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Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
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Blackbirds (edition 2012)

by Chuck Wendig

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3005137,355 (3.78)25
Member:lilywren
Title:Blackbirds
Authors:Chuck Wendig
Info:Angry Robot (2012), Edition: Original, Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:crime, thriller, dark, horror, fiction

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Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

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Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
What have I to say about Miriam? I LOVE HER!! She is a A STOMP ASS, FOUL MOUTHED, ALCOHOL DRINKING, CIGARETTE SMOKING, FIRECRACKER OF A CHICK WITH DEATH DOGGING HER EVERY STEP!!! Haha, now not that those are especially iconic characteristics to have as a person. But hey, sometimes the good guys aren’t always “good” right?

I don’t feel the blurb on Blackbirds is completely accurate after having read the book. Though it and the cover definitely were what drew me into reading it. Let me just say instead: Yes, she can see how someone is going to die simply by having skin on skin contact with you. A touch of the fingertip, graze of a bare shoulder, bump of a bit of uglies *cackles madly* and there she has it – in what is likely 2 seconds or less she will have witnessed in her mind’s eye all the gritty details of your death. Down to the minute of your demise!

How was the blurb misleading? It stated that she would be the next victim to die – and she couldn’t very well know that because her own death is the one death that Miriam cannot see. Obviously, she is a troubled young woman. 8 years ago she gained the ability to see how others were going to meet their end. At first she thought she could try to prevent these deaths from happening, but repeated attempts have left her jaded and to put it frankly quite a bit mentally unhinged.

Nowadays, she is a vagabond roamer – traveling around the country, strategically placing herself at these scenes of death she has previously witnessed in her visions. Why would she do this? Because she robs the bodies of the newly deceased of course! Just so she can keep moving forward, keep food and alcohol in her belly, and cigarettes on her lips to get through another day. All the while continuing to fill the pages in what is essentially her diary of death.

All of this sounds very morbid and depressing doesn’t it? BUT WAIT! That couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, there are some gruesome parts in Blackbirds, but boy oh boy, was I laughing my ass off at some parts. Miriam is a queen of snark. It’s like she has some cutting thing to say back to everyone and often these things will just make you guffaw out loud. She’s a roadside trash type of girl, but you can also see the faded painted picture of a wonderful person underneath all of the scum she’s piled on top of herself.

Wendig has an amazing way with making each character really come alive. Each had their own distinctive voice in my mind and I felt connected to each one of them! Usually, I find secondary character building to be lacking in the books I’ve read lately but these characters were all so well built up. Even one guy that didn’t seem to get as much ‘background info time,’ I felt was well done because you’re really supposed to feel like he’s a lame sidekick and just by his personality alone and the things he says and the way he’s treated that is exactly how I walked away feeling about him.

The only questionable thing about Blackbirds to me was how she ended up getting this power. She does go into explaining it somewhat but then I feel like the explanation kind of jumps the train a little and you are supposed to pick up the rest from her so many visions/nightmares/flashbacks. Mostly these happen when she’s asleep – and during her dreams you can’t tell if that’s something that really did happen to her in the past or if it’s her mind warping it into something else. Now in the visions she sees of someone’s death, those are clear and crisp without any confusion as to how they are going to die. Because of this I know I’ll likely do a reread before the next book comes out. It’s probably my own fault for not catching it since I was eating every word on the page so fast.

This is a must read for fans of paranormal books on the much darker and grittier side of things. I was hooked a few short pages in and could barely put Blackbirds down until I was finished. Talk about sending my eyes into eye-bleed mode. Miriam is a strong, but “dirty” character, so keep an open mind going in. If you are OK with a lot of cussing, very graphic death scenes, and a wee bit of sex, oh yes and blood, let’s not forget all the blood, then you will definitely love this book. For me that is an awesome mix, because I love serial killer, horror, thriller, grip me by the seat of my pants sort of stuff because I’d rather read it than watch it. But I know that this definitely won’t be for everyone. If you’re a reader that say - likes mostly Young Adult fiction and for it to be kept on the cleaner side, then Blackbirds might not be your cup of tea. I say give it a try anyway because you never know you might just find you’ll love it.

Tabitha the Pabkins
posted on www.myshelfconfessions.com ( )
  Pabkins | Jun 24, 2014 |
Profanity. Sex. Violence. This is the depravity a reader must enjoy in order to appreciate Chuck Wendig's Blackbirds (Angry Robot, 2012).

I loved it.

Miriam Black is like that creepy kid from The Sixth Sense if he were older and more inclined to dropping the f-bomb. Miriam is more macabre, too: Instead of seeing dead people, she sees how they die. The merest touch imparts to Miriam knowledge not only of how a person dies, but also when, information that comes in handy to a drifter living by the seat of her pants. (Think scavenger.)

Blackbirds opens with Miriam moving from one encounter to the next, a glutted vulture seeking out her next meal. She's picked up by Louis, a kindly truck driver, after she encounters two rednecks. (Whom Miriam roundly beats. Thanks, Louis, but she don't need no man.) Miriam accidentally touches Louis and receives a vision of his death in which he appears to be calling her name and looking at her over the shoulder of his murderer. Thus Wendig sets Blackbirds' story in motion.

If its premise is straightforward--urban fantasy chick with special powers gets into trouble--Blackbirds is anything but simple. In a postscript interview with Adam Christopher, Wendig admits that Blackbirds went through seven or eight drafts, including from a book manuscript to a film script and back again. (The visual style of the book is indicative of its time as a script.) And it shows. There is nothing rough or extraneous about Blackbirds. Wendig distilled the story down to its essence, and then sprinkled it liberally with profanity.

The care Wendig put into telling this story shows. His prose is whip-smart, each sentence a revelation in its own way, whether it's creative vulgarity or unexpected observations, for instance, the "chemical stink" of Philadelphia (a smell this reader knows all too well). Each sentence builds upon the last, lending the story a propulsive feel. Readers will find themselves impatient to know what happens next. Blackbirds is the definition of a "page turner."

Wendig's prose is punchy, conversational. (If he speaks in any way resembling his writing voice, I would love to have a beer with him.) His dialog is natural; readers will recognize the rhythms of characters' speech. If there is an exception, it might be Miriam herself, whose incessant patter sometimes reads as forced, or, perhaps, too clever, almost as if she's a Gilmore Girl gone to seed. Still, Miriam's dialog is in character. She isn't stupid, and the endless string of wisecracks, vulgarity, and observations speak to her nervous energy, a trait indicated, too, by her chain smoking, drinking, and, ultimately, rootless lifestyle.

Wendig is at his best (and that is saying something) when it comes to characterization. Miriam is a compelling and charismatic protagonist, of course, but it's with the characters that revolve around her that Wendig really shines. Wendig can summon up a sense of character with just one or two sentences. Consider Ashley Gaynes, a conman whose whole being is summed up in his shit-eating grin. Or Frankie and Harriet, a pair of odd couple cutthroats who make small talk about crazy old cat women. Their reactions to a story about a particular cat woman, something told almost in passing, points to their very natures.

Readers should be warmed: This is not a PG book. You will have by now noted that I've mentioned profanity several times, and there is a lot of it. If you don't crack a smile at creative cursing, if you find such language tasteless, Blackbirds isn't for you. Blackbirds is violent, too, practically from the first page, and it is graphic. I wrinkled my nose a few times, and I'm not squeamish; indeed, I like my stories bloody. Readers with weak stomachs should consider themselves warned.

Those concerns aside--and I don't consider them my concerns--Blackbirds is a wonderful book. The story is well plotted, the characters, even the minor ones, fully drawn, and Wendig's prose is outstanding. A sense of "writer's craft" permeates the entire book. A dark urban fantasy, Blackbirds will be best enjoyed by readers who like their fantasy to have elements of mysteries and thrillers, and for fans of the quirky and offbeat. Highly recommended. ( )
  LancasterWays | Jun 18, 2014 |
Fucking loved it.

Yes, the swear was required. Also, you shouldn't read this book if it offended you. If it didn't, however, and you like a good dark story with fantastic characters and a quick pace, you should check out this book. ( )
  RhondaParrish | May 9, 2014 |
This is one of those urban fantasies that's on that gritty, grimy edge of horror. Wendig is a visceral, punchy writer. He wields profanity the way a teenage girl says "like." That's typically not my thing, but the Miriam's voice works well here. She's hurting because she knows she's hurt others, and her snark is a method of defense. It's an intense read that zooms by--which is great because there's so much violence and gore, but it never dwells on it. The brisk pace pushes things along. ( )
  ladycato | Apr 28, 2014 |
Miriam Black doesn't want your help. She’s a loner by choice. Why? Well, Miriam can tell you with 100% accuracy when and how you’re going to die. With a little simple skin on skin action, she can peer into the future and find out when you’re going to meet your maker. Big deal right? If Miriam knows how you’re going to die, why doesn't she just become a superhero and save the day? The thing is – fate ain't got time for superheroes. What fate wants, fate gets and avoiding the grim reaper isn't something she’s equipped to deal with.

Unfortunately for Miriam, she can’t always choose her battles. Crossing paths with a kindly trucker forces her to let her guard down which allows a friendship to take root. However, when she sees how he’ll kick the bucket, she opts to get as far away as possible, hoping to somehow avoid the whole mess altogether. Remember what I said before? How fate always gets its way?

This book was straight up awesome. Wendig has a way with words; like he’s cooking with literary hot sauce. And don’t give me any of that crap about how Wendig wrote Miriam like she’s a dude; as if there’s any set way a man/woman is supposed to act within fiction. Miriam is Miriam. She’s a loose cannon. She’s fun to read, she’s a breath of fresh air and the girl can trade verbal barbs with the best of them. Seriously, there are some of the best one-liners in here. If you’re not laughing out loud at what Wendig throws at you, your funny bone is broken.

Not only is Miriam memorable, the supporting cast shines in their roles. The two thugs on her trail, Frankie and Harriet, provide excellent entertainment while Miriam is off screwing something up somewhere. Her boss, Ingersoll, is obsessed with tracking down Black, hoping she’ll help him expand his operation beyond its minimal existence. All three are solid foils for Miriam. Despite knowing there are two books that follow, they’re not written as simple obstacles for her to overcome. They have a serious mean streak and will linger long after you close the book.

I loved the hell out of this and I can’t recommend it enough. On to book two! ( )
  branimal | Apr 1, 2014 |
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When Miriam Black touches you, she can see how and when you’re going to die. This gives her the chance, in theory, to solve murders before they happen – but she discovers that fate is far more unyielding than suspected, and she soon grows to believe she cannot change the deaths she sees. She learns differently, over time, and learns that the sacrifices necessary to turn fate on its ear are bigger than expected. In the meantime, she exists as a kind of human vulture: instead of attempting to sway fate’s course she steps into it’s path, becoming a carrion bird (figuratively) who lurks at the deaths she knows are coming to steal from the dead. [Author's words from interview on Andrew Jack Writing Blog]
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Miriam Black knows when you will die. She's foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes and suicides. But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name.… (more)

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