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Cover image for Blue light : a novel
Blue light : a novel
First edition.
Boston : Little, Brown and Company, [1998]
Physical Description:
296 pages ; 24 cm
A spiritual novel on a cosmic ray which hits some people on Earth, giving them superhuman powers in strength and intelligence. They band to form a commune in California, but come under threat from the spirit of Death, also created by the ray.


Call Number

On Order



The human race has just begun. In the Bay Area in the mid-1960s, several people are struck by a cosmic blue light that "quickens" their DNA, causing them instantaneously to evolve far beyond the present state of the human race. They become the full actualization of humankind, with strengths, understandings & communication abilities that exceed our imagining. Blue Light is the story of this quickening, & the conflict between these precursors of a new race of humans & the old breed they seem destined to supplant. Unfolding from the point of view of Chance, a half-black, half-white lost soul who becomes a follower of the "blues," the novel traces battles among those struck by the light (including one who becomes the living embodiment of Death) & their quest to bring their message of evolution & higher purpose to the rest of the world. Blue Light explores some of the questions about race, identity, & humanity that are the hallmark of the author's other best-selling fiction, but his mind-stretching new approach will take his readers to a fascinating place they've never traveled.

Author Notes

Walter Mosley was born in Los Angeles, California on January 12, 1952. He graduated from Johnson State College in Vermont. His first book, Devil in a Blue Dress, was published in 1990, won a John Creasy Award for best first novel, and was made into a motion picture starring Denzel Washington in 1995. He is the author of the Easy Rawlins Mystery series, the Leonid McGill Mystery series, and the Fearless Jones series. His other works include Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, 47, Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, and Twelve Steps toward Political Revelation. He has received numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, the Carl Brandon Society Parallax Award, and PEN America's Lifetime Achievement Award.

(Bowker Author Biography) Walter Mosley is the author of the acclaimed Easy Rawlins series of mysteries, the novels "Blue Light" and "RL's Dream", and two collections of stories featuring Socrates Fortlow, "Always Outnumbered", "Always Outgunned", for which he received the Anisfield-Wolf Award, and "Walkin' the Dog". He is a member of the board of directors of the National Book Awards and the founder of the PEN American Center's Open Book Committee. At various times in his life he has been a potter, a computer programmer, & a poet. He was born in Los Angeles & now lives in New York.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

You have to admire Mosley: with a gilt-edged brand-name character (Easy Rawlins)in his locker, he still can't resist venturing off in new directions. Sometimes his effort to break new ground works beautifully, as in RL's Dream; sometimes it's an interesting misfire, as in Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned.This time, however, it seems plain misguided. Blue Light is an odd mixture of science fiction and inspirational fable about a sort of cosmic ray that enters into a handful of people, giving them superhuman faculties, and the struggle some of these ultra-evolved folk have with the spirit of Death, who has also been granted special powers. Beginning in Berkeley during the hippie love days (well observed, as Mosley's West Coast scenes always are) and eventually migrating into the deep forests of the Sierra, where a group of "blues" create a sort of idyllic pastoral retreat, the story is mostly told from the viewpoint of Chance, a half-breed drifter. One of its more original aspects is that several of the characters, enacting roles similar to those often given by other writers to Native American shamans and seers, are black. There are some jolting scenes of sexuality and violence, and some arresting images, like the vocalizing trees experienced by the "blues"; but the biology is insufficiently imagined, the time sequence is sometimes confusing and a sort of vague poesy that is a far cry from Mosley's typically sinewy prose is the predominant style. Time-Warner audio; author tour. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

Mosley leaves the Watts of Easy Rawlins and Socrates Fortlow (Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, 1997) far behind in this extravagant futuristic fantasy of a lucky few San Francisco natives transformed virtually into a new species by rays of unearthly blue light. When the astral visitation comes, it turns elderly housewife Eileen Martel into a tower of strength, Berkeley dropout Ordé, a.k.a. William T. Portman, into a millennial prophet, spouse-swapper Claudia Zimmerman into a love goddess, and Claudia's dog Max into a being far wiser and nobler than any human. Even marauding biker Winch Fargo, who caught only the very end of the light show, and Lester Foote, a.k.a. Chance, a half-white, half-black Bay Area historian whose blood is mingled with OrdéŽs, receive breathtaking new powers. If Mosley's premise sounds like the John Travolta film Phenomenon writ large, however, it's both darkened and broadened by the shadow of the impending battle between the Blues and their nemesis, Gray Redstar, né Horace LaFontaine, a hideous hybrid of blue strength and death's fury. Once the Blues, joined by such demi-Blues as Folsom Prison warden Gerin Reed and OrdéŽs miraculously gifted daughter Alacrity, retreat into the surrounding woods and, ringed round by killer butterflies and sentient redwoods touched by the light, give themselves over to spiritual and carnal love, Mosley's fantasy develops distinct superhero overtones (``Alacrity was the greatest warrior in the history of the world. She was bold and kindhearted, savage and ruthless''). At the same time, the story, already heavily burdened with Chance's oracular meditations on history, racial difference, and the intertwining of violence and love, begins to drag, as months turns into Grayless years, and to stagger under the weight of its apocalyptic premise, whose every manifestation demands a new set of superlatives. The finale is likely to leave readers as unsatisfied as Chance. The result is an ambitious mess, inventive and visionary as Mosley's greatest admirers might wish, but torn between windy prophecy and comic-book heroics. (Author tour)

Booklist Review

In the high 1960s in the San Francisco Bay Area, rays of blue light fall to earth. Any creature touched by them is evolutionarily catapulted to higher planes of understanding. The light kills most humbler critters that it strikes and plenty of humans, too. But a charismatic, womanizing hippie is transformed into the prophetic leader of the Close Congregation, which includes some fellow blue lighters, and a dying ex-con is revitalized as the Gray Man, capable of dismembering a person with his bare hands. The Gray Man sets out to eliminate good blue lighters, and by a third of the way through this yarn, he has offed the prophet. This is not curtains for the good guys, because grad-school dropout Chance has picked up the blue light's effects secondarily. Most of this dark fantasy, narrated by Chance (semi-omnisciently, because, like all blue lighters, he can learn of others' experiences by drinking their blood) is a chase, as the Gray Man inexorably carries out his mission. There is a showdown in which the Gray Man gets his, but, like Ishmael, Chance is the only apparent survivor, and he is committed to a state mental hospital, where he languishes to this day. Mystery writer Mosley should leave this kind of thing to Dean Koontz, and take it easy--Easy Rawlins, that is--again. --Ray Olson

Library Journal Review

Mosley (A Little Yellow Dog) departs from the Los Angeles setting of his best-selling Easy Rawlins mysteries in this work of sf. Rays of blue light fall on San Francisco in the 1960s, killing some and transforming others. One of those stricken becomes the leader of a cult called the Close Congregation. Another becomes the Gray Man, whose mission is to destroy all those blessed by this phenomenon. The story is told by Chance, an African American who is touched, secondarily, by the light. Richard Ferrone's narration emphasizes Chance's reactions to the events over the years: bewilderment, fright, confidence. There are relatively few sf books in audiobook format; this will be a welcome addition to library collections.ÄNann Blaine Hilyard, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Blue LightWalter Mosley
Leadtext: The Radiance I didn't use a tape recorder back then, but I remember every word
Our teacher stood on a simple flat rock and told us about the blue light
What it meant-at least, as much as we could understand
Here is what he said: I was once simple flesh like you, a man filled with meaningless words
But I was also a sleeping streak of blue light, scant seconds in length, jarred to consciousness after an age of silence
In the din of radiance rising from Neptune, I awoke and found myself leaning toward the cold gravity of that titan, rushing toward the small star it orbited
Ahead lay oblivion or the seed left on Earth eons before and, hopefully, grown to stature
Between the graceful dance of gravities, that needle of light, no wider than a meteorite, traveled forth
Other lights-exactly the same hue-at my side, each one a perfect array unwavering in its relationship to the rest
Each one made up of a flawless matrix of thought repeated again and again in a swirl of equations that held the secrets of your deepest dreams
As perfect and timeless as diamonds, a thousand thousand thousand brothers and sisters ignited in the silent and unfelt anticipation of breath, death, or oblivion
Our entrance into the solar band of energies caused friction, squeals of false consciousness
Many lights drew away toward barren celestial bodies
Most of us died in the ecstasy you call the sun
The survivors passed through clouds of helium and hydrogen
The poisonous atoms turned millions of blue lights to green
Those matrices faded, as did their tainted lights upon reaching Earth's atmosphere
Still, nearly ten thousand blue needles were destined to break the skin of air, their divine messages still intact
Hundreds sliced the ocean, cerulean knives leaving wide-eyed mackerel and barracuda with the desire to swim up onto shore
But the rain of light moved quickly to land
Imagine a beetle contemplating infinity in his small brain, flipping forward and back trying to escape the inkling
Finally he leaps into the air, blue fire alive all around him
Then comes the merciful bat; a hiss of leathery wings, and the fire is out
Cathedrals in Rome would mourn this passing for a thousand years if they knew
Dozens of small creatures died in the path of light that night
Each one in a terrible ecstasy of blue notions
Each one more sacred than the history of prayer
But not all died
The sleeping mosquito struck by light might have stayed at rest because the blue light has no heat
The small weed would hear the call through the slow process of photosynthesis, her roots becoming sorcerous fingers exhorting Earth to live
The prophet always seemed smaller, weak after his sermons
But we felt elated and strong
There were other transformations on the night that Ordé, the prophet, saw blue light
These I have gleaned from conversations, newspaper articles, interviews, obituaries, and a peculiar facility that Ordé endowed upon me- the ability to read blood
Reggie Brown was pushing the baby carriage down Easter Street toward the Broward shelter that evening
Their uncle Barnes was drunk again and Reggie's mother was still at work, so he bundled up the twins, intending to take them to Nurse Edwards's station until their mother came home
Nurse Edwards had Fly Comics in her drawer and Baby Ruth candy bars too
She'd been their father's friend; she was at their house when the letter came from the State Department telling how Mr. Brown was missing in the police action in Vietnam
Now she helped Mrs. Brown with the children when she could
Reggie stopped at a red light on the corner of Orchard and Easter
He peered inside the ragged double stroller to check on his two-and-a-half-year-old sisters
Brown girls, but not as dark as him, with fat faces that almost always smiled when he looked at them
Babies out of his momma like magic come to love them
Him and his mother, but not Uncle Barnes, not when he was drinking anyway
"Hey, hey," Reggie sang
Wanita giggled but Luwanda just stared
She saw it coming
Reggie turned his head to see the flash of blue, and then he was walking again
Up a steep path in the woods
Beneath his feet was a stream filled with blue fish
The stream was shallow and the fish were big, but they had no problem swimming and diving
The sky was bright, but it was nighttime in his vision, night with no stars
Trees grew up the side of the valley, and the bright eyes of animals watched him move along
There were whispers
Terrible things
Gouts of blood, severed limbs in the mud
And beauty beyond Reggie's poor words to say
He traveled upward for days, it seemed
Blue smoke rose from his bare feet on the wet rocks
A madman, who wore clothes fashioned from skins and bark decorated with bone and stone fasteners and buttons, was laughing at him
Beyond the man there was a valley
He could make out every detail- trees, leaves, and insects crawling in between
He could see single strands of spiderwebs waving lazily in the breeze
He could see the breeze too
The trees were singing, some in a sweet alto and others in a bellowing bass
Reggie started to run
It was a thousand miles away, but he knew that he could make it without ever stopping
He knew he could
© 1999 Walter Mosley