Review of Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds stands out as one of my favorite novels so far this year.  To be fair, it’s probably not everybody’s cup of hot arterial blood, but if you like your novels down-and-dirty, pedal-to-the-metal, and still thought-provoking, you can’t miss with this novel.  I’d say it’s actually more horror than “urban fantasy” – it has more in common with the novels of Joe Hill and Gary A. Braunbeck than it does with those of Charles De Lint and Neil Gaiman – but wherever it gets shelved in the store, this is one feisty mofo that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and shakes you till you pee yourself.  Seriously, folks, if you like your fiction dark and weird, you need to read this book.

Still don’t believe me?  Here’s seven reasons you’re gonna love this book:

The Cover – I mean, come on!  Have you looked at this thing?  Angry Robot not only publishes awesome books, they adorn them with the magnificent covers they deserve.  Wendig must have come in his pants when he saw this thing the first time.

The Premise – Wrestling with the question of fate versus freewill is as ancient as the Greeks and as timeless as Shakespeare, but you’ll notice that we’ve never actually solved this particular problem.  Add in a protagonist who can foresee the future, and you’ve got all the working materials of classic myth. Wendig makes these old conundrums fresh with his lively prose and his knack for contemporary grit.

The Prose – This author can flat out write.  There’s nary a wasted word in the novel.  The nouns sing brightly and the athletic verbs leap from the page.  Ray Bradbury would have loved Wendig’s effervescent prose style.  You will too.

The Protagonist – Miriam Black is the most troubled, sexiest, spookiest clairvoyant you ‘d ever hope to meet in a novel.  Her struggles with her gift/curse and the problems it causes her in relation to others makes Miriam a girl you’d never want to meet in real life, but vicariously through a book, her character is as compelling as they come.

Rampant, Gleeful Mayhem – From midnight strolls along the interstate, to bar room brawls, to visits from thuggish people carrying FBI badges, you never know what’s going to happen from one page to the next.  This ups the ante in the fate versus freewill contest because Miriam has already seen the deaths of anyone she’s touched.  And fate always wins, right?

Wendig’s Dirty Mouth – Chuck Wendig has more fun with creative obscenity than anyone I’ve read since early Stephen King.  Who else would have the writerly balls to pop out with insults like “fuckpie” and a nameless character referred to as Gray Pubes.  Again, this book is clearly not for everyone, but if you’re going to use dirty words at least make them interesting.  Wendig does.

Mockingbird – If there’s anything better than reading a great book you don’t want to end, it’s knowing that a sequel is already in the works.  Even more awesome than that is knowing you don’t have to wait a whole year.  The next title in this series is slated for release in September 2012.  You can bet I’ll be snagging mine the week it comes out.

Quibbles?  Yeah, I’ve got a few.  I always do, but I’ll spare you hearing about them.  The scale firmly tips in favor of this novel.

Blackbirds easily earns five out of five stars.

Why are you still sitting there?  Go get a copy of this book and start reading it.

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About Chuck Caruso

writer of dark fiction (crime, horror & western noir), literary & textual scholar (american gothic, noir, po-co, sf), and cultural critic View all posts by Chuck Caruso

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