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The Blade Between

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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 too much for him. He hopes that a quick visit will help him recharge. 

Ronan reconnects with two friends from high school: Dom, his first love, and Dom’s wife, Attalah. The three former misfits mourn what their town has become—overrun by gentrifiers and corporate interests. With friends and neighbors getting evicted en masse and a mayoral election coming up, Ronan and Attalah craft a plan to rattle the newcomers and expose their true motives. But in doing so, they unleash something far more mysterious and uncontainable. 

Hudson has a rich, proud history and, it turns out, the real estate developers aren’t the only forces threatening its well-being: the spirits undergirding this once-thriving industrial town are enraged. Ronan’s hijinks have overlapped with a bubbling up of hate and violence among friends and neighbors, and everything is spiraling out of control. Ronan must summon the very best of himself to shed his own demons and save the city he once loathed.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published December 1, 2020

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About the author

Sam J. Miller

84 books756 followers
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 wedding in the shadow of a tyrannosaurus skeleton. He lives in New York City, and at samjmiller.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 192 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,203 reviews40.8k followers
November 14, 2020
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, dysfunctional family drama, thought provoking approach to the small town’s bullying, narrow minded people’s attitudes towards the LGBTQ community and of course the hero’s main motivation that feeds him to take action to the newcomers was deep hate growing inside of him for years and years.

But one thing still confuses me: the MC Ronan, 40 years old, NYC photographer specialized on erotism on his work. He is gay and he never gets approval of the people of his small town Hudson. He got abused by his school friends. Even his father never understood him, refusing to visit him for 20 years. And now he is sick. He needs to be taken care of.

So Ronan goes to his old town to look after his death but the place is extremely changed after being invaded by new artsy community. This place was once upon a time whaling town , corrupted by crime, gambling and prostitution but as new comers start to build a new community and social circle, they opened antique shops, trendy restaurants, galleries. Eventually the local store owners start to lose their shops including Ronan’s father who has to close his butcher shop.

So Ronan teams up with his old crush / police officer Dom and his wife Attalah to get their town’s back.

I had hard time to understand Ronan who acts hateful against this new community so much as we consider his own people never approve his sexuality and acted so mean, abusive. And his way of creating a fake gay male account to get more information from gay community via online dating service was also quite hateful move!

This logic didn’t work with me but the action packed parts when the hell breaks loose were so entertaining! Second part of the book was more likable for my taste even though the whales’ invasion parts are a little exaggerated, I had so much fun.

I cut my points because of the MC’s confusing manners and exaggerated hateful thinking against the people. The creative ideas, world building, big fight between new comers and locals, fantasy elements are the strengths of the novel I truly enjoyed.

I’m giving 3.25 stars to differentiate this book from my regular Switzerland, mediocre reads! It’s still good, smart, unique, filled of clever imaginative ideas. I couldn’t resonate with hero and his motives. That’s why I gave a little lower point.

But hands down, the author is brilliant and I’m looking forward to read more works of him sooner.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins Publishers / Ecco for sharing this reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,151 reviews1,118 followers
January 27, 2021
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 weaponize them. The novel reads like magical realism imbued with horror. It is feverish in parts but never boring. What I loved the most was that it delves deep (no pun intended) to the characters (even side ones) psyche. With all the themes surrounding the characters struggling with their hopes, fears, love, insecurities, down to buried fetishes, I think you did a tremendous job, Sam, in capturing and framing them into one hell of a story.

I did however would love a more deliberation of the supernatural aspects of it. I can deal with lack of real whales (sobs) but I needed more than the back story provided and how it affected the characters. Even my past reads of whaling history - admittedly Nantucket-based - did not give much context.

Yet again, Sam Miller knows how to write a city. Heck, China Mieville now got a strong competitor. In urban SFF sometimes I struggled with the immersion. NK Jemisin's The City We Became - which I liked - was one example. In The Blade Between, I lived and breathed the city of Hudson.

Before reading:
Looking forward to read this. Special for this Halloween it's auto-approved in Netgalley. If you've read Blackfish City (which was one of my fave books in 2018), you'll know why I'm excited for this.
Profile Image for ScrappyMags.
597 reviews248 followers
November 1, 2020
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 there’s this whole thing with this revolving around whales... like the dead whales of the past are up to all this? Ehhh that’s some mysticism and I’m just NOT feeling it. I think if it was better described, better billed as a nature/mysticism type of book either id have passed or read it expecting that, and wasn’t fond of what I found.

Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins/Ecco for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Michelle.
605 reviews458 followers
November 21, 2020
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 Mueller Report. I remember when listening to it, the tactics the Russian troll farms would use to try and spread confusion, hate and disinformation inside our country. Those very same tactics were used in the fictional town of Hudson, which could be any town in America that fell behind during the rise of globalization. It was quite terrifying, but very believable to read and something I wouldn’t have been able to picture if this was published pre-Trump. If I’m being totally honest, this whole book would have been a pile of crazy pre-Trump. Alas, here we are. I think this book provides much in social commentary that would elevate any conversation surrounding poverty, the opioid crisis, gentrification and much of what our country wrestles with culturally.

A slight criticism I have relates to the sheer number of character perspectives. I don’t disagree with the author trying to portray literally almost the entire town to demonstrate the madness and evil that overtook everything, but it got a little confusing. I kept struggling to remember who everyone was and at first blamed it on reading it before bed every night, but then came to see that new perspectives were introduced at almost rapid pace as the conclusion drew nearer. Once I could see what the author was doing I just told myself to roll with it, but another reader might not be as forgiving. This also broke up the flow and made things jarring at times, but I respect the author’s decision for writing it this way.

Overall, Mr. Miller is a brilliant writer and this is not a book I will forget anytime soon. I hope that in five or ten years time, readers of this book will look back on these issues as being things of the past.

Thank you to Ecco Books and Sam J Miller for the opportunity to read and provide an honest review.

Review Date: 11/20/2020
Publication Date: 12/01/2020
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,894 reviews1,927 followers
November 13, 2022
Real Rating: 3.5* of five, rounded down

The Publisher Says: 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 too much for him. He hopes that a quick visit will help him recharge.

Ronan reconnects with two friends from high school: Dom, his first love, and Dom’s wife, Attalah. The three former misfits mourn what their town has become—overrun by gentrifiers and corporate interests. With friends and neighbors getting evicted en masse and a mayoral election coming up, Ronan and Attalah craft a plan to rattle the newcomers and expose their true motives. But in doing so, they unleash something far more mysterious and uncontainable.

Hudson has a rich, proud history and, it turns out, the real estate developers aren’t the only forces threatening its well-being: the spirits undergirding this once-thriving industrial town are enraged. Ronan’s hijinks have overlapped with a bubbling up of hate and violence among friends and neighbors, and everything is spiraling out of control. Ronan must summon the very best of himself to shed his own demons and save the city he once loathed.


My Review
: Whale ghosts.

Seriously. Whale ghosts! Go get the book already! What's that about the plot? Oh, okay: Ronan, our out and queer protagonist, comes home to Hudson, New York. He was roundly hated for being his gayboy self, but Things Have Changed and, well, I myownself call someplace homophobically stuffed turning into Boystown-meets-the-Tenderloin a Martha-Stewart level Good Thing. The whale ghosts, um...they are...weird, as expected. That was okay with me, too, since I like the cli-fi elements of the read.

We parted company when Ronan gets involved with his married ex-lover. I've been in that car crash and I do not like that trope.
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,073 reviews373 followers
December 2, 2020
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 wants to go back.  Ronan is thus surprised to find himself on a train headed there.  Ronan is a complicated character.  He is selfish, damaged, and filled with hate.  Being recently sober, he doesn't know why he is headed to Hudson.

The reasons for this are complicated and ultimately don't make much sense.  There are mystical dead whales or gods or something.  I really did enjoy the set up for the novel and Ronan meeting up with his old high school friends.  I did not however, really care for the way the gentrification plot was handled even though the subject is an important one.  The side characters were intriguing and complicated but there were so many of them that none were explored satisfactorily. 

This really was a novel of big ideas that didn't cohesively gel.  The ideas included commentary on gentrification, homophobia, open marriages, drug abuse, bullying, obfuscation of history, embracing history, suicide, health problems, police brutality, corruption, social change, online manipulation, race, poverty, anger, social services, and the complicated love/hate relationship of hometowns and family.  Add in the other elements like magical realism, cosmic horror, weird dreams, ghosts, and gods who suck.

It was just too much.  I didn't connect to most of the characters and found the "horror" elements to be lame.  Also the pace starts out well, declines steadily throughout most of the novel, and then has an abrupt, poorly explained ending.  Though what happens to Ronan wasn't a surprise. There are also loose ends in many of the side plots.  I did however like the use of harpoons even if the whales in this story could have been removed.  Were they just there so there could be harpoons?

Overall a disappointing read that had a strong beginning and premise that failed to deliver.

So lastly . . .

Thank you Ecco Press!

Side note:  I always heard about whaling in Nantucket and not Hudson.  Also I never knew that Hudson was infamous for brothels in the 1920s and 1930s.  And a lot of this story seems partially inspired by the author's life as described in his author bio on his website.
Profile Image for Carol.
2,422 reviews76 followers
January 5, 2022
The setting for this story is the author’s hometown. It has to be one of the weirdest things I have ever read. The character of Roanan 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. HA ! Do you think? He feels a lot of hate toward the “outsiders,” who have been buying up all the real estate and driving the long-time residents out.” Ronan’s high school friend. Dom, is still in town and is now a police officer and married to another high school friend, Attala. Everybody seems to have a plot and lots of secrets. Actually, there's hate floating around everywhere. Now here is where it really gets weird. Ronan doesn't realize it at first, but he can see dead people and one of them is telling him that he has to spread the hate around in order for the outsiders to leave. Even weirder now... Are you ready? He has visions of whales floating through the sky speaking to him through his dead friend, Katch. This is where I nearly stopped reading. There was just too much to keep up with. So many different characters all doing so many different things.... sometimes all at the same time. I believe the clincher was the whole idea of slaughtered whales from hundreds of years ago becoming mystical and people running around the city killing each other with harpoons, while wearing whale head coverings. This was just too far-fetched for even for me.

Actual Rating: 2.5 stars
325 reviews68 followers
October 12, 2020
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 writing horror, I love that.
The story is so well written and its voice flows off the page so smoothly. His writing here reminded me of an author I know (don’t ask me who though). The characters are really fleshed out and I enjoyed the good ones and the bad and the main protagonist really captured my attention early on. The characters complicated relationships with each other was really felt and I got a great understanding of the town of Hudson and why things developed that way.


Whale on the cover, whales in the cover. Ugh, I dunno, nothing against them personally but its making me dwell on Blackfish City his previous novel (even though the whales in there have nothing to do with this) but a small tiny part of me just quietly asked why he didn’t get this out his system in his previous novel. Although interesting it lost me a few times and often had to force myself to read on

The writing and prose was so stunningly done it almost made me lethargic to any major moments in the book, I felt like it was all very predictable and it concluded just as I thought.
If you love smooth character driven horror novels that have you reminiscing, The Blade Between is the perfect book for you.

Rating: 3

The Blade Between by Sam J. Miller
Publish Date: December 1st 2020
Cover Rating: 4/10
Adult – Horror – Fiction – LGBT
Profile Image for Moon.
63 reviews15 followers
January 20, 2021
"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 I had to look up, because in Europe we have a different concept of that word) is incredible, paragraph after paragraph you get every sense of its history and Sam Miller manages to take you by the hand and show you Warren Street without the need of Google Street View.

And like any city, the real life comes from its inhabitants. The cast of characters is diverse, touching many of the differences that makes cities so complex. Differences of class, sexual orientation, marital status, race, religion, old jobs vs. new jobs... Sam Miller manages not only to flesh out three incredibly deep characters that you care for, but also he paints the amazing chorus that any tragedy needs: billionaires, gay BIPOC aspiring artist with his conservative pastor mother, struggling 3rd generation Irish with some drug problems... Even the I'm-here-because-of-gentrification-hipster extra is incredibly fleshed out in 3 sentences. Not to mention the real greek chorus, a collective made of ghost whales that are central to the narration of the story... just wow. such risk. And well executed.

All these ingredients serve Sam to talk about gentrification and eviction free zones, being raised in a depressed zone in which everyone is a bully and a victim, racism, homophobia, hyperconnected societies, the allure of social media and its instant gratification, our addictions to drugs, to sex, to self-loath. And emotions. Emotions are LIVELY. The anger, the hate, the impotence, the desire to be better. Everything on top of an enthralling mystery that hops from noir to horror with fantastic elements. And lots of whales metaphors.

It's okay to love something that you hate.
Just like it's okay to hate something that you love.
And we all have to learn to love the cages we're in, because we carry them with us wherever we go.

Extra whale of love:
🐳 Ms. Jackson as a framing device for feelings and to provide soundtrack to some passages. 📻📻📻

Thanks Netgalley for the eARC.
#NetGalley #TheBladeBetween
Profile Image for Mike Adamchuk.
975 reviews
January 2, 2021
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 characters are all flawed: current drug users, former drug users, adulterers, and schemers among other things. One of the protagonists, Ronan, returns to the town he hated and a youth because of the rampant homophobia. The town has now become a gay mecca. His 'love', Dom, is a town cop and is married to Attalah. The two men rekindle their relationship. Jark Trowse is the prime antagonist. He is there to finagle and buy out more of the town in order to build the Pequod Arms complex for the down-staters. Zelda is the prime conspirator in an attempt to destroy Jark and his plans. It all culminates in a fire and bulldozer rampage. The townspeople vow to rebuild. The novel is fraught with symbolism, good vs evil. Swimming sky whales, whale head costumes and harpoons being used as weapons. I was puzzled how Hudson has a whaling history, according to the book, it's a 2-hour train ride up the Hudson River from New York City. There are ghosts in Hudson and some of them are the result of recent deaths. They talk to the primary characters and appear and disappear at will. The author seems to switch between the first person, third person and what seems to be stream of consciousness frequently, seemingly adding a bit of confusion to the reading. I believe I had this novel in my NetGalley account before its publication date but didn't get to it soon enough since it was published in December. I thank NetGalley and Harper-Collins for my free copy and apologize for the tardy review.
Profile Image for Christina.
545 reviews201 followers
April 30, 2020
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 his first love, who is now inconveniently married to a woman. I really enjoyed the tone of this book and the somewhat nasty, but funny and likable, protagonist.

The book is dark and the narrator is complicated...which is just how I like it. It's really well-written, extremely, original, super fast-paced and intriguing. A lot of books claim to be "unputdownable" - this one actually is.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins for helping me discover Sam J. Miller. I will definitely be checking out his other books.
Profile Image for Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight).
885 reviews123 followers
October 23, 2022
There was a lot in this book, and I just couldn't figure out how it all connected, and it started feeling sort of chaotic and cluttered. The main plot, I think, was about Ronan and Attalah trying to stop the gentrification of their city. But there were also personal things going on with a bunch of different characters (eviction, family death, drug addiction), Ronan's dad dying, the relationship between Ronan and Dom, ghost whales, a ghost human, an imaginary person made real.

Also, there were sort of two POVs: Ronan's and everyone else's (I suppose omniscient). The second one showed the reader what was going on with a lot of different characters, sometimes only for a brief scene, sometimes the character was just an unnamed random person. And I found myself mostly wanting to get back to Ronan, because...

Ronan was a great, complex character. I loved how flawed and real he felt. He was a recovering drug addict. He was in love with and sleeping with his best friend, even though his best friend was married (open relationship), and he sort of convinced himself that he and Dom and Attalah could all be best friends and be happy together. He had a lot of darkness and hatred inside him because of how he was treated in Hudson growing up as a gay guy, and because his mother committed suicide and then his dad wasn't there for him. He had complicated, complex, sometimes contradicting feelings about things that he was trying to understand and accept. And he was interesting and still likeable, despite his flaws. I was rooting for him.

I suppose all the characters were complex and flawed (some likeable, some not). I just didn't get to know them all as well as I got to know Ronan since they didn't have as much POV time.

Not important, but I think there was a little callback to The Art of Starving? Just a passing mention of something that happened, so it's kinda neat that both books, though unrelated, are set in the same world.

The audiobook narration by Graham Halstead and David Sadzin was good. Graham Halstead especially did a perfect job of bringing Ronan to life.

So even though I couldn't get into this as much as I wanted to, it's rare for me to find this kind of frank, genuinely flawed character, and I definitely enjoyed that, as well as how unique and different the book was overall.

*Rating: 3 Stars // Read Date: 2022 // Format: Audiobook*

Recommended For:
Anyone who likes sort of dark and ominous stories, flawed characters, complicated feelings, scheming, and stories that uniquely combine lots of unrelated things.

More Reviews @ Metaphors and Moonlight
Profile Image for Harry.
22 reviews
April 5, 2022
Don't think I've ever read a book quite like this.
Miller does a stellar job of weaving together the supernatural and the all too real in this novel and creating an enthralling thriller that is simultaneously an allegory, a narrative on so many sociopolitical topics from gay rights and homophobia to gentrification and drug use (something I must say I was not prepared for). The storyline was at times a bit difficult to follow but this was a quick read and I did feel I understood the plot despite this. Miller's commentary on one's hometown- hating it, loving to hate it, and thus, loving it- really gave me a lot to think about, and the discussions of gentrification and its impact on the community is something I'm quite familiar with, growing up in a rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood. Overall, there isn't too much to say, as this was rather a short novel, compared to other ones I've read recently; it's a fantastic story with great social undertones, and something I'd recommend to city dwellers and small town folk- as well as anyone who enjoys fantasy type psychological horror and a look at the dark side of the world. Is this novel perfect? No- I think it lives just a bit too much in Miller's mind and I think details could have been expanded upon more. But it's for sure a great book.
Profile Image for Laura.
3,720 reviews95 followers
August 22, 2020
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.
Profile Image for David Agranoff.
Author 23 books135 followers
February 2, 2021
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 work on a novel about his hometown and whale ghosts.

He didn’t know but I was working on a novel about the ghosts of my small town at the same time. This is a sub-genre of novel that I adore, and since I was in the same headspace it really had my attention. The most famous example of this sub-genre is Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. In many ways, The Blade Between evokes the same small-town ghosts and horror as Something Wicked but with the modern diversity and progress inherit of an author who is a gay man and a social justice activist.

Yeah, the Blade Between hits some sweet spots for me. I talked with a friend of mine recently who read the same book. He said that he understood that it was a well-written book but the story didn’t do much for him. As I finished and loved the book, I thought a little bit about why we had such a different experience. I realized that he was from a big city, but more importantly, he was still in his home town that he had only briefly left.

Much of the strength of this novel takes place in the weird mental space where a person returns to their home town after a few years to find an alien place. It is a unique feeling, you know how to navigate the streets, but the buildings have changed. Beloved shops and restaurants have changed hands. Townies who never left look aged and different. All the ghosts of your childhood both positive and negative resurface in your mind, something you would never think about in the new city you call home. I am not sure this book will work as well for life long townies.

The Blade Between is a great novel about that common haunting but what was so charming for me was Sam Miller’s unique experience with his hometown translated through his imagination. Fictional versions of people that could have lived in Hudson New York and tortured spirits inspired by the blood of whales from the real-life industry that the upstate river town was built around in real-life. I love how Miller uses the history and setting of Hudson to evoke that home-town haunting feeling I KNOW from returning to Bloomington Indiana, my hometown with different but relatable issues.

Our main point of view character is Ronan a successful photographer, who has been living in the city that might be connected by train but might as well be a million miles apart from the town that raised him. He is going through drama in the city and after taking the train out he finds a different Hudson. While he grew up struggled with homophobia, Hudson is becoming almost a gay getaway. Even the candidate running for Mayor is openly gay. The problem with the rich man running for office is that he is buying up the town trying to remake it.

The parallels at the heart of this novel are really well set up. The hipster city folks taking over and wanting to destroy the town as it was are like living monsters. At the same time the ghosts of the town’s tragic history are woven into the story, and after decades of haunting the town now wants to protect it. Well sorta. At the end of the first act, there is clarity to the purpose of this novel.

“The City was built on their blood, Katch said “It’s in the foundations of the buildings. The sap of the trees. The oxygen that mosses excrete.”

The battle lines are drawn. Ronan joins the activist resistance, whole at the same time dealing with hauntings of coming home. The boy he always crushed on who likes to experiment with him is now a cop and is married to one of his oldest friends. He also is dealing with his dying father whose wishes he is not sure how to value or make happen. The freedom the town offers him as an adult he never felt growing up. The tension between comfort and misery is on almost every page.

Part of the activist storyline provides some of the novel’s most effective moments of horror that are what I consider minor spoilers. The novel is at its best when it is personal and heartfelt. The horrors of the hipster invasion of the hometown balanced with the ghosts both positive and negative are the beating heart of this story.

“They made this town theirs. And their magic is powerful. Their wards have held for almost two centuries.”

Those are the macro themes but Miller also nails some micro themes as well. This aspect comes from the various aspects of Sam Miller that make this novel a one of a kind thing that could only be the product of this one singular writer. It is concerned with issues like eviction and housing issues, corporate invasions, historical racism, LGBT+ discrimination, class warfare, and most interesting to this long time married old dude how modern technology and social media is used and sometimes weaponize in the Queer community. Also, the idea of Grindr online fantasies becoming solid and real threats provides one of the best horror suspense beats of 2020.

“I found my old phone. Opened it up, logged into my own Grindr account. And then I clicked on Browse Nearby.

Sure enough, the nearest man to me was Tom Minniq >25 less than Twenty-feet away.”

I don’t say that lightly as 2020 is a year of fantastic horror novels. I also admit as a straight old married dude I wouldn’t have understood how great this moment was if without a co-worker who had explained to me how youngins date these days. Ha-ha. Glad he did because this moment was incredible.

I am sorry I didn’t get to read The Blade Between in 2020 but it stands up there with all the great horror novels of this last year, Your Mexican Gothic, or The Only Indian. Diverse and powerful horror had a great year and this book is on the list for sure.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,609 reviews192 followers
February 4, 2021
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 fraught environment, and giving a malevolent entity just the energy it needs to effect events only adds to the story of conflicted, messed up people making poor choices in messy situation and coming together in a combustible way.
This was not the easiest book to get through, but I liked it.
Profile Image for Lisa Lynch.
442 reviews241 followers
March 16, 2021
I really didn't like Sam J. Miller's The Blade Between.

This book is about a guy named Ronan who returns to Hudson, his home town, to find it is slowly being gentrified and filled with hipsters and antique shops. Some rich dude is at fault, so Ronan reconnects with his first love, Dom, and Dom's wife, Attalah, to concoct a plan to take the big, bad, rich guy down and return Hudson to it's former glory.

My first issue: Hudson was never glorious, so why tf does Ronan want to stay stuck in the past? Seriously, Ronan was physically and emotionally bullied for being gay as he grew up in Hudson.
there was virtually nothing in this book that made me believe he would not have wanted rich hipsters to move in and make the town better. Old Hudson just sounds miserable.

Across the street, a liquor store. Inside was all smiling sommeliers and artisanal tequilas and bourbon made in barrels built from reclaimed wood-- a far cry from the bulletproof-glass-and-lottery-tickets liquor store Hudson used to have on Warren Street. (p. 129)

I mean, Ronan has been away from Hudson for 20 years pursuing an erotic art career and is a perfect fit in the new Hudson. He even gets along and seems to be attracted to the "evil" billionaire when he spends time with him, so what the hell? The character motivation here just doesn't make sense to me.

And yeah, Ronan's father lost his business, but Ronan only says he cares about that because his actions surrounding his father definitely don't show that. I mean, Ronan all but ignores the guy and hardly interacts with him. It was like Miller intended for that plot point to go places, but then forgot to pack and canceled the trip.

Also, the Hudson of this book is a former whaling town that has a deep history of crime, prostitution, gambling, and corruption. So why in the world would anybody want to go back to that?? Dom is a police officer, so he kind of stays on the sidelines to avoid being directly involved with anything criminal. And Attalah is kind of stuck in the middle of Ronan and her husband. So again, I'm questioning character motivations, and honestly, I continued questioning them the whole way through this book.

My second issue: Ronan and Attalah's scheming was treated like some GIANT MASTERMIND PLAN, but then it just fizzled out in the most epic of disappointments. There was so much potential here, but my god was the end not worth the hype. It was messy and confusing and just didn't work for me.

And again, I'm wondering why the hell are these people doing any of this? There are a handful of side characters that just add to this, some of them attempting to sabotage Ronan and Attalah's plans. Unfortunately, they aren't explored or explained effectively, so I they left me feel more confused than intrigued.

My third issue: The paranormal aspect of this book was woefully underdeveloped and poorly explained in the end. Maybe there are ghosts and beings that materialize from hate and bad energy? Or from dead whale gods? Whatever... it was too damn stupid to spend any more time and energy on.

My forth issue: The themes and ideas of this book just don't come together as well as they needed to.

Hate had taken me this far. It was the blade between my ribs. It was the pain I grabbed hold of, to make my art.

The biggest theme in this book is hate, but I struggled to wrap my head around how that impacted character motivations and actions and what it actually meant. And why are we hating on hipsters and antique stores and billionaires?? Why aren't we hating homophobes and criminals or, I don't know, assholes LIKE RONAN.

Why shouldn't I drink? Why not single-malt scotch? I was all of a sudden an obscenely wealthy man. And all I had to do was betray everything my father believed in. And unleash a hideous monster in the shape of a man. I waved my credit card like a sword that could slay the sea serpents encircling me. (p. 168)

My fifth issue: Ronan is a piece of shit. When he arrives to town, he a drug and sex addict. Also, not only does he basically ignore his sad and damaged father, but his part in the GIANT MASTERMIND PLAN involves making a Tinder profile where he manipulates and seduces the gay men in town to get dirt so he can blackmail them. WHAT THE FUCK?? He also rekindles a sexual relationship with Dom despite the fact that both of them know it would be hurtful to Attalah. I could not bring myself to care or root for Ronan. He gets what he deserves in the end, but it still managed to be unsatisfying.

My sixth issue: This book is a mess of genres and left me confused and irritated. I didn't think this was a horror book when I picked it up OR when I finished it. So seeing "horror fiction" pop up when I (just now) searched what genre this was was a shock. Fuck that. If this was supposed to be a horror book, then every horror element in it was botched.

Before I give my rating, I do want to mention that the writing was nice at times. Yeah, what was written was a confusing mess, but some of it sounded beautiful.

I rated Sam J. Miller's The Blade Between 2 out of 5 stars.

You might like this if you like: things that are a bit nonsensical and unlikable people.
Profile Image for E..
Author 170 books105 followers
December 22, 2020
A dark and beautiful journey.
Profile Image for Becky Spratford.
Author 4 books503 followers
October 2, 2020
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 officer, and his wife Attalah, a community organizer, to help them save the town from gentrification. But Hudson is more than just a typical, down on its luck, small town, its rich history has a power that goes deep into the soil, a power that transcends time and space, one that does not see humans as an obstacle, and one that will protect itself at all costs.

Verdict: Filled with intense dread and unease that permeates every page, well drawn, if flawed characters, social commentary, and a satisfying resolution, this is a great example of how a century old subgenre can still speak directly to today’s readers. Direct those who want more to The Fisherman by Langan, Agents of Dreamland by Kiernan, or The Twisted Ones by Kingfisher.
Profile Image for Matthijs van Soest.
66 reviews6 followers
December 26, 2020
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) works for me, but I can see how for some people it is more of a distraction from a story that by itself could stand as a social commentary of a significant number of issues facing our society (chief among them: predatory gentrification, LGBTQ+ -fobia, substance abuse and addiction, and racism). The supernatural aspect is used as a mechanism to push what otherwise might have been small scale relatively powerless activism against the people driving the gentrification/major changes of/to the town/city of Hudson into a full blown radical vigilante movement that quickly spins out of control. All of this is somehow linked to the return of Ronan one of the main characters portrayed as Hudson's long lost son, though he has a complex and difficult relationship with Hudson and a number of its people, who escaped to big city New York to become a well known photographer.

And this is where the story lost me a bit (hence 4 iso 5 stars) while Ronan's background is quite deeply delved into, it is never really clear to me how his return makes all this trigger and how he is so directly linked to the ability of the supernatural powers to exert their influence on the proceedings in Hudson. I guess I could have missed it, but if not, it is something that would definitely have helped the supernatural part of the story be stronger.

So an enjoyable story that has definitely made me put the author's other books on my reading list, but if supernatural effects driven by the ghosts of whales are not your thing you will probably want to skip it, otherwise it is a good to almost great read.
Profile Image for Noctvrnal.
189 reviews15 followers
February 19, 2022
I liked the book but I also had issues with it. First and the glaring one - it's extremely sexual. Everyone's sleeping with everybody and sex being utilized as a weapon wasn't exactly what I wanted to submerge myself into for nearly 400 pages of this novel. Yet I was, unwillingly. Same commentary on relations and passion and modern blackmail could've been done without so many vulgar details. I'm not a prude by any means but when a book is advertised as horror I don't expect to find erotica inside. I also have an issue of very few actually likable characters. Not that it's mandatory for any novel in any way, but it's hard to get through pages when nearly everyone makes you roll your eyes. And main character, Ronan, was especially unbearable. Thankfully the book is full to the brim with characters nicer than him so he just fades out among, if not more likeable, then definitely more interesting people.
I did like the writing style of Miller. Maybe not so much certain aspects he pens down but overall style felt breezy, understandable, not bloated nor dragging. It's a very strong point of why I finished this book (and quite fast too). I liked the plot too. Execution maybe wasn't as smooth and ideal as it could've been because plot felt chopped in parts all over, but it's still easily comprehensible and easy to follow.
Overall - I enjoyed this more than I did not. It's not a perfect book by any means, but it also speaks of important matters. I won't call this a horror book, because it really isn't; at the same time it has horror of a different flavor. Horror of modern people in modern settings. Maybe that's the whole point, but I still expected something more traditional.
As social commentary - this book is great. It even has some supernatural themes to make it interesting enough to hold on to. But it's not a shining star I wished it to be. Still a worthy read and I had fun.
Profile Image for Vicki.
2,207 reviews85 followers
December 3, 2020
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 with bullying and homophobia. It's evident that he's bitter, angry, and is full of hatred for (it seems to me) all things and people including himself, with few exceptions. He is living in New York but hops a train to go back to his home in Hudson but when he gets there he recognizes very little, if anything due to gentrification. I get how gentrification can be terribly decisive and people can have conflicting ideas. There was so much in this book to look at philosophically: homophobia, gentrification, bullying, hatred and self-hatred, betrayal, drug addiction and so on. I tend to think about the philosophy of issues in books and how those issues are/are not a small or major part of my personal life, community, family, etc. Sadly, we still live with homophobia, hatred for others who are different or think differently than we do, bullies, racism, betrayal, adultery, and so much more. (I don't want to sound like I am trying to preach here, but you get the idea. I hope.

The writing is masterful, it's incredibly beautiful in its literary form. It is definitely sci-fi, fantasy, and magic realism, none of which I am terribly fond of with the exception of some fantasy; however, I believe that this book is one that fans of those genres would likely love.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Harper Collins for an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Misha.
739 reviews8 followers
December 18, 2020
"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 about being a cop. For me, anyway. You figure out real fast how words are bullshit. Best not to go by them, really. It's not that people lie, although they do, all the time. The real problem isn't dishonesty. It's ignorance, or confusion. People don't understand themselves at all. Why they do the things they do. What they're feeling, and where it comes from. So the narratives they construct in their heads, and they way they give voice to those stories, they gave a pretty minimal relevance to reality." (142)

"How hard our brains work, to keep the sense of self intact. How they will filter out anything that threatens to shine a light on how we are horrible. I could practically hear the unspoken mantra playing out in his head--the same one playing in mine. I am a good person. I do my best, and sometimes I fail, but I would never willingly hurt someone. If harm is caused by my actions, like if I buy a cheaper bag of rice at the grocery store and keep peasant workers enslaved, the blame belongs to the systems I am a helpless pawn of. If someone hates me, it's because something is wrong with them."
Profile Image for Corvus.
569 reviews151 followers
December 2, 2021
While waiting for my ARC of Sam J Miller's newest novel- The Blade Between- to arrive, I noticed that my library had procured the audio version and I decided to grab that to get started while I was waiting. I ended up finishing it quickly. The audio version has great narration and voice acting that fit the tone of the book. This book, like some of Miller's other work, straddles genres. In some ways, I found myself thinking that you could take the fantastical or paranormal elements away from it, and still have a great story about a ton of complex characters interacting in another gay boy returns to working class homophobic home town type of story. As a result, this sometimes left the paranormal elements feeling unfinished. They occasionally felt like refrigerator magnets that were part of the big picture, but not the heart of the story until we reach the end.

Nonetheless, this book explores quite well the various ways in which real life people with real life struggles find themselves in conflict and cooperation with one another. How does one fight with the white working class against encroaching gentrification and destruction of their jobs when said working class has more violently homophobic and racist members than the gentrified areas have? How do you find solidarity in groups who hate their own members like that? How do we understand concepts of sexuality? Is it only how we identify, who we love, the actions we take, what we like, or all of the above and more? Can one be proud of where they come from when it also includes immense amounts of pain? What can we do to work together and make things easier for youth that come after us? I think the paranormal parts added an interesting twist to these things, even if I wish they were more fleshed out.

To avoid spoiling this story, I will end this review here. I really have enjoyed everything I've read by this author and look forward to his next release.

This was also posted to my blog.
Profile Image for Trisha.
4,651 reviews161 followers
November 28, 2020
"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?). And I'm not a fan - trying to understand how someone scheduling photo shoots with someone they can't possibly be or the salt water in the mouth and the flooding in houses. Getting on board with the overarching them definitely involved suspending some disbelief and somehow, I just never got there. I wish I'd loved it more, I thought so many pieces were interesting on their own, but with the magic realism mixed in, I just couldn't make the full leap.

Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins/Ecco for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
177 reviews1 follower
October 28, 2020

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 school 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 Hudson 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. sam J. Miller's 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.
Profile Image for BookChampions.
1,184 reviews108 followers
December 2, 2020
REREAD NOVEMBER 2020: Every bit as wonderful and wild as the first time.

*The Blade Between*, Sam J. Miller’s fourth novel, should be the one that opens him up to a wider audience. This time Miller blends genres, using tropes from horror, social issue novels, and crime fiction, to create a roller coaster of a book; I never knew quite where he was going to take me.

The book begins as if a Stephen King project. *The Blade Between* moves with all the energy and horror of a King novel, but it goes further. In fact, this novel is where Stephen King meets James Baldwin, an intersection I didn’t quite think was possible. It’s a daring balancing act that is executed here with guts and flair.

While the main purpose of horror is to explore human fear, Miller’s project is to explore human possibility. He uses the tropes of horror novels (and a few of King’s signature moves) to amplify the things that get in the way of our activism—mainly hate. It is HATE that twists like a “blade between” our ribs, and HATE does not discriminate between the good guys and the bad. It feeds on us all if we let it.

At the heart of the novel is the controversial gay photographer Ronan Szepessy, who reluctantly returns home to his small town of Hudson, NY to see his ailing father and to respond to a mysterious message from a muse who may or may not be dead. But something is up with Hudson when he arrives to this place of his coming-of-age; something is haunting the people who live there, something tearing through them, a rising hate that is burrowing between the ribs like a knife.

Miller takes us through Hudson, its activists and protestors, its corruption and gentrification, and its history of whale slaughter, and he does it in those ambitious and humanizing King strokes, introducing us to dozens of characters and making us fall in love with the three at the book’s heart: Ronan, his first love Dom, and Dom’s wife Attalah. (The relationship between these three was incredible—my favourite in all of Miller’s novels.) But the message of the novel is more akin to something out of Baldwin than King, the way human desire and the noble quests for justice lead us to dead ends and pain and, sometimes, a whole lot of hope.

*The Blade Between* is a book that feels very NOW. As protestors and activists fight daily in the streets and online to bring justice to the oppressed and topple inhumane regimes of hate, Miller gives us a book that is at turns a wild revenge fantasy, and at others a powerful, resounding protest sign of a novel on the necessity of, and revolution that is, love.

I will not promise a conventional reading experience here—like in any King or Miller novel, there are moments of the supernatural and the bizarre that will challenge you as a reader—but *The Blade Between* is impossible to put down. *The Blade Between* will make you want to talk about the issues within it and it will make you CARE—not just about these characters, but about the issues within it and about how hate has blinded or paralyzed us all from making a real difference. And that’s something I can promise you.
Profile Image for Ladz.
Author 1 book35 followers
January 6, 2021
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 favorite Sam J. Miller book because they all hit the same highs for me as a reader in their own unique ways.

But holy heck, did I enjoy this one.

I couldn’t keep my eyes off the unfolding horrors and thoughtfully-crafted exploration of gentrification, drug addiction, surviving homophobia, lost love, sordid history, ghosts, and community organizing blended so seamlessly. The precise language that’s consistent throughout all his works is present here, and there is no stone left unturned.

I found Ronan’s arc so painfully compelling. He skipped town to pursue a photography career in New York and decided years later to return to a place that’s foreign to him. In terms of trying to save his father’s butcher shop, which feels like the last vestige of Hudson before the corporate invasion, he makes such an attempt. And then forces beyond his control imprint on that attempt, which involves catfishing on Grindr (an element I enjoyed far too much).

I could not keep myself together as the terror unfolded. There’s more pedestrian terror of him trying to mentor a gay high schooler who isn’t out to his pastor mom, and then the supernatural horror of an entity he accidentally summons. You simply can’t look away from how badly and unintentionally this man fucks up. It all goes about as well as you’d expect, but I found the ending particularly cathartic.

His relationship with Dom, Attalah, and Dom and Attalah hurt in the ways of “what could have been” and “none of us are really the people we were in high school, except we sort of are.” The way their love is both tough and tender depending on the scene, and sometimes in the same moment. The complexity here is such a thing to behold because it felt so realistic. What I found most interesting is that, with the exception of a few, none of the characters fell strictly into a camp of “good” or “bad.” They’re all trying to survive in the best and only ways they know how.

An absolute treat for those who loved Hex and want something a little more thoughtful with a specific perspective on how gentrification is wreaking a terror we know on small town communities with a layer of supernatural fear which makes it all viscerally unsettling.
Profile Image for Richard.
1,291 reviews42 followers
February 5, 2021
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 characters and concepts could have used more room to breathe. This was a fun world until it got mean; deeper connections would have raised the emotional stakes. I'm not mad at what I got, though, and I appreciated the focus on healing at the end.

(Glancing over the reviews here, I see most of the negative/mixed/confused reviews come from the netgalley crowd. I don't get them. Don't all of us have enormous tbr piles? Who picks books just because they're on a free website and then complains that they're "not for them?" I seriously don't get that.)

This has kept me up till 5am. I'll sleep well, and dream.
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