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The Blade Between

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  310 ratings  ·  127 reviews
From Nebula Award winner Sam J. Miller comes a frightening and uncanny ghost story about a rapidly changing city in upstate New York and the mysterious forces that threaten it.

Ronan Szepessy promised himself he’d never return to Hudson. The sleepy upstate town was no place for a restless gay photographer. But his father is ill and New York City’s distractions have become t
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published December 1st 2020 by Ecco
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Average rating 3.55  · 
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Nilufer Ozmekik
Nov 12, 2020 rated it liked it
A small town’s abrupt change by losing the spots of local stores to the new hipster owners, floating whales, increasing pressure and blowing hateful energy ! What a complex, creative but also a little confusing story! The author’s profound love to the whales made him use them as important spiritual addition to this story as he did at his previous work.

I loved so many unique, inventive, different things about this book which waltzes between different genres including horror, mystery, thriller, d
DNF - 30%. I tried but I’m out. The truth is this book isn’t for me. I can’t give it just 1 star because it does have some great complex characterization (Ronan - protagonist) that I enjoyed, but here’s why I’m out. Ronan hates, HATES Hudson, a homophobic hellhole he endured and left. Now he’s returned because he’s doing a photo shoot for a guy who.... uh is actually dead. And now Hudson is a gay Mecca of sorts! That part, cool as heck, but then he starts a love affair with his married ex, and t ...more
After reading: 4.5 stars.
Sam's most lyrical work I read so far. It is one of those books that resonates. He writes so eloquently and you would find yourself carried away and lo and behold, it is 3 AM in the morning.

As many reviewers mention, this book is ALOT. Variety of themes and issues, from social justice ones e.g. Eviction and displacement (the author's an activist), LGBT+ discrimination (own voice), racism, class warfare, to technology and social media invasive nature and how to weaponiz
Nov 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nov-2020-reads
This was a book that was way out of my comfort zone and I’m thankful for the experience in helping me grow as a reader. Initially, this was a mash up of The Bright Lands and When No One Is Watching, but once the second half of the book commenced it broke out more on its own (thankfully).

This is definitely a book for the Trump era. (With a country so divided and the pervasiveness of the us vs them mentality.) One thing I would never anticipate thinking about that came to my mind a few times was
The Captain
Dec 02, 2020 rated it did not like it
Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy horror eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

I really enjoyed blackfish city and was excited when I saw that Miller had a new book coming out and it had something to do with whales.  I was looking forward to seeing what the mind that came up with the “orcamancer” would give us next.

This story follows a gay photographer, Ronan, who fled small town Hudson, New York to go to the big city and never want
Book Barbarian  (Tammy Smith)
eARC received from Edelweiss, thank you to Edelweiss and Ecco HarperCollins (opinions are my own).

I know two things about Sam.
He writes really well. And he is fucking obsessed with whales....

Sam’s previous novel Blackfish City really let me down and/or I over-hyped myself for it to me more than it was but I really wanted to read more from this author because he is very , very talented and he proves it with this very eloquent horror novel.


The author easily went from writing fantasy to writ
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"We don't get to choose our cages." "For better or for worse, this is home".

I wish I had clicked with Blackfish City more, but I'm glad I did with The Blade Between. It's a risky novel, full of symbolism, which packs a great overload of intentions, as if Sam Miller were writing a short story in novel form.

Disjointed identities and broken people trying to deal with a collective trauma called Hudson, a city built upon the blood that flows from the ribcages of whales. The city's description (which
Michael Adamchuk
I'm not sure why I downloaded this from NetGalley, its content is far off my radar screen. The historic town of Hudson, NY is simmering with angst. Locals are extremely upset that the wealthy down-staters have taken over their town. They have bought and renovated old homes and down-town buildings and turned them into expensive homes, condos, and antique stores. The result has been many evictions of local residents and local small businesses. Hardest hit are the minorities, blacks and LGBTS. The ...more
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
As a person who also moved far away from my small town, and then moved back as an adult to care for my aging father, I related a lot to this book. Well, maybe just in that way, and not so much the other things this protagonist did....but they sure were fun to read about.

The main character, Ronan, a NYC photographer, has returned to his small town upstate while drying out from a recent crystal meth addiction. He passes the time by catfishing, searching for blackmail material, and obsessing over h
Aug 10, 2020 rated it did not like it
Something about this just didn't work - the fear? the setting (Hudson seems to have moved from actually on, you know, the Hudson)? not caring about the characters? DNF after 25%.

eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss.
Feb 04, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. This book had a LOT going in it: race, class, homophobia, bullying, gentrification and its deleterious effects, reconnecting with parents and old friends/lovers, processing grief, addiction, whaling, ghosts and other entities, and…. You get the picture.
Add to that the idea of whales influencing events in a city under great change as the older, long-time residents are forced out due to wealthy hipsters and all their lattés. As well as one man’s pain and anger adding fuel to an already
Nov 26, 2020 rated it liked it
"Love is harder than hate.
Hate is easy.
But love? Love is hard."

This is definitely a case of my low rating not being a good reflection of the book - but of me.
This is actually a very well written, interesting, lyrical book - and it's the reason I'm giving it 3 stars. I think a lot of people will find this book interesting and that it makes an interesting statement and leaves you thinking well after you are done.

But it felt very much like Magic realism (or maybe sci-fi realism? Is that a thing?).
Dec 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
A dark and beautiful journey.
Becky Spratford
Aug 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Review in the October 2020 issue of Library Journal

Three Words That Describe This Book: cosmic, intense dread, childhood trauma

Draft Review:
Award-winning, Science Fiction author, Miller, takes Cosmic Horror head on with chillingly realistic results. Ronan, a famous NYC photographer, comes home, to Hudson, far upstate, to care for his dying father. Returning to the palce of childhood trauma, a place where being openly gay was dangerous, Ronan reconnects with his first crush, Dom, now a police off
David Agranoff
Podcast interview recording soon. I will post it here.

I was looking forward to this book since it was being written. One of the cool things about interviewing authors for the various podcasts I do is getting to know them a little better. A few years back I interviewed Sam J. Miller in one of the early interviews I did for our Philip K Dick podcast when I selected Miller’s amazing Cli-fi novel Blackfish City as a Dick-like suggestion on our show. In that interview, he hinted that he was deep into
Matthijs van Soest
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
To start: I received an ARC of this through a Goodreads Giveaway.

I really enjoyed reading this. It is well written with interesting characters that generally are engaging and in all cases quite flawed. These flaws are what makes the story work, otherwise a number of the questions/issues that other reviewers bring up and I do not really want/need to repeat here would become difficult to overcome obstacles.

The supernatural aspect of the story (ghosts of whales!!! and ghosts/spirits?! of people) wo
I wish that I had loved this book. I read several reviews prior to writing mine which I normally don't do but I'm glad I did. The reason is that it seems quite a few of us (if not most of the ones I read) had some commonalities: almost quitting it during the first 50% (and less!) of the book, being confused at the start, and just how easy it was to read and keep comparing it to things going on in our nation right now.

The book's MC Ronan is a photographer who happens to be a gay man who grew up w
"Because here's the thing she learned along the way--hate is a kind of attachment. To hate something is to cleave your soul to it. And sometimes love is the root of hate. Sometimes you say you hate something because you love it, love what it could be, but hate what it is, how flawed and broken. She feels that way about her country. Hates it, because of how much she loves it, and how much awful stuff it does, how far short it falls of its own professed ideals." (51)

"Yeah, but, here's the thing ab
Oct 27, 2020 rated it liked it

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 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 wi
Nov 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: horror
Thank you NetGalley and HarperCollins for letting me read this unpublished ebook. Well, I’ll start by saying that at least I liked this story better than The Arrest or The Pumpkin Farmer, which are two of the last three books I’ve read. Ronan is a young, gay man who is an up and coming photographer in NYC. He wakes up on a train and realizes he's back in his hometown of Hudson, NY, an old seafaring city. Ronan has a few problems. He also feels a lot of hate toward the people - “outsiders,” who h ...more
Faith Hurst-Bilinski
The Blade Between tried to do a lot of things. Too many things. It seemed to jump around but never finish anything it started out to do. There is the sadness of changes to somewhere you use to know. The anger of gentrification. The pain of relationships. And then there is the supernatural. All of it was promising. None of it seemed to be fully fleshed out or to deliver what it promised in the end. I think this could have been a longer and more developed story.
Jo Ladzinski
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: net-galley
Read an ARC via NetGalley
Trigger warnings: Arson, stabbing, suicide, eviction, drug addiction, sexual assault (implied)

The city of Hudson, New York is rich in a history that’s about to be erased by the gears of gentrification and corporate interests. The community fights back, but it isn’t until the whale gods and ghosts of Hudson’s past join the fray, feasting on hate and unleashing violence upon this already-tense community.

It’d be ridiculous to say that every new Sam J. Miller book is my new
Jimmy Hoke
Dec 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
[Content warnings: book contains discussions of suicide; child sex abuse; and addiction]

Holy horrific shit. Once again, Sam J. Miller has crafted a captivating story with writing that left me gutted and glutted with emotion: horror, despair, hope, hate, and love. This is one hell of a read, and I cannot recommend it more highly. Miller’s story made me lust for the next sentence, the next chapter, an ending I desperately needed to know yet never wanted to reach, I didn’t want to leave this tale,
Feb 22, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-best
I like books with ambition, and Sam J. Miller's "The Blade Between" is stuffed to the blowhole with it.

Miller's got a ton on his mind here: small-town bigotry and gentrification and familial loss and drug addiction and class exploitation and polyamory and vengeance and Grindr sex demons and literal whale gods swimming through the sky, just to name a few. It's a LOT, especially considering that at just under 400 pages it's not exactly an epic.

Not all of the plot threads resolve in neatly satisf
Aaron McQuiston
Jun 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was excited to see a new novel being released by the author of “Blackfish City,” a novel I bought when it came out, always had intentions to read, but did not crack the spine. This means that I requested the ARC of “The Blade Between” on my excitement over the intentions of reading Sam J. Miller’s previous, acclaimed work. 

“The Blade Between” is about Hudson, a city with a rich history. This history fills the town with ghosts of people, of whales, and of the things that it used to be. Ronan fl
Feb 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Miller is an incredibly gifted author with an amazing ability to bring his most imaginative, outlandish dreams to life. Blackfish City was my favorite book the year it came out, and I like The Blade Between just as much. I love the complicated, messy, loving queer families Miller creates, and the feeling that his worlds aren't weird for the sake of weirdness, they're weird because the world is magic.

I do wish this book had been longer - I never wish that, usually - because I think some character
Nov 23, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sword
This is a story about the harm gentrification of in a small town in New York. And how it harms and pains those being pushed out of their homes. I struggled with this book a lot mainly because the execution is flawed. But first, the good, the pain around the gentrification and the disgust and rage against the gentrifiers is very well described, especially in a small post-industrial town. I think the relationships between the characters are also believable, especially the side characters. The auth ...more
Geonn Cannon
Dec 04, 2020 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed most of this book, the townspeople and the whaling history was all in my wheelhouse. The ending is... problematic to say the least, and I think it brings the rating way down. (view spoiler) ...more
Feb 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
I would definitely recommend this book to any horror fans. But at just over half way through, I am sadly putting it aside. Miller writes beautifully, and the book begins strong. The first chapter is stunning. As the story develops the characters and interesting and appealing, with elements of the spiritual ties of nature to human life and ghost story. But then malevolent beings are incarnated and that’s where I lost interest. But if you like horror stories, this may be the perfect book for you!
Andrea McDowell
Feb 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
An interesting thriller/dark fantasy mashup exploring gentrification in one American town. Totally bonkers, sometimes very dark, but enjoyable and fast-paced. The justified anger and hate that can result from the process of gentrification has unexpected consequences in this narrative, and the story circles around the question of what to do with those feelings--how to handle and act on them, without either ignoring or suppressing them, or allowing them to give rise to outsized violence and destru ...more
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Sam J. Miller is the last in a long line of butchers, and the Nebula-Award-winning author of THE ART OF STARVING, one of NPR's Best Books of the Year. His second novel, BLACKFISH CITY was a "Must Read" according to Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Magazine, and one of the best books of 2018 according to the Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and more. He got gay-married in a guerrilla weddin ...more

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