[Review] BLACKBIRDS by Chuck Wendig

by Chuck Wendig releases tomorrow, April 24, 2012.

Cover Copy: 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.

My Thoughts: BLACKBIRDS is the story of Miriam, a young woman with the ability to see how a person dies, simply by touching him/her. A problem arises when she touches a man, sees his death, and just before he dies, he says her name. Somehow she is directly connected with his death. Somehow she will be there when he dies by gruesome torture.

It’s a fabulous premise, even if the concept of seeing someone’s death isn’t new. Miriam’s life is further complicated when she meets a man with a mysterious suitcase and he wants to use her ability profit from people’s deaths.

Miriam is a greatly flawed character. She smokes, she drinks, she curses like a sailor. But she’s strong, she can hold her own in a fight, and she’s savvy and resourceful. Miriam does not have a good relationship with her ability to see death. It causes her shame, and as a result, she acts out against that shame. She looks down herself as much, if not more than, others look down on her.

She’s actually a well-developed character, but I did have a few problems with her. At times she didn’t seem quite feminine enough. Her emotional reactions felt off. At times she seemed older than the age we are given of merely 21. Being wise beyond her years works with her street-smarts, but it kind of falls apart against the strict, sheltered, religious up-bringing we are told she had. She seems to have acquired more years of street-smarts than possible. Then there is the problem of Miriam not explaining the situation to the guy whose death she will be at. It’s that problem of hinging the plot on a matter that could be solved with a simple conversation. This is especially noticable because Miriam’s story is interwoven with a tell-all interview that happens after the fact. So how is it she can tell it all to the interviewer but not to the guy who is going to bite it? But it was the lack of feminine moments that detracted from the story for me. There were times when I felt Miriam could be switched for a guy quite easily (maybe not so easily for the sex scenes.) Your view of Miriam might be quite different.

BLACKBIRDS is easily on the dark end of the urban fantasy spectrum. It’s gritty, graphically violent, pulp fiction, and yet terribly compelling. If Quinten Tarrantino wrote fiction, this would be his genre. Fans of Richard Kadrey will love Chuck Wendig. The pair seem to have tapped into a whole subgenre of gritty, fantasy pulp fiction.

What I love about the cover is of course, the image of the woman disintegrating into blackbirds. It’s so fitting. I think the image could have done without all the little piece of Miriam’s visions: the hand, the highway sign, the lighthouse, etc. They distract and detract from the more compelling visual of the disintegration.

Rating: A
Series: Miriam Black #1
Publisher: Angry Robot
Acquired: NetGalley

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One comment on “[Review] BLACKBIRDS by Chuck Wendig

  1. Pingback: Robot Round-Up, 27.04.12 :: Angry Robot Books | The City Robotics Site

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