Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

Blaze

BlazeBlaze by Richard Bachman

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I don’t fully understand why Stephen King insists on maintaining the Bachman pseudonym, since he’s been outed since the early 1980s.   Back when he was releasing The Regulators, in tandem with Desperation and The Green Mile, I was convinced it was because he was bored, and wanted to do some gimmicky releases, all at the same time.  Now, though, I’m just confused, because Blaze is so obviously a Stephen King story.  Despite the fact that King’s name is on the cover of the book, he re-wrote the entire draft of the novel, so the style is identical to the last few novels he’s written.  In the foreword, King states that the reason he’s identified this book as a Bachman novel is because it was written during the time that he wrote the other Bachman books, and the dark sensibility of the book demanded that name, but I’m not buying it.  It still reads like a Stephen King novel, and if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and was written by the identified pseudonymous duck, then call it a damn duck already.

As for the story?  Eh.  It’s not his best, but he makes it fairly clear in the foreword that he himself was never really impressed with it.  The rewrite, apparently, was his attempt to draw something meaningful out of a story he thought had potential, but he still doesn’t seem overwhelmed with the story.  Why publish it?  King only knows.  It’s not like he’s hard up, and needs the money.

OK, OK, I’ll stop griping.  I’m just feeling especially cynical this morning.

The story is about John Blaisdell, Jr., nicknamed “Blaze,” a brain-damaged con artist who, for the last few years, has been running scams with his partner in crime, George.  George died a few months ago, but that hasn’t stopped Blaze from following up on the last con they planned together — kidnapping a baby for ransom money.  That Blaze seems confused over whether or not George is actually dead might make this an interesting crime story, but in the end, it’s just another King novel, with more time spent on Blaze’s past than the actual current storyline.

King references The Colorado Kid in the foreword, too, addressing the  lack of “Hard Case Crime” element in that novel.  He says that Blaze is probably closer to that sort of genre than Kid, and I suppose that the novel makes up for it in some ways, but it still doesn’t strike me as the sort of crime novel that King imagines it to be.  Leave the hard crime writing to Elmore Leonard and his ilk; in King’s hands, the genre becomes a bit treacly and dull.  Blaze isn’t a criminal mastermind, and he becomes a sympathetic antagonist in the story, to the point where he becomes the protagonist.  In fact, the real antagonist in the novel is the law that’s after Blaze, but it never really develops into any significant conflict, since the embodiment of the law is vague, and tossed in near the very end of the story.  It’s clunky and forced, and ultimately disappointing.

Like any King novel, though, it’s still readable and interesting.  He has a knack for characterization (to the point where Blaze’s past becomes far more interesting than his present), and he keeps the story moving along at a nice pace.  I’m just annoyed that novels like Blaze get published, when there are other novelists out there struggling to break into the field with novels that are far better than this one.

So, I doubt I’ll stop anyone from reading the novel.  If you’re a King fan, you’ll read it, and probably enjoy it to some degree.  It’s not as bad as The Tommyknockers or Rose Madder, so there’s that to look forward to.  I just wish he’d stop feeling compelled to release everything he’s ever written, and focus on the quality of writing that I know he can create.

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June 18, 2007 - Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews

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