Wednesday, August 29, 2012

100 Books #81 - Chuck Wendig's MOCKINGBIRD

Sometimes, I think Chuck Wendig has been spying on my own inner dialogue as I scowl and huff and sigh my way through my meatspace life. Yes, my little chickadees, it's true: Miriam Black's outside voice sounds a lot like my inside voice. And I bet I'm not alone.

I really, really loved Wendig's first Miriam Black novel, Blackbirds in all of it's cursing, seedy, desperate glory. I've been sort of obsessively peeking at my inbox lately that I might pounce the second September's drop of Angry Robot eBook goodness was available to load onto my gadgets. And, probably because of WorldCon, those books dropped early. Hooray for WorldCon (which I didn't think I'd be saying since I can't be there)!

This second installment picks off perhaps a year after the events of Blackbirds. Miriam is trying to do the Ruby in Paradise thing (except on the Jersey Shore instead of in Florida) and failing spectacularly. She and her trucker sweetheart/frienemy share an Airstream in a seriously crappy trailer park near the the tourist dustcatcher store where she works selling "tampons and hermit crabs" and he's gone a lot on runs. And one day, as you know it will, this hard-won bit of flimsy white trash happiness (?) goes all to hell. And the "batshit highway witch" is set loose on the world again. Hooray!

This time her secret, that physical contact with another person shows her the exact manner and time of that person's death, is less of a secret: a malign supernatural entity she has named the Tresspasser that mocked and threatened her in interludes in Blackbirds is back, her trucker friend knows, and so do select people that he decides to tell, people who would pay good money to learn what Miriam can tell them.

It all seems so innocuous at first, but this is Chuck Wendig, who loves to torment his most famous creation to date, and who might just appear to have a bone or two to pick with a certain fringe element of a certain political party that has been accused of waging a war on a certain gender. Think Red State meets every shocksploitation bad girls in prison/school film ever made. But with psychic powers.

Yeah, it gets pretty icky and uncomfortable, and may just warrant a trigger warning. But don't let that stop you unless it's really, really, really a problem for you, because it would cause you to miss out on some quality stuff. Wendig can freaking write, delivering a potent mix of philosophical speculations on free will versus destiny, backbred inwoods shenanigans, kickass action, and moments of surprising tenderness that last just long enough for the reader to catch her breath before plunging back into the ick. Knowing full well that the plunge is what she wants, because what happens neeeeeeeext?!?

There is also one of the most effective red herring gotchas I've encountered in a book in a long time. Well done.

My only complaint about Mockingbird is not really the fault of the author or the book solely, but I still have it: with all of the amazing poetry out there (and there is a lot, just ask me about it sometime), why do genre novelists always have to quote from, if not build a whole book around, the same poem all the time? I'm talking, of course, about T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland". Yes, it's a fine poem, allusive and elusive, full of portentous lines and strangeness and passages that make you shiver. But so are lots and lots and lots of other poems. And no, I'm not talking about Yeats' "Second Coming" either (and yeah, that gets a nod, as does Poe's "The Raven" though the latter gets not so much a nod as a dig-in-your-ribs, whistle and point. Because the birds are a motif, dontcha know). That's possibly even more overused. Fictioneers, if  you want to show off your erudition, or just lend depth to  your work, find something new to quote from, would you? Like, say, Hart Crane? Check out some Hart Crane. And he didn't even muck around with free verse. Just a thought.

OK, rant over. But think about it, okay? And you, dear readers go read some poetry. Or at least, if you're not offended by cascading waterfalls of profanity, go look Chuck Wendig's book trailer (of sorts) for these books can be found here at his blog. He's taken all of the hilarious profanity from Blackbirds and Mockingbird and turned them into a sort of poetry recitation of his very own. Because he could.

And you know what else he could do? Write another Miriam Black novel or two. Ahem.


  1. I already asked! Cormorant is the next Miriam Black book. He said he'll be starting it next year, but the outline has been done for a while.

    1. Oh good! I thought I had seen the covers as a trifecta; the third has her in semi-profile again but facing the other way.


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