Book Review by Joseph Snoe—THE BLADE BETWEEN by Sam J. Miller
One thing for sure about Sam J. Miller’s THE BLADE BETWEEN, it’s not a cookie cutter novel. I’m not even sure what genre it is. I have to wait until December to see how Amazon.com classifies it. I was thinking perhaps fantasy or science fiction. Readers on Goodreads lean toward horror. Whatever it is, it may develop a cult following, but I find it hard to believe it’ll do well with the mainstream reader. Who knows?
I did not like the book . . . . until I did.
I almost quit reading in the first fifty pages. I hated that part. I’d put the book aside for days at a time with little desire to return to it. One irritating thing in part 1, for example, is the over-use of the word “blade.” Blade in the ribs, Blade in the shoulders, Blade in the back, Blade in the heart. Blade in the title. There seemed to be more blades in the first fifty pages than I have blades of grass in my front yard. I interpreted blades as symbols of hate.
Speaking of hate, HATE is the word.
The main character, Ronan, a 40-year-old gay man who is a famous New York City photographer specializing in erotic, semi-pornographic pictures, is filled with hate. He hates his hometown of Hudson, N.Y. He hates his high classmates who abused him because he was gay. He hates his father and has not come back to see him in twenty years.
He’s lived a promiscuous gay life in NYC, and has been a drug addict so long he has terrible short-term memory, he wakes up not knowing where he is, and he suffers hallucinations. Three days after meeting a young gay male named Katch who wants to be photographer like Ronan, Ronan agrees to meet Katch in of all places, Hudson, NY. (We soon learn Katch died six months earlier)
Hudson, NY, population around 7000, changed dramatically over the centuries. It was once a whaling town, then a manufacturing center, and then by the end of the 20th century was rife with gambling, crime and prostitution. That’s about the time Ronan left. Since then, the LGBT community from NYC invaded the town and began transforming it to an artsy community with art galleries, antique shops (lots of antique shops), and fancy restaurants. The transformation resulted in many Hudson residents and businesses being displaced and moved out or closed down. Included in that group was Ronan’s father’s butcher shop (Which totally broke the old man’s spirit). The richest of the gay newcomers is a prohibitive favorite to become the next mayor.
Ronan immediately hates the new Hudson and the newcomers for what they did to the “Old” Hudson (which he also hated) and his father. He hates the mayor-to-be. He hates himself, too.
Other than that, he’s a likeable guy.
Ronan quickly meets up with Dom, a black police officer who was Ronan’s gay lover in high school. They fall back in their familiar sexual exploits. Meanwhile Ronan and Dom’s wife, Attalah, share a hate for the newcomers and the “new” Hudson. They devise and set in motion a plan to drive the newcomers out.
Things get out of control. For example, Ronan creates a fictional gay male to get information from other gays on the Hudson internet dating services. The fictional character develops a human form of his own, and he is not a nice person. Many “old Hudson” residents have harbored a lot of hate that gets unleashed once the original relatively benign plan is set in motion. There’s violence, and people are as likely to be killed by harpoons as by gunshots.
Somehow the whales that float over the town have something to do with this.
The complex story gets more interesting when things get out of control.
Since I’m a newcomer to a small town oldtimers complain has been transformed into a place of art galleries, antique shops, and fancy restaurants, I often related more to the “evil” newcomers than to the old guard.
Sam J. Miller is an excellent writer. He makes this weird and complex story work.
It’s impossible for me to settle on a sensible rating. Most readers seem to love it, with some who, shall we say, don’t love it. The writing is five- star. The goofy blade references in parts 1 and 3, all that spewing hate, and so much foul language (I forget to mention the foul language) are not to my liking and gets 2 stars. I guess, subjectively, 3 or 4 stars will be my rating.