I am a devourer of books. Not in the literal, paper-eating sense, but I'll be in the middle of two or three or four at any given time. Rarely does oneI am a devourer of books. Not in the literal, paper-eating sense, but I'll be in the middle of two or three or four at any given time. Rarely does one book crowds out all the others vying for my attention. Rarer still do I finish a book and set it down, quietly stunned, unable to pick up the next on the pile because I'm so deliciously haunted by what I've just read.*
Chuck Wendig's Blackbirds is now on that list.
Before you read any further, look at artist Joey HiFi's amazing cover.
Take a good, long gander. If you want to see an embiggened version, go peek at it on the Angry Robot site. I'll wait.
Lovely, isn't it? Lovely and gritty and a little bit scary, which is about how I'd describe Ms. Miriam Black herself. Miriam can, at a touch, tell you how you'll die. Fate's not keen on her changing the plan, and in fact, Miriam's past attempts at thwarting have only resulted in her helping out.
While she's not keen on exploiting her ability, other people have no such compunctions. She's dragged kicking and screaming into a hot, bad-news troublemaker's terrible plan. A pair of shady, totally-not-FBI-agents and their creepy motherfucker of a boss are after her, thanks to said troublemaker.
And as if that's not enough, a nice man named Louis is going to bite it within the next month. Oh, and he's calling Miriam's name on his way out.
Blackbirds is tightly plotted and breathlessly paced. I've railed here or elsewhere on the internet about writers using the present tense, but Wendig is one of a handful of authors who pulls it off flawlessly (I knew this going in; I dug the hell out of his Atlanta Burns novella Shotgun Gravy, too.) Miriam's up against the clock, and we feel the weeks, the days, then the hours and the minutes ticking away as she tries to do the impossible: save a man whose death the universe has already decreed.
Wendig's style is spare and conversational, almost begging to be read aloud. I am seriously contemplating picking up the audio version of it, in fact. He pulls no punches, kicking the asses of pretty much everyone we encounter along Miriam's path (I think maybe a bartender escapes unscathed.) Yet, in the middle of this breakneck ride, Blackbirds makes you stop and think.
How do you cope with knowing what might be the most intimate detail of other peoples' lives? When do you stop running and tell fate No, fuck you. Your terms suck? How far would you go to stick by that declaration?
Pick this one up, cats 'n' kittens.
*Among Others by Jo Walton was the most recent, I believe....more
Atlanta Burns doesn't really want to be anyone's hero, but when she happens across a trio of bullies picking on her classmate, well.
The can of bear maAtlanta Burns doesn't really want to be anyone's hero, but when she happens across a trio of bullies picking on her classmate, well.
The can of bear mace sure comes in handy.
She just wants to make it through the last couple of months of school, to stop smelling the gunpowder that sneaks up on her like a ghost, but her sudden reputation as the Get-Shit-Done Girl won't allow that, and Atlanta finds herself shotgun-deep in trouble with two bands of bullies.
Perfect for anyone who loved the hell out of Veronica Mars, Shotgun Gravy is an excellent read.
This was a book I'd meant to read for nearly half my life, since I learned it was partly an inspiration for THE STAND. Finishing it at last was kind oThis was a book I'd meant to read for nearly half my life, since I learned it was partly an inspiration for THE STAND. Finishing it at last was kind of bittersweet for me, because I get all sentimental like that.
EARTH ABIDES is dense and science-y, a fascinating look at what would happen if most of the human population went away or died off. (While the inciting incident is called The Great Disaster and seems to be an illness, Stewart barely mentions the bodies of those who succumbed.) It's also a study in what could happen to society when the world as we know it ends -- who will teach the generations after the Disaster about science and history and math and literature? Why would they care about the arts?
This is a quiet, dense novel. If you're looking for lots of action and intrigue in your post-apocalypse, you won't find it here. Sometimes, though, you don't need gunfights and explosions. The quiet decline (and strange rebirth) of the human race through the eyes of Isherwood Williams keeps the pages turning....more
A friend of mine sent this home with me after a long session involving the two of us yattering on about Arthuriana (while everyone else in the room baA friend of mine sent this home with me after a long session involving the two of us yattering on about Arthuriana (while everyone else in the room backed slowly away.)
I loved the worldbuilding and the rules of magic within -- what else would you offer the spirits of the London UThis was the best book I read in 2008.
I loved the worldbuilding and the rules of magic within -- what else would you offer the spirits of the London Underground, besides a book of crossword puzzles, a pack of gum and a trashy romance novel?
If this were ever translated into an RPG, I'd play it in a heartbeat....more