The creepy atmosphere and ghosts make it horror, but the drug abuse, evictions, cheating, and destroyed lives make it noir. Also, Miller's writing and vivid imagery, especially when describing dreams, make it poetry. The mix of genres, much like the mix of elements, makes no sense, but it works ... astonishingly real and painfully relatable ... Miller pulls readers into a universe where the banality of everyday life in a small town and the extraordinary weirdness of the supernatural collide, but the collision somehow results in a strange balance ... There is plenty of strangeness and action in The Blade Between, but Miller also finds ways to tackle important subjects within the chaos ... This is a complex novel that never allows one storyline to overpower the others ... more than a dystopian sci-fi thriller with a dash of poetry; it's an explosive narrative about a small town caught between the decaying ghosts of the past, the shattered dreams and mediocre lives of its residents, and the monster of gentrification that threatens to erase it all under shiny new buildings and fancy coffee shops. That Miller manages to discuss all three while also exploring the interstitial spaces between homosexuality, technology, and class privilege and resentment is a testament to his storytelling skills, and a powerful reason to read this haunting tale.
... one of the best books I’ve read in 2020. Miller’s prose is phenomenal: sometimes dripping with malice, sometimes warm with affection, sometimes quiet in solitude or misery. Seriously, it’s so good I regularly paused to luxuriate over specific lines, but it’s more than just handsome writing. Miller has crafted a mature, thoughtful, and challenging novel that tackles the problem of being ethical in the world. No one is a good or bad person, because those aren’t the measures we need to be using ... The Blade Between deserves praise on the craft level, but also for the work being done under the surface of that technical brilliance. The meditation on the messily-human trouble of ethics pairs with a mature exploration of the weight of transformation/restoration—for people, communities, histories—in a discomfiting but vital story that throbs off of the page. I’m going to be sitting in thought with this book for awhile, and for that, I’m grateful.
... not a laid-back read for a languid afternoon. No, this is a sit-up-straight book. Full of jarring juxtapositions, this book is as engrossing as it is challenging. While it requires your attention, The Blade Between rewards you with a heady, addictive mix of realism and wild creativity ... Miller’s depiction of gentrification is wrought in clinical but visceral detail. Gentrification’s interlinked consequences —evictions, displacement, loss of community, homelessness, poverty, and drug use—are drawn in clear, bright lines, effortlessly illustrating the facets of a complex social problem playing out in communities all across America ... rather than veering toward the ridiculous, the character of Ronan makes it all work. His open, probing intellect invites the reader to share all his turmoil and trauma and contradictions. So when he reacts to the revelation of ghosts and gods and time slips with near hysteria, it lessens the burden of suspending disbelief ... Miller’s careful construction of the book’s many other characters and their roiling, clashing needs and motivations makes it easy to believe that an entire city could be involved in a dark conspiracy, embroiled in a secret civil war that culminates in bloody unrest ... With all this going on, you may suspect that this story maneuvers like a barge, but instead it advances with speed and precision. The staccato rhythm of the chapters and the quick cuts between characters makes the narrative vibrate with energy. Even as the plot thickens—like, really thickens—and the characters accrue, the story’s pace somehow increases, hurtling us towards a breathless and breathtaking conclusion ... Though it occasionally flirts with chaos, The Blade Between maintains an exhilarating balance between verisimilitude and unshackled imagination. On the latter, Miller goes all in, and it’s a pleasure to follow.
... chilling ... [a] stunning and in-depth examination into the complexity of gentrification. Miller does an incredible job showing the vast array of perspectives this shift has on everyone in Hudson ... while this is supernatural fiction, the fact that this is how hate works will strike deep within readers and resonate long after the pages end ... For all of the heartbreak and misery we endure, Miller doesn’t give us a world without hope. Unlike other supernatural fiction, where there is a curse to break or a demon to slay, Miller gives the power to the individuals within the story, and in turn, us ... a ghost story, but it’s so much more. It’s a story about facing the worst in ourselves and deciding if we’re good enough. It’s about forgiveness and progress and compromise. It takes the very worst of humanity, our violent and bloodied histories, and gives us permission to choose not to be defined by them. The horror doesn’t hold back and at times this book can be gory and violent, but the truly chilling and horrifying elements are how human these ghosts are when they exact their vengeance ... Anyone looking for a book with layers woven in the plot and nuance written in every page will quickly fall in love with Miller’s writing, and fans of dynamic stories filled with spine-tingling terrors that propel them to the end will be equally enamoured. The Blade Between takes us on a ride into the dark depths of human nature, but it also shows us the power we have within ourselves to change and grow in all the ways that matter.
Miller has a great talent for creating interesting characters and building up quiet dread. Ronan himself is tremendously flawed, and it’s his trauma that makes him so relatable, rather than his addiction, which is barely relevant ... Hudson. Ronan sometimes seemingly moves between reality and a drug-fueled haze. To a fault, it can be hard to tell whether he’s inhabiting the same world as the other characters ... The idea of a gay man coming to terms with his past to save the future, working with his friends, navigating a complicated history with a rekindled lover, repairing his relationship with his ailing father, and the complications of gentrification — all of this is timely and interesting ... Where the book goes wrong is Miller’s introduction of bizarre supernatural elements, which never work and sideline the more intriguing threads. It quickly becomes a freight train of random side characters, ghosts and whale gods speeding toward a denouement of violence that our main characters aren’t even a part of ... Still, Miller is a talent worth keeping an eye on. His characterizations are interesting, even if the execution of the story isn’t as successful as it started out. Had The Blade Between stuck to being a study of Ronan’s trauma, his past dealings with homophobia, and coming to terms with addiction and guilt of abandoning his father, it could have been a revelatory book ... Unfortunately, it all gets bogged down by the inexplicable.
The Blade Between deftly unpacks the arrogance and agony of modern gentrification ... Jacked up with doses of adrenaline and fright, a perfect blend of genres. Sam J. Miller creates a detailed, expansive novel that, in many ways, reflects the current emotional temperature of our country. According to Miller, hatred is powerful, delicious and addictive. Where does emotional connection fit in? He writes, 'Love is harder than hate. Hate is easy… But hard as it is, love is the way forward…'
Miller’s sprawling novel encapsulates the complex web of feelings brought on by witnessing the destruction of a town that made adolescence hell for a gay or trans teen. While some of the supernatural threads of the story are resolved abruptly, the raw and volatile energy of the novel more than makes up for it. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a queer-themed, sea salt–laced dark fantasy.
Miller takes on cosmic horror with chillingly realistic results ... illed with intense dread and unease; 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.
It’s amazing how several of the same motifs that appeared in Miller’s cli-fi novel Blackfish City (2018)—whales, the abyss between the rich and poor, the struggle for housing, and a mysterious broadcast which brings hope—appear in this novel but in entirely fresh and equally effective shapes. The story is also strongly informed by Miller’s own history as a gay man brought up in Hudson, the son of a butcher who lost his shop to a big-box store ... An unsettling and visceral journey: powerful, twisted, and grim but ultimately uplifting.
... gripping ... The author takes his time in introducing the supernatural, but once he does, the novel lifts off toward an exciting conclusion. Insightful social commentary is a bonus. Thriller fans will welcome Miller as a fresh new voice.