Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wistful winter

Blaze is a Richard Bachman trunk novel - an oddity. Stephen King retired Bachman decades ago so the decision to publish an old Bachman book in a new century seems strange, but it's nice to flesh out the body of work.

Everyone who reads this blog (hi Dad!) knows that I'm a little crazy for King - what a lot of people don't know is that I may actually like Bachman more than King, at least when it comes to the ratio of books by that author that I've gotten completely completely obsessed with. Rage, The Long Walk, and Running Man are totally amazing stories written in a way that is endlessly fascinating and exciting. Roadwork is similarly engaging but a bit too depressing for me to totally dig my teeth into. Thinner is a Stephen King book published by Bachman, and it's a good King novel but it's not a Bachman Book. I know that's a little confusing, but the King readers out there get me.

Blaze clearly belongs to Bachman, dead lo these many years of Cancer of the Pseudonym, Stephen King's more hardboiled half. The story has the same sort of depraved futility of Running Man and Roadwork with the horrifying and misplaced innocence of Rage and The Long Walk. The elements are all there. Blaze is clearly a Bachman book. But, even though I adore Bachman, I can see why this remained a trunk novel for so long.

In the introduction to the novel King admits its faults - and there are many, and they are large - which helps. Knowing that this is a book that languished in a box and was written by a pen-name that died thirty years ago and wasn't revisited because it was remembered as bad gives some perspective on the story. It's not great, but at least you go in knowing that it's not great so it doesn't sting so much.

But there is one aspect of the book that is wonderful. Blaze is a good character: you want him to win, you understand why he can't, and watching him make mistakes that he can't help but pulling for him along the way is painful and sad and BURNS, and that is fantastic.

King-as-Bachman makes you pull for this sad, stupid, small-time crook while still seeing the inevitability of his failure and being helpless to help him.

And that's what's great. Everyone who CAN read this book is more capable than its main character and that means that all of us behind the pages will WANT to help him, want to make his broken life better, and so King-as-Bachman manages to brilliantly reduce his readers to the same incapable state as Blaze.

Well damn done, especially for an imaginary dead man's trunk novel.

     - Alli

King, Stephen. Blaze. Simon & Schuster. New York: New York. 2007.

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