Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

October 3, 2012

MRP Day 3 – Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

I read Blackbirds back in May. I’ve been planning to review it ever since. Considering the sequel has now been out for a couple of months (and I’ve now had a chance to read that too) it’s long past time to get it crossed off the list. And because you already know that this is the Month of Relentless posivity, you can probably guess the overall direction I will be going with my assessment. Though be warned, Blackbirds is not a graduate of the happy-werebunny school of urban fantasy.

Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds is the story of Miriam Black, a young woman afflicted by the unfortunate ability to see in precise and accurate detail the manner in which anyone she touches will die. Living a transient lifestyle from one cheap motel to the next, Miriam makes a ghoulish living by hovering close to people whose deaths are imminent and scavenging from their corpses after the event. She’s callous, abrasive and bitter, keeping the world at arm’s length with a steady stream of sarcasm and profanity. And yet –

Miriam meets someone in whose death she may be implicated. As she struggles to change what horrific experience has taught her is an inevitability, Wendig peels back the layers of his misbegotten heroine. Miriam’s fearsome misanthropy is the shell of a heart sorely hurt. The great tragedy of her past is compounded again and again by misguided attempts to atone for her mistakes, attempts with invariably horrible consequences. Years of cruel experience have taught her that she is nothing but a poisoned chalice. Despite that, Miriam spits in the eye of her own completely justified fatalism and sets out to change the future.

On one level, Blackbirds is a snarling, vicious crime thriller populated by con men, druglords and psychotic assassins up against a prickly psychic heroine hauling a truckload of emotional baggage. It stinks of cheap booze, bad sex, greasy food, tire smoke, festering wounds and smouldering cigarettes. You don’t have to dig far beneath the surface to get at the good stuff, though. Blackbirds is upfront about asking big questions about free will and destiny, but more intimate subjects, like death, loss and the harmful consequences of deliberately becoming physically and socially distanced from humanity, are laid bare as well.

Which is not to say it’s a slow, thoughtful read. On the contrary, Blackbirds screams along, propelled by Miriam’s fear, anger and desperate dark humour, not to mention a cadre of vicious criminals out to reclaim what’s theirs. Set against a backdrop of highway motels, seedy bars and trailer parks, there’s slick violence, black comedy and a sprinkling of supernatural horror. Miriam Black is a broken, jagged wreck of a person with a spiteful tongue and a psychic curse who is forced to decide whether she wants to be human. She’s mean and tortured and cunning and compassionate and she’d kick you in the crotch if she thought you pitied her, because fuck you, that’s why.

Yeah, I love this book. All the stars. ALL OF THEM.

3 Comments »

  1. Hmm, relentless positivity via enthusiasm for bleak depressing stuff… I am not so sure of this strategy.

    Here’s hoping today will see a celebration of some of life’s simple pleasures!

    Comment by Chris Fellows — October 4, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

  2. It is a very good book though! I took great joy in reading it and feeling emotions and junk. What pleasures in life could be simpler?

    (Okay, fine, I’ll do the plug for the pro-science comic about robots and explosions).

    Comment by lexifab — October 4, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

  3. […] reviewed the first of Miriam Black book, Blackbirds, back at the start of the Month of Relentless Positivity, so it makes sense – to me – to bookend the […]

    Pingback by MRP Day 26 – Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig « Lexifabricographer — October 28, 2012 @ 11:32 pm

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