Chuck Wendig’s latest novel, BLACKBIRDS, doesn’t walk up to you slowly and give you a hug. No, it smacks you in the face, roughs you up, and makes you like it. It’s full of wonderfully weird people, threats from every angle and death. Lots of death. Violent, quick, lonely or just weird, there’s death all around.
Chief among the things giving it to you the hard way is the main character Miriam Black. She’s a gifted young woman. Not like a child prodigy, great at piano. More like the X-Men’s Rogue with her “why the hell do I have to have this shitty gift.” Miriam can see how people die. Any skin to skin contact and there it is. Death in all its final, awful detail.
She can’t control it, and it doesn’t seem to have done her a great deal of good. We meet her as a drifter who scratches a life out of her gift. It’s a pretty crappy existence, and it’s about to get worse. Her unique ability, and how she chooses to use it, start to attract some attention. A con man weasels his way into her life, but is soon on his way as more nefarious figures enter the picture.
A trio of villainy forms Miriam’s primary antagonist. Frankie’s not so bad. Yeah, he kills people, sure. But really, he’s not so bad. His boss, Ingersoll, is a real shit. Mean as hell, sadistic and delusional. He’s obsessed with Miriam, well her ability anyway. But the real treat is Harriet. She’s a cruel little woman, sure. But there’s more there. She’s driven. She’s taken a pretty shitty life and turned it into something fulfilling. Demented, sick, twisted and violent. But fulfilling.
It’s not all bad though. Louis, a trucker with a soft heart, is a good guy. Really, he’s nice. It doesn’t really help him out much, being nice, but you root for the guy. Oh, and there’s another Louis too, same guy but not really. He’s not quite as nice, but he does try to help. You’ll need to read the book to understand that little bit, but trust me, other Louis is awesome.
All in all, this one hell of a book. If you like crime, horror, or urban fantasy, you’re going to like this. If you want soft language, wilting flower leading women and stories that go nowhere, then go elsewhere. If you like women that kick ass, dialog that grabs you and makes you appreciate a well put curse, and villains that grab you by the pubes and make you want to kick their teeth in yourself, then get yourself a copy. It’s great stuff.