Title: Blackbirds

Author: Chuck Wendig

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Angry Robot
Publication date: April 24th 2012
Paperback: 384 pages

Miriam Black knows when you will die. She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.

But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.

No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

Stand alone or series: First in the Miriam Black series

How did I get this book: Review copy via NetGalley

Why did I read this book: Such a striking cover! Sounded so good!

Review:

In Which I Am A Party-Pooper. Again.

Reviews have been mostly positive about Blackbirds and I can sort of see why. This is a fairly competent Urban Fantasy novel about a woman called Miriam Black who can – upon touching flesh – see how a person is going to die. Understandably, she is a majorly fucked up character who has basically given up on living a normal life. So she just roams aimlessly from motel room to motel room, sometimes making use of the information with regards to their time of death to be there and steal their money. Then this one day she comes across this Nice Guy named Louis whom she sees, will die soon, saying her name. In an attempt to defy Destiny, she does her best to stay away from him – but as I said, he is a Nice Guy so she can’t stay away and ends up falling in love – because he is a Nice Guy. There is also this other relationship between her and a con-man who blackmails her into using her skillz to help his cons.

Long story short: Blackbirds seems to subscribe to the idea that the Real World is grim and gritty and messed up. The vast majority of characters that Miriam meets are those types of low-life losers, criminals, rapists, etc etc. Miriam herself is a foul-mouthed abrasive heroine and instead of finding it edgy as I am sure it was the intention, I just found it all SO boringly mundane. In all fairness, I am not usually a fan of Grim and Gritty so there is that to be taken into consideration. But beyond that, I have seen this particular story done before, there is nothing new or original about an abrasive, damaged UF heroine who is struggling with the conceits of free will x fate. Been there, read that.

Most of my lukewarm reaction to Blackbirds can definitely be chalked up to personal preference. However, there is something that goes beyond that: the issue of female representation in this story. It grieves me that I having to write about this again. It grieves me that this is the fourth review IN A ROW in which I find myself writing about this topic. But alas.

Blackbirds is for lack of a better expression: una fiesta de dicks.

Although the main character is a woman, the sheer abundance of men in this story is mind-blowing. More than that, it is amazing how the life of this heroine and of the one other female character (villain, psychopath) are always in relation to the men. It is because of a dude that Miriam sets out in this arc; it is because of a dude that she finds herself in trouble; it is possibly because of a guy that she is scarred and has become what she is (to be seen, probably will be developed in the second book). She has no relationships with women and the vast majority of people she meets in her nomad life are men; she keeps describing the visions of death she has and 99% of them are men’s. I ask: where are the women in this world? Similarly with the female villain: her breakthrough as a psychopath started because of a man (her husband) and developed because of another man (her boss).

Loads of man-pain as well. Louis is a Nice Guy because of…reasons (he is not a rapist or a criminal, I guess) and he is damaged by the death of his wife. Not because he loves her or misses her. Not because it was a tragic even that ended HER short life. No, of course not. HIS pain comes from HIM feeling guilty for her death. It is all about HIS guilt rather than HER death. Yes, it sucks, I get it and I understand how messed up he can be because of it but in conjunction with all the dude love in this novel, it is just Too.Much.Dick.

Do not want.

Notable Quotes/ Parts: From chapter 1

The Death of Del Amico

Car lights strobe through busted motel blinds.

When the lights come in, Miriam regards herself in the dirty mirror.

I look like something blown in off a dusty highway, she thinks. Dirty, torn jeans. Tight white tee. Bleach blonde hair, the roots coming up, those dark, earthen roots.

She puts her hands on her hips and cocks them this way, then that. With the back of her hand, she wipes away a smear of lipstick from where Del kissed her.

“The lights need to be on,” she says to nobody, foretelling the future.

She clicks the lamp by the bed. Piss-yellow light illumines the ratty room.

A roach sits paralyzed in the middle of the floor.

“Shoo,” she says. “Fuck off. You’re free to go.”

The roach does as it’s told. It boogies under the pull-down bed, relieved.

Back to the mirror, then.

“They always said you were an old soul,” she mutters. Tonight she’s really feeling it.

In the bathroom, the shower hisses. It’s almost time now. She sits down on the side of the bed and rubs her eyes, yawns.

She hears the squeaking of the shower knobs. The pipes in the walls groan and stutter like a train is passing. Miriam balls up her monkeys toes and flexes them tight. The toe-knuckles pop.In the bathroom, Del is humming. Some Podunk fuckwit country tune. She hates country. That music is the dull, throbbing pulse-beat of the Heartland. Wait. This is North Carolina, right? Is North Carolina the Heartland? Whatever. The Heartland. The Confederacy. The Wide Open Nowhere. Did it matter?

The bathroom door opens, and Del Amico steps out, wreathed in ghosts of steam.

Read the rest HERE.

Rating: 5 – Meh.

Reading Next: Unrest by Michelle Harrison

Buy the Book:

Ebook available for kindle US, google, nook

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26 Responses to Book Review: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

  1. KT Grant says:

    This line of yours: una fiesta de dicks, made me spew my coffee.

  2. Tami says:

    I believe I’ll avoid the book, but that’s one of the best reviews I’ve read in ages! “Una fiesta de dicks” will be popping up in conversation.

  3. Jared says:

    I’ll buy this book for the cover, no question.

    But that extract…

  4. Tom says:

    Good lord… is that extract representative?

  5. Ana says:

    @ Jared. The cover is awesome right? a contender for the Kitchies this year?

    @ Tom – yep. just add a few more “fucks”.

  6. Becky says:

    Forget the fiesta de dicks, judging by the excerpt, I couldn’t take the prose in this book. There are very few writers, IMO, who can pull off present tense in a novel without it reeling obtrusive and gimmicky. Looks like Wendig is not one of them.

    Thanks for the save.

  7. Deirdre says:

    I was thinking of buying this one on the strength of its lovely cover, but something prevented me from doing so.(maybe it’s because I’m not exactly a fan of most urban fantasy). Looks like I made the right decision. It’s really disappointing that a book with a female as the narrator/MC is such a sausage fest.Plus I think a lot of authors tend to go a bit overboard with the grimdark stuff these days.

  8. Cathy says:

    I love Chuck Wendig’s blog, and I love UF, but I’m glad I read the review… and the excerpt. Not sure this particular story is right for me, either.

    And I laughed my ass off at “fiesta de dicks.” :D

  9. Liviania says:

    Love that cover, but thanks for a review that will help me resist it. I’m so tired of the fiesta de dicks.

  10. pscott says:

    Thanks for the review. I’ll probably be giving this a pass since this is a constant issue that drives me insane. I don’t enjoy a book if there are ‘too many dicks on the dance floor.’

  11. A simply enterataining review! Too bad that the inside isn’t as good as the outside, because that cover is truly phenomenal! And the summary makes it sound so good! But after reading your review and the excerpt, there is NO WAY I would like this at all! Sad… =(

    Hopefully your next book for review will be at least a 7 give strength to the women! You need a good read next. =)

  12. Linda W says:

    Wow. The premise sounds interesting, but I’ll pass on this.
    After reading this review, you cause me to really rethink my WIP especially with this line: “She has no relationships with women and the vast majority of people she meets in her nomad life are men.” I have this issue in my book. Will revise promptly!

  13. Tina says:

    Oh my gosh the D-analogy….hysterical. Thanks for the review, Im still wanting to read it but Ill keep that tidbit in mind going into the novel….;)

  14. janicu says:

    So hmm, the fiesta de dicks thing isn’t enough to turn me off this book. What I’m more averse to is the overly-gritty aspects you talk about. I had been worried that this would be a little too Horror for me, and you have confirmed my suspicion about the “Grim and Gritty”.

  15. hapax says:

    Did this book really start out with the main character describing herself while looking in a mirror?

    SRSLY?

    Is the sequel going to begin with her waking up in a white room, remembering how she got there?

  16. Sabrina says:

    “…una fiesta de dicks.”

    I love you. Thank you. That is now becoming a permanent part of my vocabulary.

  17. C.D. says:

    New Rule: Do not drink coffee while reading Book Smugglers. You may choke to death.

    “una fiesta de dicks”
    “Too.Much.Dick.Do not want.”

    These lines should come with a warning sign. I almost died (but it was so, so, so worth it).

  18. April says:

    Good review. I have a feeling I’ll still end up reading this book because I’m curious to see what my personal reaction will be, but now I’m not in any particular hurry.

  19. Jenna says:

    Love your descriptions as always!

  20. Una fiesta de dicks… DYING.

    I would’ve totally bought this book based on the cover and blurb too. Great review, Ana. And as Leslie Knope says, Ovaries before brovaries. :lol:

  21. I snorted when I read “una fiesta de dicks”. I may have to use that line in public sometime just to see what kind of reactions I’d get.

    I was really intrigued by this one and I’m sad that the women (or just woman) were so under represented. I think I’ll still give it a read, but I’ll go in with my expectations held in check.

  22. Dina says:

    Thank god I’m not the only one who didn’t like this book. My dislike went a little further even, but it was the same things that put me off.

    Una fiesta de dicks, indeed! Beautiful review, as always.

  23. [...] a negative review on a book the publisher was nice enough to give to me (though, thankfully, I am not completely alone). And I do think that people who read more thrillers and spy stories than me and like their [...]

  24. Olga says:

    This is funny: what did you expect exacly while reading a book about a tough female protagonist, written by a man? A female touch? Feminist war-cries? Girly thoughts? It is obvious that the life of Miriam Black is stamped by contacts with men. Not girls. It would be illogical to meet inteligent, beautiful women in road bars and trucker joints that are the most important places for Miriam and her “style” of traveling. It’s white trash story, about white trash girl, who cannot connect with other women, because she is just what she is.

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