“Blackbirds” by Chuck Wendig (Angry Robot Books, 2012)
When I look back on this year and search for some kind of theme to fit what I’ve been reading, the conclusion I come to is that I’ve read some really out-of-the-box stuff. I mean, as a teenager I refused to move beyond my blinkered romance novel universe. When I went to university, I read stuff they made me read, but they couldn’t make me like it. Then, later, when I finally worked out what I wanted to be when I grew up, and went back to university to become a teacher, I begrudgingly accepted that I had to be more open to literary alternatives.
But, seriously, this year is a bit of a mind blow in terms of reading out of my comfort zone, or my interest zone, or my even-knew-there-was-a-thing-like-that zone. And this book, “Blackbirds”, is as out there and not in my comfort zone as they come.
My friend Shaun sent me this text on 4 October:
You need to read Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig… I’m halfway through, it’s a f**king blast!
You need to know that this doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, he’s always on the money. One ignores a book recommendation from Shaun at one’s own peril. So I downloaded it to my Kindle and soon enough I got around to reading it. I can honestly say, it is nothing like anything else I have ever read.
“Blackbirds” is a book about Miriam Black. She is a stock-standard, trailer-trash kind of heroine, except that she can see how you will die. All she needs to do is touch you and she knows the finer details of your death. When, where, how. She meets a trucker named Louis and, in shaking his hand, sees that he will die in 30 days and that the last thing he will say before he dies is her name as he looks at her across the room. She has long since accepted that she can’t change the outcome of what she sees, but she tumbles along on the journey to her inevitable involvement in Louis’ death.
This is an aggressive, violent, vulgar, brash, nasty book that grabs you by the throat and won’t let go. It is a fast-paced and angry examination of fate and the question of whether or not you can do a single thing to change the path that you are on. Miriam is a foul-mouthed, heartless, cold-hearted protagonist who somehow manages to keep you caring. Nevertheless, you are constantly aware that nothing she does will make any difference in the end.
Combining horror, the supernatural and some kind of gritty swearing-and-blood-fest style that might be a genre I have only just stumbled upon, “Blackbirds” is definitely on my recommendations list for anyone who is not put off by the start of this sentence.
Meanwhile, I’m off to find a nice flowery YA novel to calm my nerves.