Title: Midnight Blue, the Sonja Blue Collection
Author: Nancy A Collins
Publisher: White Wolf Publishing
I did not realize until I started attempting to write this review just how close I was to these stories. I met Sonja Blue for the first time when I was a moody young wannabe pre-teen goth in the radical, halcyon days of the 90s. A bygone era when a person could walk into a mall and visit forgotten relics like arcades, and the now all but mythical bookstore. The hole in a wall B. Dalton’s at the local mall was my church and my refuge. I don’t know if it was by design, or maybe some conspiracy of the curiously punk-stylized employees, but the store had an impressive selection of graphic novels, science fiction, and fantasy. So there I was, one hot and humid valley day after school, I found myself sliding between the shelves, running my fingers along the spines of new releases with a bit of cash burning a hole in my pocket.
And there it was: a veritable tome. A brick of a book. I recognized the publisher’s imprint (I was already quite obsessed with White Wolf by that time). I snagged it up, and started reading right then and there. You could say I was sucked in, hooked immediately, and that would be correct–as well as a rather large understatement. The Sonja Blue stories do something remarkable. They present a world wearing a mask, full of characters who also wear their own masks. A dark world full of secrets and monsters who play at being human, and humans who play at being monsters. And navigating it all in black leather and sunglasses, switchblade ever ready, is Sonja Blue. Not wholly human, not wholly vampire, she throttles both worlds. She is the brutal, larger-than-life and twice as deadly bad ass embodiment of death and cruel justice on a mission of hellish vengeance tearing a bloody path across the landscape.
If you hear the squeal of guitars and thunder of drums while reading the Midnight Blue collection, don’t worry. It means it’s working. Nancy A Collins has a gift for action, and offers up spectacular violence and heart-wrenching tragedies in equal measure. She turns the myth of the vampire on its head, more than that, she deepens and fleshes out the mythology and somehow also makes it infinitely more realistic and terrifying for all of that. Simultaneously, she presents a world full of other creatures, shadow races, that have existed and preyed upon humanity for millennia. All of this on the grimy, moon-lit streets of the modern nights. When I think of urban fantasy, it’s the world that Collins shaped that I think of. What it would later become in the 00’s is a bastardization after the grim, blood-soaked, heavy metal spectacle of Sonja Blues’ world.
I suppose you could say this isn’t a review so much as an endorsement, and you’d absolutely be correct. The Sonja Blue books were, and are, formative and helped very much cement the burgeoning idea of wanting to someday become a writer. The world Collins created, her prose, the structure, all directly inform my own stories. You could say she’s an inspiration. And rightly continues to be. I keep going back to her work, every couple of years. And for all that the original Midnight Blue collection is very much a thing of my beloved 90’s it always feels fresh and modern, imminently distinct and utterly singular. It’s still the standard by which I measure the modern genre of urban fantasy. Or, what urban fantasy has for the most part become.
If you’re in the mood for something dark and dangerous, something action-packed and unflinching, do yourself a tremendous favor and pick up the Midnight Blue collection. Lose yourself in the grim, benighted world of Nancy A Collins and the punk rock queen of the vampires herself, Sonja Blue.