Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
Miriam Black knows when you will die. She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.
But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. 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.
I have a friend … let’s call him Tony (seems sensible that’s his name). Now Tony is a huge fan of this author’s writing. He enjoyed both Shotgun Gravy and Double Dead. He would be the first to admit that he regularly preaches the Gospel according to Wendig. Me? Well prior to Blackbirds I’ve not read a single word of Mr Wendig’s work but based on Tony’s man gushing, and the rest of the internet love that exists for this writer, I decide to give this novel a go.
Very quickly, after reading only a couple of pages, I knew that I was going to relish the entire novel.
The burden that Miriam has to bear makes her a creature of extreme contrasts. She has a tough, foul-mouthed exterior that seems able to more than adequately cope with anything that the world throws at her. Inside however she is broken, and more than a little bit vulnerable. In an effort to cope, she has spent years trying to distance herself from others but she longs to connect with the world. The tragedy of Miriam’s existence is heartbreaking, and it is difficult not to feel for her predicament. Wendig doesn’t pull any punches and things are often violent and brutal as various people attempt to cash in on Miriam’s unique ability.
Blackbirds feels like a dark, fantastical Wim Wenders road trip movie where reality has been given the afternoon off and told to go an make itself useful elsewhere. There are a number of surreal dream sequences where Miriam internally debates a series of difficult decisions she is forced to make. These moments interspersed into the main narrative make the novel feel almost like an adult fairy tale.
I also particularly liked the fact that, with the exception of the main protagonist, no one else in the cast of oddball characters is safe. Just a single touch from Miriam and the end of their life is like an open book to her. Could be five minutes, could be tomorrow, could be fifty years from now.
Oh, and before I forget. I’m sure that it has been mentioned on just about every other review of Blackbirds but, that cover is just beautiful. The artist, Joey Hi-Fi, has created an image that really is incredibly striking. It perfectly captures Miriam’s fractured nature as well as the overall tone of the novel. Angry Robot sure knows how to give good cover.
I find I could quite happily continue waffling on about how brilliant this novel is at length so, in an effort to finish this post at some point before the world ends, I best try and come to some sort of conclusion. How best to sum up the experience then? After completing Blackbirds I’m going to have to hold my hands up and admit that I am now a full on convert to the Church of Wendig. I’m serious, sign me up, I’ll be happy to drink the suspicious tasting flavour of Kool Aid that Mr Wendig is offering.
To paraphrase the most electrifying man in sports entertainment (oh yes, I’m willing to drop a wrestling reference into any review) – I can smell what Chuck Wendig is cooking. Put it this way, I was speaking to a friend the other day and I was bemoaning the fact that I had already read the first quarter of the book and I was considering stopping just so I could eek out the experience just that little bit longer.
I genuinely can’t recommend this novel highly enough. I may contact Amazon and ask if they’ll create a sixth star just for this. Miriam Black is a fascinating creation and I look forward to meeting her again. Blackbirds is published by those cheeky automatons at Angry Robot and is available now. Even better news – a sequel, Mockingbird, will be available later this year.