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Blaze - Richard Bachman

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      02.06.2009 15:06
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      A great little story that had me hooked til the end

      Somebody gave this book to my boyfriend over a year ago and it's just been lying around ever since. I was bored one day and had nothing to read so thought I'd give it ago. I'm so very glad that I did.

      I can't understand why some people have given it a low rating and why King himself says it's not that great. I was absolutely hooked; I read it in about 7 hours straight and was desperate to know what happened next. Each to their own I guess!

      I haven't read many of Stephen Kings other books so I can't really compare the writing style but I found this really easy to read once I got past the first chapter.

      What's the story about?

      Blaze AKA Clayton Blaisdells Jnr was a bright young boy until his abusive father threw him down the stairs leaving him with a dent in his forehead and ever since then he was known as a "dummy." He was a huge man, over 6 foot tall and weighed over 200 pounds but he was gentle with it.

      He and his friend George are trying to pull the ultimate con, kidnapping a baby in order to demand ransom money from his wealthy family. The only problem is George is dead and he was the brains behind the operation. Can Blaze pull it off on his own?

      The story flicks between the present and Blaze growing up. It flows very well and I enjoyed reading about his past as it made you understand what he's all about and why he leads a life of crime.

      I had a lot of empathy for Blaze, I really warmed to his character and I was rooting for him all the way through the book.

      The story with George was really interesting, he was dead yet Blaze continued to have conversations with him so it made you wonder if he really was dead or if Blaze was just insane.

      Seeing Blaze bond with the baby was very heart warming and made you realise despite the fact that he is a criminal he isn't a bad person, he just got lost and had a lot of bad breaks.

      Overall I found the book gripping and well written. I found the ending a little predictable but I don't think that took anything away from it. Well worth a read.

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        14.01.2009 14:48
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        A brilliant read

        I'm not a diehard fan of Stephen King and there are some books he has written I've enjoyed immensely and others I couldn't get into at all so recently while shopping for a couple of new books in a discount store I wasn't that impressed to find nothing appealed to me except a Stephen King book. I bought it anyway, it cost me a £1, and figured at least it would give me something to read.

        Blaze was written in late 1972-73 under Stephen King's pen name of the time Richard Bachman. He put it away because he didn't consider it good enough to be published and it hasn't seen the light of day until recently when Stephen King revised it a little and published it.

        Blaze (real name Clayton Blaisdell Jr) is a big dumb guy. He stands six feet seven tall and weighs 270 pounds and when he was a kid, an intelligent kid who liked to read poetry, his drunk father caught him eating in the lounge so threw him down the stairs onto his head three times leaving him with a huge dent in his skull and not many brain cells. He cannot think clearly for himself and frankly whoever he is spending time with steers him like a puppet.

        We have two stories running side by side, the present day and the past. The present day finds Blaze with a sidekick called George Rackley. They've been doing small cons for money for a while when George decides they should do one last big con and get out of the game. The job is to be kidnapping a baby boy from a very rich family. One problem though, George has been killed so Blaze is alone without the brains of the outfit to guide him.

        Can he manage to kidnap the baby and collect the ransom money that will enable him to retire "somewhere warm"?

        The other story is about Blaze's life. After being brain damaged by his father Blaze is sent to Hetton House Orphanage which is where he gets his nickname Blaze. He has one real friend there and doesn't have an easy time of it. Along the way he is farmed out to various families who claim to want to foster him but actually just want to use his muscle on their land and he runs into trouble purely by being so dim.

        A couple of times in his childhood Blaze very nearly has a lucky break which would change his future entirely but fate always conspires against him and these never work out which is how he gets dragged into a life of crime. This is very important to the story, if one of these lucky breaks had worked out Blaze would have become a helpful but dumb hard working guy. As I said before, whoever he is spending time with shapes how he behaves because he can't really think for himself.

        Blaze doesn't like being alone and even though George is dead he hears George speaking to him quite often which is a combination of memories of things George actually said when he was alive and Blaze's subconscious.

        Blaze goes ahead with the kidnapping but it doesn't work out as planned.

        The character of Blaze is actually very endearing. You know he could have been someone different if he'd had someone other than criminals to shape him because when there are no scams to do he always finds normal work and works hard. He's one of those people in life who just didn't get a break and he isn't smart enough to think for himself so he's become a tool for various criminals.

        When Blaze plans to go ahead with the kidnapping alone you just will him not to! You know it isn't going to go anything like they planned and he clearly isn't intelligent enough to carry it out alone. When he does manage to abduct the baby it's obvious what's going to happen very early on.

        One poignant chapter from the past sees the older boys from Hetton House work for the summer berry picking and in this environment Blaze thrives but fate wasn't on his side again and his pure happiness is short-lived.

        It's not horror but is dark and tragic. The whole story in the present doesn't really have any surprises and you can guess what will happen to Blaze (I won't tell you though!) but oddly even though he's the criminal in the story you really want him to get a break. He's potentially such a nice, gentle big dumb guy but never gets the opportunity to be what he really is. He's obviously very strong and although he knows it he sometimes uses too much strength if he panics. There's a feel of the classic "Of Mice and Men" about the story.

        It's a very moving story and Stephen King is brilliant at portraying how negative situations shape people. He makes you like Blaze almost immediately and really tugs at the heart strings with Blaze's life story. Once you start reading this you can't stop even though you know how it will all end.

        An excellent read that should never have spent 30 years hidden away.

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          29.02.2008 17:07
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          Sometimes things are lost for a reason.

          You know a book is in trouble when the first line of the author's foreword is "This is a trunk book". It was written by Stephen King (under the pseudonym Richard Bachman) in 1973, not considered good enough for publication, and has languished in a box ever since. Sometimes, even completed books deserve to remain unpublished and unread. This is definitely one of them.

          Blaze is a little different from King's normal "horror" style books, which may be an issue for some. Although he has been branching out recently, long term readers expect monsters, blood, guts and terror. Instead, Blaze gives them a tale of a baby being kidnapped by a "gentle giant" - Clayton Blaisdell Junior (Blaze to his friends). This wasn't a problem for me, as I quite like many of King's less-horror orientated work. The problem arose from the dull nature of the story and the turgid, plodding narrative.

          The plot is very poor indeed and really is the work of a writer still learning his craft. It's dull, clumsy and highly derivative. Taking huge chunks of its plot from the real life kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, it also attempts to imitate a number of other works of fiction or genre styles. Worst of all, it deliberately and knowingly rips off Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men". Now, if you're going to have the cheek to steal a classic book, you should make damn sure that you've got something worth writing about, or you really are just setting yourself up for a fall.

          The book revolves around Blaze's attempts to kidnap and ransom the baby of a rich millionaire. It's also interspersed with reminiscences of his childhood growing up in an institution for homeless children. It plods along at such a pedestrian pace that it's very difficult to get into the book properly, or to care what happens. It's full of unlikely situations or co-incidences which make it hard to believe. It's cumbersome and illogical at times, never really allowing you to warm to the subject. Once you've started it, there's a mild compulsion to get to the end of it to see how it all finishes, but to be honest, if someone had taken the book off me halfway through and said I couldn't have it back, I wouldn't have cared. Despite its subject matter, the plot never generates any real sense of tension, panic or excitement. It simply becomes a book where you read the words on the page, then mechanically move on to the next.

          Blaze undoubtedly suffers from being centred around a single (dull) character - Blaze himself. On some levels, it's difficult to like Blaze which is a serious flaw. King tries to make him sympathetic by giving him a difficult childhood and low-level intelligence; by making him misguided rather than bad. This back-story, gradually revealed, is meant to help us warm to Blaze, to understand his current, actions. In fact, it had the opposite effect for me - the more I found out about him, the less I liked him. At the end of the day, he kidnaps a small child and holds it to ransom, so it's difficult to view him with much sympathy. Given that Blaze is (to all intents and purposes) the only character in the book, this saddles it with a big problem it never really overcomes.

          I wouldn't care, but it's not as though King isn't capable of making bad guys likeable and sympathetic. After all, he did it in both "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile". Although Blaze could have been a sympathetic character, the poor, stereotypical, one dimensional way the character is written makes it difficult to care.

          On the rare occasion when other characters are introduced, they are just as poorly sketched and one dimensional as the main characters and pop up only briefly to serve the plot. The fact that events are seen purely from Blaze's perspective makes the "support cast" even weaker as characters and ignores the potential emotional impact they could have had. There's virtually no consideration, for example, of the anguish of the parents of the kidnapped child- something which could have brought a much needed emotional boost.

          Worse still, King's natural story-telling ability seems to desert him. Because, love him or loathe him, King does generally know how to churn out an exciting yarn. Here, though, he writes in a very dull style which does nothing to endear you to either the characters or the subject matter. The pace seems to crawl along, and King's tendency to embellish a fairly simple story with lots of unnecessary extra detail just drags it down even further. The flashbacks just don't work somehow - it feels as though there are two stories here, clumsily forced together: one tells of the young Blaze's adventures, the other relates to his current situation. The two parts never gel to create a coherent or engaging storyline. Again, it smacks of a writer in the early stages of his career. Blaze feels like a short story artificially stretched out to form a 300 page book.

          There, I think, lies the problem. Had Blaze been written as a short story, or even a novella, it could have worked. There's the germ of an interesting idea there. It's just that somewhere along the way, it gets lost, tangled up in a web of mixed up ideas introduced to pad the book out to full length. As a novella, it might just have worked. As a novel, it lacks focus. It's dull, filled with dislikeable and unsympathetic characters and just downright boring.

          Do us a favour, Stephen. Next time you find a "lost" book, keep it that way.

          Basic Information
          -----------------------
          Blaze
          Richard Bachman
          2007
          ISBN: 978-0340952221

          Available new from Amazon for £11.21 or used from £6.55

          © SWSt 2008

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            29.01.2008 22:42
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            RECOMMENDED

            Clayton Blasdell Jnr was born with all his faculties. In fact he was pretty brainy for his age and read books with a passion. However one Saturday morning, not long after Clayton Jnr had started school, his father threw him down the stairs three times for eating biscuits in the living room. He was comatose and the doctors said he wouldn't wake up - but he did! This was not new behaviour for little Clayton to endure but was the worst of his life so far, and he subsequently ended up living in the State's protection in Hetton House Boys Home.

            Things never improved much for Clayton, who after the "accident" was nowhere near as bright as he once had been, although his huge hulking body made up for any shortfalls in his brain when it came to looking after himself. He became known as Blaze and the name stuck.

            Eventually escaping the hell-hole he finally made a friend for life - George Rackley. George was good to him and they ran cons together, making an existence on the expense of others, while never causing anyone any physical harm. But then George died and Blaze was left alone to look after himself.

            He finally decided to run the biggest job of his life - one that George had planned before he died. Kidnapping! He could get $2 million and live out his life in Acapulco. But Blaze never counted on enjoying the experience quite the way he did.

            I was really pleased to get this for Christmas as I had last received Lisey's Story by Stephen King and just couldn't get into it enough to get past about the first quarter of the book it was so shockingly boring. I love King and therefore leapt into this as soon as I had finished the last book I had been reading.

            I wasn't disappointed either. There was nothing really supernatural or horrific about this story, nothing really trade mark to King's other stuff but it was a really emotional story for me. I really felt sympathy for Blaze, from the start when he was being physically abused by his father, right though everything he endured to the ending. I found the story grew with him and the more you read the deeper you felt involved with Blaze's life and thoughts.

            For a simple man, Blaze had a lot of thoughts running through his head. His relationship with George, even after George's death was testament to the true friendship he had found with him and the level of dependency he had bestowed on his friend. I can even imagine how Blaze must have felt when George died, through the personality I knew Blaze had.

            Even though the theme behind the story is quite shocking in terms of punishments for children and crimes committed, I found it to be a gentle book really. I was never so caught up in the action that I felt swept away, rather swept away by the emotional side of things. I think this is probably because it is mainly a story about Blaze and Blaze alone. He has conversations with people through the pages but it is mainly a story of his life rather than a here and now event. I found this very relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable.

            Mostly I enjoy books with a fair few characters in them to really bring things alive and keep them interesting, but in this instance Blaze and the various friends and enemies he had along the way were more than enough to satisfy.

            There was one chapter that described Blaze's summer one year while still a pupil at Hetton House. He and a group of other boys from his school had been selected to spend some weeks on a berry picking farm. The owner of the farm was extremely kind to the kids he employed through the summer and they all had such a unique and unexpectedly happy summer there, Blaze especially, that I nearly cried when it all ended. It was written with such emotion and made me really feel that everything was happening. Blaze, even for the huge young man he had grown into, could not control his emotions through this chapter either and it was very moving. Both the happy and sad times were written about in such detail that I would defy anyone to read that chapter and not feel moved.

            I loved reading about his kidnapping ordeal as well. With Blaze being a simple mind after the stairs incident, it was obvious he was not cut out for this sort of crime but he did the best he could. Without giving anything away I knew things would pan out the way they did and I was not disappointed that it was transparent. More the opposite actually, I felt myself reading on because I just knew how Blaze would be feeling and wanted clarification that he was indeed experiencing what I had guessed.

            Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It wasn't stand out amazing in every chapter, but every one kept me hooked on reading either about current day events, or what had happened to him as he grew up and I never felt bored or tempted to skip through. Not all King fans will enjoy this as there is no horror really and nothing more supernatural than Blaze talking to and hearing, his dead buddy. However, as a King fan myself, I thorough enjoyed it and it will be stored with my other King books in case I ever feel like a revisit.

            In case anyone doesn't realise Richard Bachman is Stephen King's psuedonym. x

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              13.08.2007 03:48

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              Very disappointed with Blaze, stopped reading after 20 pages. For me it was too much like King thought it would be a good idea to do another version of "Of Mice and Men". Glad I only borrowed it from the library and didn't waste my money. I liked and have all the other Bachman books but I wish this had stayed in the 'trunk'.

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              29.06.2007 12:54
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              A King by any other name...

              For years now, it has been fairly common knowledge that Richard Bachman and Stephen King are the same man. Recently, however, it has seemed more and more that the person most reluctant to accept this is King himself. That can be the only reason that “Blaze” has been published under the Bachman name, but “with a foreword by Stephen King” all over it. After all, that message isn’t going to attract any new readers; if you’re a King fan, you’ll already know this is his writing; if you’re not, that message is going to make you walk away.

              There is a warning in the foreword, in that King readily admits that this is a thirty year old novel and that he thought it wasn’t all that good once upon a time, although the intervening years have changed his mind. Maybe he figures that as some of his recent efforts have been a little lacklustre that no one would really notice the difference if this were to be published now. Whatever his reasoning behind it, when an author feels that they have to justify the publication of a novel in a foreword, you have to be a little worried about what is to follow, no matter how enticing the jacket copy.

              Clayton Blaisdell Jr. is a huge chunk of a man, more than 2 metres tall and with a build to match his height. He’s blessed in every department except for brains, thanks to an abusive father who left him with a hole in his forehead and learning difficulties. This means that he is easily led and anyone with a sharp tongue could persuade Blaze to do things he may not be too keen on normally.

              That person is George Rackley and that thing Blaze isn’t too keen on is kidnapping. George is a con man with a dream of most conmen; of making on big score, collecting a lot of money and vanishing. Because this is his dream it also becomes Blaze’s dream, even if all Blaze is really doing is going along for the ride. When the time comes to commit the crime, however, Blaze finds himself on his own, with only George’s voice for company; George having died a little while before. For anyone else, this wouldn’t be a problem, but Blaze can’t quite remember all the little details of George’s plans.

              Somehow, Blaze manages to get it together long enough to kidnap the child, but with George’s voice telling him he’s made more mistakes than he can count and that the police are about to close in on him, Blaze is swiftly on the run, into the wilds of Maine in the middle of a snow storm. Throughout it all we discover that no matter how harsh Blaze’s present and future may be, his past has had worse moments.

              The major problem I had with “Blaze” Is that any synopsis makes it sound better than it actually is. Like Stephen King’s own “Cell” and Dean Koontz’s “Velocity”, there is a great idea in here, but it doesn’t get fully explored and the novel just seems to stop abruptly, rather than ending, as if there was a specific word count Bachman/King was working to and he reached it.

              It is a bit of a shame, as Blaze is someone you can’t help but like. Admittedly, he’s a habitual criminal in the midst of committing the most serious crime of his life, but he comes across as a decent enough chap. The way he relates to both the kidnap victim and the way simple things surprise or please him are both very touching and the whole thing is almost a case of Stockholm Syndrome in reverse. The problem is that no matter how much I found myself liking Blaze, the story wasn’t strong enough to engage me emotionally and I couldn’t relate to him.

              For all this, “Blaze” is really no worse than any of King’s recent works, or much that has previously been published under the name of Richard Bachman. However, this is to damn the novel with faint praise. King seems to be on a bad run of late, which may explain why he thought “Blaze” fit for publication now when it wasn’t three decades ago, or at any point in between.

              This means that the RRP of £16.99 is a rip off, even for the most hard core King fan. The fact that there are copies going on eBay for 99 pence when “Blaze” is still discounted in bookshops as a new release possibly says all you need to know about the longevity of this book; it’s one you can only read once and then it will lose what little thrall it had. For those King fans who absolutely demand their own brand new copy, I would urge you to wait for the paperback version to be published and discounted before you buy, as new prices for the hardback from Amazon are currently £10.18, which is far more than the book is worth.

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