May 24, 2012

Chuck Wendig's Blackbirds

I was finally dozing off last night. 

Sometimes I have a hard time falling asleep after I've finished a good book. I rehash plot points and characters in my head, feeling like it's too soon to let them go quite yet. I think about parts I liked, parts I didn't, and generally just brood.

Last night was one such night. 

But I was finally dozing off, when suddenly a phrase popped into my head. And I started to giggle. And then I was wide awake again.

The phrase? "Carpet noodle." 

Admit it. You're giggling.

Chuck Wendig
Angry Robot Books
384 pages
Those are the terribly muffled, seriously nonsensical last words of one of the bad guys in Chuck Wendig's novel, Blackbirds. That was the book I'd just finished, and those were the words that kept me awake, giggling.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say: I bought this book fully expecting, and intending, to love it. I follow Chuck on the Twitters and think he's a cool guy with lots of helpful info for writers on his blog, Terrible Minds.  I read his novel Double Dead, and found it a fun, classic horror tale of zombies and a bad-ass vampire.  

And the concept of Blackbirds was pretty fun and fresh: an urban fantasy in which the main character, Miriam Black, can do one special thing: if she touches you, she will see how you die. It sounded engaging.

So let me tell you. It is engaging, but it did take me a little while to really get into it. I'm always a little nervous to read a male writer narrating through the eyes of a woman (call me a hypocrite if you must: one of my own narrators is definitely a dude).  I always worry: Will he get our tone right? Our voice? Because, you know, we women? We're clearly all the same, all like me.  (Busted! Yes, I have my own stereotypes!)

Wendig's Miriam Black is crude. She is crass. She is definitely tougher than I could ever hope to be, and for that, I had a hard time believing in first. But as the book and story progressed, the facade of her hard shell began to fade, and by the end Wendig had done a fabulous job of showing us a woman who was every bit as well-rounded as any girl could hope to be. Miriam has feelings; she has a past that's hard to escape; she falls in love. And, most importantly, she rages against the powers of fate, and soon learns that she can change the future...but only at a brutal, violent cost.

Blackirds also happened to have one of my favorite horrifying images of the past few years: a hairless man,walking away from the scene of a crime, holding another man's severed foot in a large Ziplock baggie.  I can hear the squish and the squelch even now.

Blackbirds is the start of a trilogy. Miriam Black has a lot more to say and to do, and I, for one, can't wait to find out what's next for our sudden heroine.

And believe me...if you pick up Blackbirds, you won't be able to wait, too!

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