If I had to sum up Chuck Wendig‘s Blackbirds in a single word (whilst avoiding expletives) this would be it: GrittyDarkFast*.
The first encounter with Miriam Black pulled me under. She watched Del Amico die in a seedy motel room, lit up a cigarette and walked away with $50 and Del’s Mastercard. “Dear Diary: I did it again.”
From there, I was shooting the rapids without a life jacket, bobbing along trying to breathe and bumping up against the rocks of Miriam’s world — a dirty, dark place found on the sides of highways that we speed along in our rush to be somewhere else. Periodic interludes in the narrative served to expose Miriam’s past and state of mind and provided me brief opportunity to catch my breath and get my bearings before being pulled under again.
|Miriam Black knows when you will die.
Miriam has an attitude. And a filthy mouth. And a gift. The most casual physical contact informs her of the time, manner and place of your death. Her attempts to save people have all failed and she has resigned herself to the role of scavenger, riding the currents of fate and picking at the corpses (See: Amico, Del). Then she meets truck driver Louis Darling and has a vision of him calling out her name in the moments leading up to his death. Whether due to connection, compulsion or fear, Miriam must save him.
You won’t find many nice people in Blackbirds. Miriam herself isn’t particularly likable. The people she runs up against — even less so. Hustlers, bikers, meth dealers and a (sadly underused) pair of assassins all leave scars on Miriam and her world.
Blackbirds is dark. Pretty damned dark. I didn’t notice how dark until I was more than halfway through: right about the same time that I noticed the brutality of some of the violence. Oh, and there is swearing. Lots of swearing. While I can see these aspects putting some people off, I found that they helped crank the intensity up to a nice-and-not-so-respectable level.
In Blackbirds, Chuck Wendig takes readers on an awesome ride that some may find unsettling, but the best rides always are.
* – apologies to Daniel Pinchbeck