lovable, the climax was a bit disappointing for me because it seemed that the entire plot was geared up to travel in a certain direction - and that's exactly where it went. There were no real surprises, and I read the whole thing hoping for the unexpected and not getting it. That would probably be my only complaint - the story just wasn't punchy or twisty enough for me.

Who is this book for?

King fans, Bachman fans, probably aren't going to want to miss something that King decided was trash thirty years ago and then changed his mind about - for that point alone the story is interesting. On the other hand, it's not really King's finest work, in my opinion - it was good, but lacking a certain I-don't-know-what. Maybe it's a case of high expectations.

If you like this book, you would also like...

The myriad of other King stories available, particularly the ones written under his Bachman pseudonym. The Bachman style is distinctive in a way from King's classic style, and this is certainly more Bachman than King.

In short

Title: Blaze
Author: Richard Bachman
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN: 9780340952238
Year published: 2007
Pages: 321
Genre(s): Modern fiction
Review Type: 


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