A couple of weeks ago, I read Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire.
This is a book in which some speciest assholes with a vendetta against an awesome-pants family and a whole world’s worth of innocent-and-not cryptids decide to come to NYC and throw down on a ballroom-dancin’, ball-bustin’, arsenal-carryin’ honey. (Who is the local rep of said awesome-pants family.) If you foresee bad things happening to the speciest assholes, I would generally be all “Here! Have a cookie!” Except I’m sorry to tell you that these are militant, sorcery-packin’, zealous speciests who are indoctrinated, not dumb. So the book is a bit of a nail-biter along with a hoot-out-louder. It also comes complete with dragon princesses, cuckoo-induced terror, a sometimes-wolfbear Lolita, and talking religious mice. Honestly, though, that’s not even the half of it.
Right about now, you should have already ordered this book from your favorite book purveyor. If you haven’t, you might be asking yourself: “Self, why should I read Midnight Blue-Light Special?” I would interrupt this conversation with yourself to pose another question: “You mean, besides the fact that you read Discount Armageddon and this is the sequel?” And, if you haven’t read Discount Armageddon, what the hell? Are you allergic to fun? Because, seriously: so much fun. (I realize some people were apparently allergic to the cover, but that’s why GoD created ebooks and those handy paper book covers you get for free with every book purchase in Japan.)
Anyway, without further ado, here are 5 Reasons Why You Should Read Midnight Blue-Light Special:
1. Aeslin mice.
Yes, they’re talking mice. This could be pretty boss by itself (if you’re also into Disney), but then you add in that they’re religious talking mice who have adopted the Healys (and their descendants, said awesome-pants family) as their Gods and priestesses. Their oral religion preserves the family history, and they have elaborate festivals and solicit offerings of “CHEESE AND CAKE!” They’re also tough little buggers who go hunting and wear the bones of their enemies, using them for religious regalia and instruments. They do dance numbers, but Cinderella’s dopey mice they ain’t (though they are often hilarious). This paragraph just does not do justice to these tiny, intelligent mice that pervade the novel and burrow into your affections. Just trust me on this one.
First, she’s an Inuit lady who is also sometimes a massive wolf-bear. That is, she’s a Waheela. Secondly, she inquires after carnage as umbrella-makers inquire after rain. Thirdly, she dresses as a Lolita, which means she’s this incredibly deadly carnage-inquirer wearing little skirts with frothy petticoats, along with tiny hats and impractical shoes. In other words, she is the best brain-breaker and you should love her too:
“There was a moment of silence before Istas said, “I was unaware the telepathic girl possessed a temper. This is pleasing. Temperamental people are more likely to participate in carnage.”
“Sweetie, what have we talked about?” asked Ryan.
Now it was Istas’s turn to sigh. “Humans are discomforted by excessive discussion of their squishy interiors.”
“No referencing carnage more than once in a single conversation.”
3. The epigraphs.
Every chapter includes a quote from a member of this extended awesome-pants family, from tried-and-true wisdom to exclamations during “oh god, oh god, we’re all gonna die” moments. Besides often being grimly hilarious, deliciously pragmatic, or just silly perfection, they give you a peek into the wider world of this family’s experience, and what living on the unsupported edge of protecting cryptids (or putting them down, as ultimately necessary) is like. They’re basically excerpts from The Monster Hunter’s Little Instruction Book, one of the best books never written:
“The best thing I ever did was figure out how to hide a pistol in my brassiere. The second best thing I ever did was let Thomas figure out how to find it, but that’s a story for another day.”—Alice Healy
“When everything else fails, smile big, shoot sharp, and remember that a lady never needs to say she’s sorry.” —Frances Brown
“Family, faith, and knives. Those are the things that last in this world. Everything else is essentially extra.” –Evelyn Baker
4. Em-effin’ cryptozoology!
Seanan ain’t no half-assed cryptid-creator, as flipping to any random paragraph in the book will tell you. (7 times out of 10, anyway.) Every cryptid species she describes has a thought-out biology and place in the larger ecology, if not a fully-fledged field guide entry. Don’t believe me? Psh. Check the multi-page guide in the back of the book. Or, I don’t know, THE ILLUSTRATED PRICE FAMILY FIELD GUIDE. This shit is fascinating, and gives me the warm fuzzies for a world well developed. And if that’s just the biologist in me, well, I’m sorry your delight in the world is so limited.
5. Legit heart-pounding, mouth-drying climax.
You know, for most of the book, I was just toolin’ along and enjoying the zany characters and thoughtful cryptozoology and just having a laid-back reading experience. AND THEN SHIT WENT DOWN. Shit went down hard, and scary, and suddenly it wasn’t all sexy funtimes and cryptid games anymore. No, it was pain and death and maybe the revision of reality, who knows? Betrayal and loss and life decisions: SUDDENLY ALL UP IN MY BUSINESS. I hit that point where I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough, and then felt left in a sort of stunned and delighted daze by the end. If that’s not the kind of trick-you-with-candy, grab-you-by-the-brain, entertain-the-hell-out-of-you book experience that has you scrabbling for more, I’m not sure what you’re doing here.
(That section five header looks much dirtier in a larger font than intended.)
Originally, a line in the second paragraph ran “Except I’m sorry to tell you that these are militant, hoodoo-packin’, zealous speciests who are indoctrinated, not dumb.” It was pointed out that hoodoo was being used incorrectly in this instance, as hoodoo is its own tradition and not incorporated into the Incryptid series. I changed the sentence to more accurately reflect the text, and not appropriate hoodoo.