September 9, 2012

Book Review: Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig

This week I read Mockingbird, Chuck Wendig's follow-up to Blackbirds, which I reviewed here.

And now I can honestly tell you: if you're looking for a book to read in the middle of the night, when you've been startled awake by a child in the midst of a nightmare, and adrenaline is coursing through your veins because of the aforementioned screaming child....well, this is not the book for you.

Trust me.  It will keep you up for hours, because you won't be able to stop turning the pages. Because you won't be able to close your eyes and look away.

Mockingbird by
Chuck Wendig
Released August 28,
Angry Robot Books
400 pages
In Blackbirds, Wending offered us a supernatural story in which a psychic woman learned how to change the fates to save a life.  

In Mockingbird, we get a supernatural thriller in which the stakes are much higher. It's not just one life in danger anymore: it's dozens.

Miriam Black, the protagonist of both books, can see the future....but she can only see the exact circumstances of a person's death. Nothing more, nothing less.  When she accidentally touches the hand of a girl at a school for troubled young women, she sees the girl's death: bound and gagged with barbed wire, tongue cut out by a sharp blade, then decapitated by an ax at the hands of a creepy, singing serial killer.  And what's more...when she touches another girl at the school, she sees the same end for her, too.  And then another. It seems to be a plague of violent deaths at the hand of the same killer.

Miriam knows she can change the future, but only with blood.  To save the girls, she must kill the killer. 

But to kill the killer, she must find the easy feat when her only clue is a swallow tattoo and a modified school bus.

In Mockingbird, Wendig offers a master class in writing suspense and horror. Seriously. I had my guesses early on as to who the killer was, mostly because I am a Cynic and I Trust No One, but not a single character was immune to my doubt in this book, thanks in large part to Wendig's masterful use of little tidbits of foreshadowing.  For a time I even suspected Louis, the gentle giant who loves Miriam, and if you want to find out if he's really as gentle as he seemed in the first book...well, you'll just have to read, won't you?

I always find Wendig's writing bold and unafraid. His prose is crass. His violence is epic. More than once I found myself stepping away from the book to sooth my churning thoughts and stomach. He was able to take something as simple as rain and turn it into a devious character that controls and dictates important pieces of the story.

If I had one critique though, it's this....poor Miriam. She gets beat up so much, so thoroughly, I sometimes had a hard time believing she could possibly get up to receive (or give) the next blow. But then I decided: with her skills as a soothsayer, maybe she's also part superhero? And since, oh man, these books would make amazing graphic novels, I was able to put aside my disbelief and just enjoy.

Especially because, when you get into the nitty gritty of writing craft, Wendig writes much more than a superficial thriller, in my mind. Bird-themed symbolism runs ramant through the stories, sometimes explained (the swallow was considered a messenger of death during the plague of the Dark Ages), other times not (the wren is a tiny bird, delicate, seemingly defenseless).  He weaves his story with much more than just meets the eye.  It's an exploration of life and death, of good and evil, and of when it's ok to become a killer.

I love that about Wendig's books. They're never only what they can't judge this book by its cover (although...with a cover like this, maybe you can? it's awesome!).


Chuck said...

Thanks for the very lovely review! :D

Leah said...

You're so welcome! :-D

Jen said...

Nice review! This is not the kind of book I would normally read on my own but, based on what you've written here, I would definitely pick it up if I found it, say, on the night table in a guest bedroom.

Though I'm not sure what kind of host you would be if you were leaving this book out for guests. Awesome? Evil? Maybe a little bit of both? =)

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