[REVIEW] Black Helicopters – Blythe Woolston

Blythe Woolston
Black Helicopters
Random House Candlewick (US & CA: 26th March 2013); Walker (UK: 6th June 2013; AU: 1st August 2013)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

I don’t agree with the US publisher’s decision to put the spoiler on the book jacket. (It’s on the back-flap in the author section.) Though the spoiler was mentioned in the deal announcement, which appealed to me to add it to my wish-list and chase up the author’s backlist… But I think the story would be more effective if the reader went in without that information. More shocking. Mind you, knowing didn’t make me love the novel any less.

Blythe Woolston’s novels are short, sharp, and to the point. They never outstay their welcome: they simply tell the story as the lead character sees it, and leave the reader to interpret the meaning.

Valkyrie White reminds me of Ree, from Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone: they’re both tough young ladies surviving rural America, and their society, the best they can. Living dangerous lives, their tales of grit and determination stick long after their books are over.

The overt symbolism of chess and clockwork actually doesn’t fall into cliché, while there are vague references to “orders” and “messages”. However, in the rent-paying scene it’s a bit uncertain whether the gun is actually a gun, or a metaphor. It’s more powerful if it’s NOT a metaphor, though.

Blythe Woolston has a knack for knowing when to tease, and when to reveal. The non-linear narrative has handy timeframes at the start of each chapter, and the events are shared in a suitable order.

It’s very difficult to write an unspoiled review, so forgive my lack of detail. There are quite a few things I want to research now, after learning of them in this novel. It would be too obvious to call Black Helicopters “explosive”, so instead I’ll just say that it’s bloody brilliant. At only 166 pages, reading it will only take a few hours of your time, but you’ll be all the better for it.

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