Posts Tagged ‘angry robot’


Posted: October 27, 2012 in Reading
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Sequel City again! Today we’ve got Mockingbird, the sequel to Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig. Miriam Black is back in part two of her trilogy from Angry Robot Books. Since it came out a couple months ago, I’ve seen praise all over the place for this book, just like I did with the first. There’s a bit of a different flavor to it this time about though because I know I sure had high expectations coming into Mockingbirds.

No mucking about today! Back of the Book time!

Miriam Black has a terrible talent.

The first time she touches someone, she will see the moment of their death. Still in her early twenties, She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides and slow deaths by cancer. It is all she can do to keep her talent – her curse – in check.

But when Miriam touches a woman while standing in line at the supermarket, she foresees that this woman will be violently killed – right her, right now.

Cool. Awesomesause. That sounds intense. That’s just chapter one. It’s the first domino on the crazy train we’re heading out on. See, Miriam has evolved from the first book. I use evolve because she’s not really better off than she was before; it’s a lateral move at best. She’s still at the fringes of society and if anything, Miriam is more miserable than ever.

Is this surprising? Eh, not overly. As I talked about in my musings on book one, flawed characters are interesting characters and Thou Shall Be Interesting is commandment number one. What blew my mind was the dark place that Wendig went with Mockingbird. While the first book in the ‘hard to classify’ series leaned closer to urban fantasy than anything else. Mockingbird is still in a weird anti-genre place but it’s much closer to a horror novel than anything else this time around. There are still plenty of moments of levity because that’s who Miriam is with her foul as hell mouth. We’re not rocking a hold-your-breath for 300 pages kind of thing but there were few holy crap moments that rocket you forward another 80 pages before you look up again.

The new tone never felt out of place to me though. Wendig writes Miriam with one of the strongest voices you’ll ever read. It’s not just the swears. (The swearing is glorious again) It’s the attitude behind the swears which lets Miriam into your head. That makes it very easy to slip right into book two even though it had been a few months since the last book.

So now what? Let’s get into the plot, as much as I can without spoiling anything. This book is very stand-alone. Other than the fact Louis is still her beau, there’s not much beyond Miriam herself tying the two books together. That’s a double edged sword. I had no problem with it, but I can see where it may miss the expectations that some people have when it comes to a series. But by being the independent book that it is, my horror buff wife is interested in scooping this one up. Miriam gets a new audience that can jump right into the thick of things.

The only thing I really missed with this book is that I think Louis was a bit of an afterthought at times. It’s a tough feeling because he is around from time to time and helps move the plot forward. In fact, one of the creepiest chapters of any book I’ve read in a while is one of the Louis chapters. It’s Miriam’s book though. It’s her swears, her story, her picture in the kick ass Joey HiFi art on the cover, so I can’t complain too much. Miriam pushes him aside very easy at times and I think he should have fought it more.

I digress with nitpicking. Fast paced swearing will propel you from cover to cover. In that, it is no different than any of Wendig’s other writing from Blackbirds to his blog. For whatever your opinions on the shift of tone from the first book, it’s that kick to the pants that keeps you reading which is the true expectation from Wendig. He delivers. In spades.


Posted: July 3, 2012 in Reading
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Lately, most of the books I’ve been reading have come from recommendations that other authors I like are also reading. Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig has come highly praised from a whole lot of corners of the internet. Wendig himself is one of this batch of authors I’ve been finding lately on ye olde internets that are selling me as people first, getting me interested in the stories they have to tell long before I hold ink and paper in hand. So in addition to being one of the more interesting people I follow on twitter, his writing is a swear filled festival of awesome.

What time is it? It’s 943. So what?? I type slow and had to feed the infant. But it’s also Back of the Book Time!

Miriam Black knows when you will die.

Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days he will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name.

Miriam has given up trying to save people – that only makes their deaths happen. No matter what she does, she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

Oh my that sounds like the sort of thing that will mess a person up and holy crap Miriam is messed up. But by no means take that as a knock against the readability of Blackbirds. I don’t think I’ve ever read a protagonist as emotionally broken as Miriam. We don’t just get this emotional fragility first hand, it’s shoved into our faces, uncomfortably close, bleeding and slobbering all over your shirt while saying “eat a dick.”

This in-your-face fragility is oddly endearing. You just want to give Miriam a hug even though she’s swearing like a sailor. Actually out-swearing a sailor. I actually work in a shipyard, a sausage fest of crusty old men, and Miriam could put all of us to shame on our best swearing day. I never felt it was shock value though. Or more accurately, I never felt it was Wendig’s shock value. Miriam wants to shock people as a barrier to keep them at arms reach. Swearing as characterization, not gratuity.

There really is a lot to like about Blackbirds though. The book is mostly Miriam’s point of view, part of the whole in-your-face thing I mentioned above. Wendig weaves in these interludes which provide a bit of a break from the plot with some backstory. There’s a guy named Paul who interviews Miriam. I get the strange sense that he’s the author cameo. The interlude between 32 and 33 is actually one of the funniest chapters in the book. It really shouldn’t be because it’s actually gruesome, but in such a matter of fact tone, it becomes absurdest.

And that’s one of the talents Wendig’s got going here which I didn’t consciously think of until now. He’s taking the gruesome, the brutal, the sleightly horrible, and turning these things upside down. The tone and storytelling wordsmithing makes you ok with hacksawed legs and a fishknife in the brain. I feel like the whole novel is like the most beautiful train wreck you’ve ever seen, moving ever so slowly and getting ever so better looking the throughout.

So waxed prophetically about Miriam’s teetering state of being a lot. But what about the plot? What in the hell is she actually doing this whole time? There’s a philosophical battle with Fate going on. That’s capital F Fate. It’s not Incarnations of Immortality with a physical person acting as Fate, but it’s a very specific force at play here. It has it’s own rule set, even if we don’t quite get to see all of the rules in play. There’s a couple layers to all that’s going on and we get them pulled back slowly.

I feel like I’m shortchanging this book with this abbreviated amount of musing. But there is a very blurry line between talking about this and giving away too much. This book is too awesome to risk giving anything away as spoilers. After all this I’m still left with questions regarding Miriam. I can’t tell you what they all are, but it’s an appropriate amount of questions. I walked away from Blackbirds supremely satisfied. Angry Robot isn’t putting out the sequel, Mockingbird, until August so at least we’ve not long to wait to find out all these answers.

So as much as I have been hamstrung by my aversion to spoilers, all the praise this book has been getting is 143% justified.

As a related tangent, the cover is a work of art. Joey HiFi, out of South Africa who has also done covers for other Angry Robot authors, has set me out on a quest to find a frame to put my book in. It’s the most gorgeous cover I’ve seen in years.

Carpet noodle. Always carpet noodle. It makes sense now.