Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
Blackbirds was when Chuck Wendig began to shine. In fact, he describes his previous novels as “garbage and should not be spoke of lest they hear us talking about them”. Not so, Blackbirds. This book pops and fizzes with talent.
It tells the story of Miriam Black, a twenty-two year-old loner on the road, making her way from hotel to hotel, bumming rides, chain-smoking and, well, seeing death. All she needs is to brush her skin against yours and, in that instant, whether she likes it or not, she sees the exact date, time, and manner of your death. This can be downright depressing at the best of times, but imagine what happens when she tries to make her way through a crowd. Needless to say, she finds it tough to give much of a damn about anyone when she knows exactly when and how they’ll begin to assume room temperature, especially when she knows she can do nothing to stop it. Indeed, every time she tries to save someone, she simply ends up bringing about the doom she’s foreseen. Miriam is the unwilling instrument of fate.
And she’s drifting along, resigned to this, until she meets Louis, a truck-driver she actually begins to care about. Problem is, the death she foresees for Louis is soon, and involves him calling her name.
What’s a gal to do?
Wendig takes us on a road trip that breaks the speed limit at every chance, and does so with a muscular prose-style, grim humor, and some of the most inventive profanity you’ll ever read. In just one example, Miriam, in a desperate hurry behind the wheel, thinks of the gridlock she’s faced with as “… traffic locked up tighter than a handful of tampons crammed up a nun’s asshole.” You tell ‘em, Chuck.
Oh, and by the way, we’re in luck. Miriam Black holds an exalted enough seat in Wendig’s imagination to have deserved two follow-ups so far—Mockingbird, and The Cormorant. He’s also begun another superb series with The Blue Blazes, reviewed here.