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Pump Six and Other Stories
Paolo Bacigalupi


Blaze - Stephen King, Richard Bachman Oh, Stephen King. Or Bachman. Or both. I do enjoy you so. Overall, it was a very compelling, very quick read. Definitely recommended.

King speaks of [book: The Colorado Kid] and [book: Blaze] in the same breath, with good reason. There's a similar feel to the writing. Very sparse. It's still very King-y, in my mind, in the way childhood and location are the keys to each character, but the actual language used is a little crisper than King-as-King. Or maybe that's just the character in question.


Blaze really is one of the most sympathetic criminal-protagonists I've run across in quite a while. He has a terrible life that shapes him, and othern than the death of the blueberry farmer, it's hard to point to a moment and go, "This. This is where it all went wrong and never came back. This is the point of no return." It's just one small tragedy piled on top of another.

I enjoyed the ambiguity of George and his post-death relationship with Blaze: is it a real haunting, or is it all just Blaze? I like that Bachman makes a convincing argument both ways and never resolves it. Still, though, George and Blaze aren't the heart of this book; Joe and Blaze are.

Blaze's growing affection for Joe just slayed me. I don't know why the little descriptions of Blaze learning how to care and feed for this tiny human being that completely confuses and delights him affected me so, but they did. Even as Blaze does thing after thing that is on the surface reprehensible (stealing a baby, fatally injuring the old lady, etc), his internal monologue and developing affection for Joe somehow make him deeply sympathetic. You understand how he came to the point that stealing a baby was the most logical thing to do. You know how it all has to end (tragically), yet you can't help but rooting for Blaze to succeed, or to at least be okay. There's a really weird dichotomy created, where you can't help but hope for a happy ending for Blaze, which has Blaze and Joe living "happily ever after," even as you realize you're hoping that a baby grows up happily with his kidnapper. It's not like we're even given monstrous parents to dread Joe's return.

What struck especially keenly for me was the contrast between this inevitable hope (and inevitable disappointment) for the strangely sympathetic Blaze with the law enforcement guys. You're set up in a natural response to Sterling's demonization of the unknown kidnapper of, "But you don't really know Blaze! He's not a monster!" with the fact that Blaze did kidnap Joe and did end up killing that old lady, and fron the outside, he is monstrous. I guess it's the contrast between monstrous acts and a monstrous nature. Sterling is very black-and-white, yes, but ultimately he is trying to find a kidnapper and a(n unintentional) killer. Blaze's death is tragic, yes, but it's hard to resolve the situation in any other way.

What I like, ultimately, about the dichotomy that Bachman creates is that it doesn't offer any easy answers. Blaze is not exempt from the consequences of his horrible actions just because he did many of them with good intentions and what "bad" intentions he had were clearly the result of the accumulated tragedy of his life. Nor is the tragedy and wrongness of Blaze's death diminished by the fact that he was killed by a law enforcement officer who believed he was pursuing a cold-blooded kidnapper and murderer who had just killed the leo's fellow officer. It's the removal of "cold-blooded" from that last phrase that complicates things that might otherwise be fairly simple.