Saturday, June 30, 2012

100 Books #60 - Chuck Wendig's BLACKBIRDS

This has got to be one of the most language-drunk novels I have ever read.

This is a marvelous, marvelous thing, but also a bit exhausting; one's jaw gets tired of dropping at the verbal inventiveness of author Chuck Wendig and his protagonist, Miriam Black, whose wit bites like a cloud of deer flies, relentless and impossible to ignore. At times this threatens to distract the reader from the story, which is a bit of a shame because the story is also very good. This combination of story and verbal pyrotechnics makes Blackbirds a very overwhelming book, but also an unforgettable one.

And one that gets off to a very, very seedy start. Miriam, a "batshit highway witch" as she describes herself at one point**, whose gift/curse is to foresee exactly how a person is going to die, ekes out a precarious existence taking advantage of the newly- or soon-to-be dead, being on hand as a witness and, then, a corpse-robber, "more vulture than falcon." Which is to say that she's a bit of a nasty piece of work, sharp-tongued and cold-hearted, but then again, she tends to discover a lot about a person's less savory character traits in the process of foreseeing and stalking him or her. That could make anybody cynical.

A bit cynical myself, I could gladly have spent chapters plying the roach motels and truck stops with her, but Wendig had better plans for her than that. Like meeting a wonderful man -- not a bog standard handsome hottie, but just a good, kind, pensive sort of person -- and foreseeing that he will be murdered in a little over a month with her name on his lips.


The plot that spins out from this is violent, crude, gritty, hilarious (if you like gallows humor and worse, which I do), sometimes obscene*** and completely gripping. I was hooked from the first awesomely icky scene, icky not in that it contained anything graphic or overly gross (unless you're really freaked out by, e.g., cockroaches crawling into a dead guy's nostril) but icky in that it was one of the most fascinatingly morally repugnant scenes I've read in years. At least since Bad Marie. And at least until, well, some later scenes in this book.

And now, excuse me. I need a shower. Again. And then another. On and on until September, when the sequel to this one, Mockingbirds, hits my e-reader. I will read the crap out of it.

*Well, aside from, say Ulysses or anything of Henry Miller's, of course.

**Well, okay, she ascribes this view of herself to one of her companion-victims, but it's still pretty apt a description.

***Miriam is possibly the crudest mental bestower of nicknames in all of literature. Gray Pubes, indeed. As one GoodReads reviewer, Eva, put it " The novel contains sex, drugs, and cursing, like if there's a drinking game and you have to take a shot every time someone curses, you'd probably be drunk by page 50." Worse if you're drinking anything like what Miriam drinks. Shudder. Also, nothing is ever just yellow in color, it is always "piss yellow." If you have a problem with that sort of thing, you should probably avoid this book. Me, I was an entomology graduate student back in the day. I cleaned up cockroach poop. A lot. Knowingly. I'm pretty much impossible to gross out.


  1. Not a book I would ever choose based on cover material (book, cover, I know) but one I will definitely read thanks to this review.

  2. Yeah, the cover is pretty, but makes the novel seem more like your bog standard paranormal romance, doesn't it? But that's not Wendig at ALL!


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