Science fiction and fantasy                                            


by Chuck Wendig


Blackbirds is grotty. Chuck Wendig presents every scene in shades of piss yellow, stained with cockroach wee and coated with sticky residues you hope are only beer. The main character Miriam sees everything through nicotine-tinted glasses, her life a series of rainy truck stops and dreary motels. She's cursed with being able to see how and when people will die without having the power to prevent it, no matter what she does.

Miriam is a scavenger, and she makes her living by hanging around like a vulture when people are about to die and then robbing their corpses. She doesn't deal in death directly, until she meets a charming trucker, Louis, and foresees his murder and her involvement in it. Since Louis seems like a nice guy she doesn't want this to happen so she tries to get as far away from him as possible, even though experience tells her it will do no good. She ends up bumping into Ashley, a con man with a talent for getting into trouble. He's been following her, having noticed her rare talent, and he blackmails her into teaming up with him. However Ashley has attracted sharks of his own, and everyone he associates with is likely to get caught in the crossfire.

The main character's view of the world is hilariously black, and her mouth buzzes with filth. Anyone familiar with the Terrible Minds blog will recognise the style, a mixture of profanity and fast-talking craziness, although Miriam's character isn't quite as absurd. She seems like a lost soul, but underneath her deviant behaviour there's a strong thread of Catholic guilt.

The inevitability of fate is a major theme, and this philosophical angle raises the tone considerably. It needs to: Blackbirds is chockablock with hackneyed greasy trucker bar brawls, wife beaters, and assorted psychopaths who race through this depressing landscape in a quest to out-horrible each other. There are some pretty fierce episodes of lose-your-tea violence. In the hands of a lesser writer this plot would be relentlessly grim, but Chuck Wendig makes even the darkest parts seem light thanks to his characters' humour, and the story cracks along at a furious pace. It's a very fast read. I finished the book wanting to know more about Miriam's world with all its peeling paintwork, fading bruises, and grotification. It's the kind of story where no-one is getting out without a fair amount of staining, but the characters are more interesting as a result.

8th May 2012

Book Details

Year: 2012

Categories: Books

  Female Protagonist  
  Not For The Squeamish  

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