Title: Blue on Black
Author: Carole Cummings
Publisher: DSP Publications
Pages/Word Count: 380 Pages
At a Glance: Blue on Black is an alternate universe, twisted history, sci-fi/fantasy/steampunkish feast for the imagination and senses.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Kimolijah Adani—Class 2 gridTech, beloved brother, most promising student the Academy’s ever had the privilege of calling their own, genius mechanical gridstream engineer, brilliantly pioneering inventor… and dead man. But that’s what happens when a whiz kid messes with dynamic crystals and, apparently, comes to the attention of Baron Petra Stanslo. Killed for his revolutionary designs, Kimolijah Adani had been set to change the world with his impossible train that runs on nothing more than gridstream locked in a crystal. Technically it shouldn’t even be possible, but there is no doubt it works.
Bas is convinced the notoriously covetous and corrupt Stanslo had something to do with Kimolijah Adani’s tragic and suspicious end. A Directorate Tracker, Bas has finally managed to catch the scent of Kimolijah Adani’s killer, and it leads right into Stanslo’s little desert barony. For almost three years, Bas has tried to find a way into Stanslo’s Bridge, and when he finally makes it, shock is too small a word for what—or, rather, whom—he finds there.
Review: If ever there was a book written that deserves to be an illustrated novel, it’s Carole Cummings’ Blue on Black, an alternate universe, twisted history, sci-fi/fantasy/steampunkish feast for the imagination and senses that sends readers on a synesthetic journey to an Old West-like place that, had it ever existed in reality, would have changed our own world dramatically.
Blue on Black is a story that’s not so much woven together from beginning to end as it is deconstructed and put back together again. What I mean by that is the plot and characters, and how they relate to each other, are constructed of a series of knots at the outset that must be untangled in order for us to see the “big picture” resolve itself in the end. Everything in this novel is layered—the colors, the characters, the setting, the Tech, the grandiose scheme which has brought the outlier Stanslo’s Bridge and its robber baron, Petra Stanslo, to the attention of the Directorate—with a subtlety that makes you look just that little bit deeper to make sure you don’t miss a thing. Who are enemies, who are allies, and who is simply looking out for number one? When does servitude represent freedom and freedom, servitude? It’s a web we’re snared in from the start, and we must decipher it right along with our intrepid hero.
Stanslo is both the Pandora’s Box and the Prometheus in the novel, dictator of a place where life often means death, where language is mind control, where double-think and its controlled insanity is delivered with a feral grin. Stanslo has opened up his twisted mind and spilled out an insane amount of narcissism upon his world, using people as leverage to oppress and fear to motivate them to carry out his plans, leaving the reader wondering where is their hope. He is predator and scavenger, exploiter and extortionist, both law and lawlessness, and he has stolen the spark (a spark he’s having trouble harnessing, by the way) necessary to unleash a technology upon humankind that humankind will not appreciate. Rather than a tool of progress, the technology in this novel is the agent of greed and lust and evil, and there seems to be no way to stop Stanslo before his delusions of grandeur give free reign to unchecked horror.
This is where Bartholomew Eisen becomes integral to the story. Bas is a Grade 3 Tracker with the Directorate of the Consolidated Territories, which is a fancy way of saying he can not only sense Tech but can taste its colors, and by taste, can tell what sort of Tech a man or woman possesses. He’s been assigned to track a missing weatherTech, a case which ends up intersecting with another, a murder case he’s been investigating involving one of the most promising minds in gridTech ever to be born, Kimolijah Adani, and Kimolijah’s father Ajamil. And this is how Bas ends up in Stanslo’s Bridge posing as a gunslinger called Jakob Barstow.
Narrated with no small amount of sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek humor, not to mention a flair that invokes comic book storytelling, Blue on Black is motion and movement in not only in its crafting but in the very magic of its Tech. Kimo’s power is all about the kinetic energy that flows through and from him, which draws all manner of attention to him, not to mention attracts the bad to him like a negative to a positive charge. “Everything that leaks from the Bruise goes after gridstream,” and poor Kimo is the target of the worst of it.
The Bruise itself is a place, a contusion in the skin of this world from which mutant beasts escape, a place where Nature has been made wild and toxic, a foe of the humans who, in all its karmic glory, are the ones guilty of corrupting it in the first place. It is the place that has offered Stanslo the means to control and the method to compel his madness and incite his avarice, jealousy, suspicion, and obsession with his most prized possession, playing god in his own little corner of hell. But, as with all oppressors, a day of reckoning awaits, and it’s one of the book’s greatest and most satisfying ironies when it happens.
There is action and suspense and danger between the covers of this novel, and while there is something building between Bas and Kimo amidst the destruction, Blue on Black is not a love story, though it is the story of two men who don’t know they’re falling into something that could be love, and doing it quite humorously, I might add. Really, how could they know, though, when one of them is in denial of his feelings, and the other is so full of anger and distrust that there isn’t much room for anything else? You’ve heard the idiom about someone having a burr under his saddle (or in other ::ahem:: delicate areas)? Well, the burrs in this book aren’t figurative, they are literal, and they play far too significant a role in Kimo’s life for him not to be more than a bit prickly. Plus, it’s hard to know love in the presence of fear, and it’s also rather difficult to recognize it when fear and love present some of the same physical symptoms—another lovely irony that.
Blue on Black is yet another outstanding novel by this author. I have had the pleasure of reading all her published work to date and can say without reservation that each of her books is an experience that may make you think a little harder, but the payoff in the end is always well worth the journey.
When you’re in the mood for an Alt U, Sci-Fi, Action/Adventure trip into an (un)reality of (un)imaginably fantastic proportions, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Blue on Black.
You can buy Blue on Black here:
Carole lives with her husband and family in Pennsylvania, USA, where she spends her time trying to find time to write. Recipient of various amateur writing awards, several of her short stories have been translated into Spanish, German, Chinese and Polish.
Author of the Aisling and Wolf’s-own series, Carole is currently in the process of developing several other works, including more short stories than anyone will ever want to read, and novels that turn into series when she’s not looking.
Carole is an avid reader of just about anything that’s written well and has good characters. She is a lifelong writer of the ‘movies’ that run constantly in her head. Surprisingly, she does manage sleep in there somewhere, and though she is rumored to live on coffee and Pixy Stix™, no one has as yet suggested she might be more comfortable in a padded room.
…Well. Not to her face.
Carole is a Rainbow Con 2015 Attending Author