Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Chuck Wendig's THE CORMORANT
In The Cormorant, Miriam Black, foul-mouthed, psychically cursed heroine of Chuck Wendig's searingly and sickeningly awesome Blackbirds and Mockingbird, finally leaves the Jersey Shore where most of her violent and trashy adventures have taken place to date and heads to sunny Florida, on a mission to earn $5000 just for telling some rich weirdo how he's going to die. What could be finer?
Lots of things, as it happens. For starters, Miriam, who thinks she's a solo act since she's gotten rid of her trucker-love Louis, is less alone than ever; not only is the malign supernatural Trespasser still along for the trip in the crappy 1986 Pontiac Fiero she buys for $160 and telling the car salesman (truthfully for once) that he's going to die fairly nicely, but the FBI has noticed her. Oh have they noticed her. And since in Mockingbird she switched her M.O. from simply robbing the very recently deceased to trying to prevent the deaths she sees -- but she can do this only by killing the killers -- they think Miriam is just an exceptionally imaginative serial killer.
Meanwhile, figures from her past return to haunt her -- and not just as manifestations of the Trespasser. We get to meet Miriam's mother, and she's even better than one would think he or she has the right to hope. And then there's Miriam's earthly nemesis, a drug dealing murdering jackwagon whom she's thwarted more than once (and whose "heart" she may have "broken"), who seems hip to her power and is turning it frighteningly against her. Oh yeah.
Meanwhile, Wendig has not let up one bit on the profane rapid-fire poetry of Miriam's dialogue and internal narrative. The tougher the challenges she faces, the sharper, meaner and more glorious her wit becomes; it has to: it's all she's got, unless she's managed to stumble across a gun again. But which each desperate act of self-preservation, her next such becomes that much harder. By even the start of The Cormorant, Miriam is responsible for quite a few deaths and maimings. And while she is perfectly capable of remembering them all, the Trespasser is always there to impersonate them at awkward moments to make sure the burden of guilt never lightens up.
Make no mistake, this is an ugly, desperate, gut-wrenching read. But it's glorious all the same. I would hate to meet Miriam in person. I'm sure she would not have a single kind word for me, and I don't really want to know how I'm gonna die. But lordy, do I love reading her stories.
I'm really glad this isn't the last one. Bring on Thunderbirds!