County of Offenses
Orleans Parish, Ortharos
Kidnapping, Avicide, Destruction of Property, Cyclopicide, Illegal Discharge of a Weapon, Assault with a Deadly Head of Hair, Raising the Dead without a Permit, many others
Known Gang Affiliations
Date of Offense
Blinked is one of the most imaginative books I’ve read in some time—and the first urban fantasy book we’ve reviewed here (don’t worry, though, a murder does occur in the book straight away). The novel’s first line reads: “I went to bed with my husband and woke up with a monster.”
This is not a euphemism.
Protagonist Mindy Nichols actually did go to sleep with her husband, Jim, and wake up with an actual Cyclops in her bed. Fortunately, Mindy is an agent for the Inner Space Monitoring Alliance Team (ISMAT). This is a sort of underground security organization that monitors Other Realm Beings (ORBs)—creatures who appear in our world from other dimensions. These creatures can be dangerous, and apparently their showing up uninvited happens more than you’d think.
In a process known as Blinking, ORBs appear among us, trading places with Earthlings who are then sent to another dimension in a sort of involuntary multi-dimensional exchange program.
So while a monster, and a handful of other creatures and characters appear in Mindy’s home, her husband disappears and reappears in the parallel world of Ortharos—which has the feel of Medieval Europe. This works out, since Jim is a professor of history at Tulane.
As the book’s zany, fast-paced tension ratchets up, Mindy is trying to protect Earth from these notoriously dangerous creatures, Jim is trying to find his way home, characters are Blinking back and forth between worlds and the ISMAT leadership is growing more impatient with Mindy—who’s a newbie at her job. To add extra flavor and complexity to the story, Blinked is set in New Orleans during Mardis Gras, 1975. So the chances of anyone on the street even noticing creatures from another dimension are actually pretty low.
Zari Reede is the nom de plume of writing duo Zoe Tasia and Minette Lauren. In the tradition of Richard Levinson and William Link writing as Ellery Queen, they’ve published a number of books together under the Zari Reede name including, most recently, Sins of the Sister. I got a chance to hang out with Minette Lauren at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, and she is the real deal—a hardworking writer always looking for a new way to surprise. She splits her time between Southeast Texas and the Hill Country. Lauren’s writing partner, Zoe Tasia is also a fellow Texan who lived in Scotland for a number of years—explaining why her latest effort is titled Kilts and Catnip.
Aside from its inherent originality, four things really stood out to me about Blinked. The first is the pacing. Much like a stiff Sazerac, the story hits you right away. The book is structured with Mindy in the first person, and alternating points of view as the various characters attempt to cope with their multi-dimensional disorientation. The second interesting thing is the blend of sci-fi and fantasy. Because Ortharos is like Medieval Europe we’re able to experience both multi-dimensional monsters on Earth and fabulous castles in a far away land.
Next up are the characters—a wild assortment of creatures that range from a wicked Rapunzel-like beauty with prehensile hair to Cyclops royalty, flesh-eating zombies and a charming household servant well versed in the ways of magic.
Lastly, the authors make good use of the book’s time and place—without leaning on the setting to carry the story. From the craziness of Mardis Gras to the Nichols family’s Plymouth Fury and the joy of NEHI soda, I really enjoyed the retro New Orleans vibe. The authors also did a solid job of world-building, right down to the political situation and monsters in the other realm. And they carried it all through to a satisfying end.
The book is funny too, with snarky dialogue and a prose style that’s lean without taking itself too seriously.
The phenomenon of the Blink is deceptively sophisticated. At first glance, this original spin on the alternate universe trope just sounds like a fun and engaging plot device as presented by stories like C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia or The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. But the authors’ crafty mix-and-match transplantation makes the displacements high-impact, bringing the consequences of each Blink home for the reader.
This mix of empathy for those from elsewhere, and the ability to understand others not like yourself, is for me the heart of the book. For many of the story’s characters, someone in their world has Blinked away from their lives, leaving confusion and anxiety—or blinked into their world causing them to rethink everything.
So much like Stephen King’s The Dome, the meta-aspect of this story is that we’re all living it, regardless of whether you find a cyclops in your bed or actually live in ‘70s New Orleans. People are constantly Blinking in and out of our little worlds, often to unpredictable and endearing effects, and that’s an experience each of us shares no matter what our world looks like.
Verdict: Guilty of creating a fun and wildly imaginative ride that’s full of distinctive voices, lovable characters and mysterious magic.
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