Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Miriam Black sees death. At least, she sees the death of people she touches, skin to skin. She knows the date, time, and circumstances of each person's death. She's tried to change things a few times; to cheat Fate, as it were. But she has become convinced that Fate will not be cheated, and her attempts only make the inevitable more so. So she has become a sort of scavenger, gleaning enough from the corpses of those whose death she's seen to just get by. In the course of her endless road trip with death, she meets two men: Ashley Gaynes, who sees in Miriam the chance to run the ultimate con game on those whose deaths Miriam will see, and Louis Darling, a trucker in whose death vision Miriam hears him calling her name, as if she were there. It seems Fate may have plans that even Miriam hasn't figured out.
I really enjoyed this book. Wendig is rapidly becoming a favorite author. His stories are provocative, funny, visceral, bloody, and engrossing. Miriam Black is certainly damaged goods- abusive childhood, teen trauma, and cursed with a psychic ability that would freak the pants off most anyone else. She's a wise-cracking, hard-ass, chain-smoking, hard-drinking woman far older than her years who has figured out a way to live with her visions, or so she thinks. There is confrontation on many levels, and a final push to redemption.
Character is everything in this book. Miriam, Louis (even "Dead Louis"), and Ashley have depth and personality. The secondary villains are chilling and pretty much ooze evil. A little stereotype? Maybe, but it doesn't hurt this story at all. In fact, it may help, as these darker characters embody what Miriam could be (and in some ways, may think she is) until she is confronted with them.
Setting is less important here, as Miriam is essentially a drifter, and never stays in one place longer than she needs to in order to collect her scavengings. It is, in many ways, a road trip story, and the journey is the real setting.
One more thing- the cover. A truly outstanding job by Joey Hi-Fi. One of the best and most effective covers I've seen in a while.
I should warn potential readers that the book would be rated for language, violence, and some mild sexual situations. But it should also be rated for intelligence, provoking thought, and just general goodness.
View all my reviews