Miriam Black knows when you will die.
Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name.
Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.
One of the perks of being an assistant editor for SNS is that I get a look at some really cool books that come in for review and it always excites me when a new batch becomes available. Wondering what hidden treasures we will be able to unearth always stokes my inner lit-geek. But the downside of that (and, really, the only drawback to being assistant editor) is that, from time to time, we get something in that I just know is going to be great…. but I have to let it go so that someone can review it quickly. Sarah and I get to build our own “to read” piles but we have a whole staff of hungry reviewers who love good stories just as much as we do. And every now and then I throw a tidbit to them that looks tasty enough that it makes me wish that I had time and energy (and sanity) enough to review them all.
I had a sneaking suspicion that that was going to be the case with the novel that Marc is reviewing below.
But I will let him fill in the details for you……..
Chuck Wendig’s writing is sharp, and I don’t just mean sharp as a tack. I mean sharp as a razor blade when you’re all out of shave cream. Sharp as the teeth in the maw of a shark swimming toward your head. Sharp as a switchblade in the hands of that shady looking character who passed you just now and slid it into your liver before the pain even had time to register, and there he goes, padding off softly with your wallet and expensive wristwatch. Its sharp like that.
Blackbirds tells the story of Miriam, a girl with the “gift” of being able to see exactly when and how people will die just by touching them. She’s a naughty girl to be sure, a self-described vulture in a world of wolves and sheep. See, Miriam uses her ability to find people who are going to kick off the mortal coil sooner than later, then hangs around to empty their pockets when death comes to claim them.
Wendig’s voice as an author is astounding. There is a very Pahlaniuk vibe to the brevity of his sentences and the hyper-realism of his dialog. The imagery is excellent, the action is frantic but never hard to follow, and the pacing is more than excellent – it is perfect.
The characters come off a bit clichéd at first glance: the picaresque heroine who we all hope “does the right thing at the end”; the smarmy egotistical con-man with balls far bigger than his brains; the quiet hardened killers; the too-creepy-for-words Eurotrash villain. But there is a depth to every character in this book that challenges and defies their very core concepts, elevating them FAR above the initial cliché they appear to be.
I’m not only glad that I read Blackbirds, I’m also a little pissed that I didn’t write it. It is *that* good. I am so impressed with Blackbirds that I know with 100% certainty that the next book I buy for myself will be by Wendig. And probably the one after that, too.
This is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. Blackbirds is like a roller coaster with broken brakes, where Satan is the carnie running the ride and the amusement park is in one of the Nine Circles of Hell. I honestly think Chuck Wendig is probably deranged and likely some kind of prophet of the coming apocalypse; and all I can say is that I want to drink the Kool-Aid when he starts passing it around. This book was so good that not only did I love it, I kinda hated it too… and that’s good writing.
Without hesitation, Blackbirds deserves 5 out of 5 tentacles. Maybe even more.
Marc Nocerino, Columnist/Reviewer