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Miriam Black #1


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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Horror (2012)
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.

381 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published April 22, 2012

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About the author

Chuck Wendig

179 books5,518 followers
Chuck Wendig is a novelist, a screenwriter, and a freelance penmonkey.
He has contributed over two million words to the roleplaying game industry, and was the developer of the popular Hunter: The Vigil game line (White Wolf Game Studios / CCP).

He, along with writing partner Lance Weiler, is a fellow of the Sundance Film Festival Screenwriter's Lab (2010). Their short film, Pandemic, will show at the Sundance Film Festival 2011, and their feature film HiM is in development with producer Ted Hope.

Chuck's novel Double Dead will be out in November, 2011.

He's written too much. He should probably stop. Give him a wide berth, as he might be drunk and untrustworthy. He currently lives in the wilds of Pennsyltucky with a wonderful wife and two very stupid dogs. He is represented by Stacia Decker of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

You can find him at his website, terribleminds.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,544 reviews
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,386 reviews11.8k followers
December 19, 2018
Blackbirds is a book, that, I believe, I would have liked more if it didn't have so much dude in it.

Blackbirds has all the elements of an excellent urban fantasy novel. And it would have been one, if it were written by Stacia Kane, for example. The book's main character, Miriam, has an ability to know how a person will die by having a skin-to-skin contact with him or her (this reminds me of some other books with similar powers, maybe Harper Connelly series by Charlaine Harris?). She uses this ability to take advantage of the dying people, normally by following them close to their death moment and cleaning out their wallets. Miriam seems to be unable to change the course of people's lives and postpone anyone's death, so she carries on knowing everyone's last moments, but not doing anything about it. That is until she meets a long-distance truck driver Louis who is nice to her and who she knows will die in a gruesome way a couple of weeks after meeting Miriam and with Miriam's name on his lips.

The plot unfolds roughly as you would expect any urban fantasy (series) to unfold. There is a romantic entanglement (or two), some drugs, some sex (not sexy), a mystery, and lots and lots of violence and gore. I would have totally been down for this plot, if not for a few things.

Wendig writes from Miriam's POV (3rd person). And I have the same problems with his woman's voice that I have with all the YA novels written by female writers from POV's of young lads who sound like middle-aged women. It's just not believable. Miriam's narrative is peppered with the amount of dick and dick-related tangents and jokes that are characteristic of only male-written books. (Sorry, guys, we are just not that preoccupied with your members.) And, in general, I found Miriam's voice too labored for my taste. Too much strained wit, even in the most inopportune and life-threatening moments, is not something I enjoy.

The other thing that turned me off about this novel is the bare, cinematic quality of it. Sometimes you come across books that just have no "meat." Wendig has the plot down, the dialog is OK, but his characters appear to be operating in a vacuum. There is no sense of place, no atmosphere, little to no emotion, but mostly events and conversations happening one after another.

And the last thing that I never in a million years thought I would complain about. There is way too much gore and nastiness in this book. It is often gratuitous and too gross, which is especially jarring when not balanced with depth and emotion and solid motivations. You have blood galore, cut-off body parts, eye boogers, bodies ground in a garbage disposal. Not to mention the term "blumpy" I learned which I now desire to erase from my mind forever (google it at your own risk). A lot of this was an overkill and not fully justified by the novel's plot.

My advice about Blackbirds? Skip it, unless you are a dude or have a taste for gross, and read Zoo City instead.
Profile Image for carol..
1,515 reviews7,717 followers
August 16, 2018
This is a tough one to review. Not because my reaction to the read wasn’t particularly clear –it was– but because my good friends over at Shelf Inflicted and I differ significantly in our opinions.

No doubt, most of the issue is simply motivations and taste; why we read and what our preferable types are. I tend to love both complexity and subtlety, and my diversionary reads need to come with straight-up happy endings. As the child of police officers, I find violence all too common in real life. As a person in the medical field, I get more than my share of orifices, body fluids and death. As a female, I find domestic violence, emotional manipulation and rape horrifically common. So I prefer escapism when I read, not wallowing in evil and desperation.

Let me begin:

Blackbirds is Pulp Fiction without the dancing, No Country for Old Men without fine acting, and Transporter Three without Jason Stratham or a European setting. Written more like an action movie script, it is one of the least subtle books I’ve read in awhile. About the only redeeming aspect for me was the concept of being able to foresee someone’s moment of death.

Miriam is a young woman who sees people’s death moments. She uses her knowledge to steal basic necessities and fuel her life on the road. We meet her in a dirty hotel room as she rolls a dying epileptic for his wallet (yeah, Chuck, you can’t really swallow your tongue, but way to go for the dramatic image). But don’t worry–he’s a pig who picks up whores and beats on them, so it’s all okay. Back on the road, she’s harassed by two frat boys, then runs into a trucker who offers to help. Once she sees herself connected to the trucker’s death, she decides to run from Destiny. Or will she try to change it?

Writing style is simplistic, direct and non-complicated. Wendig relies on sentence fragments, emphasizing the script-like feel. Mood is grim, all dark imagery, full of grime, with a preoccupation of body orifices and fluids common in teens and college movies.

“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.“

“Inside, the bar is like the unholy child of a lumberjack and a biker wriggling free from some wretched womb. Dark wood. Animal heads. Chrome rims. Concrete floor.”

There is little subtlety here, and the storyline is movie blockbuster with loads of excessive violence, simplistic plotting and character stereotypes. Just how stereotypical? Well, although the main character is a woman, it clearly fails the Bechdel test. The characters: Sex ruined someone’s life. There’s a sociopath who plays with bones. Frat boys who want to beat on women. Machismo bar flies. A woman who is made into a sociopath through devotion to a man. A woman refusing sex who then has an amazing orgasm (second most common rape myth ever). An “overly religious mother” who mentally abuses her child. A thug with a change of heart. A widower who regrets a spouse’s death. Yawners: Wendig doesn’t have to do much with characterization because he lets the reader fill in the blanks themselves.

Narrative structure was interesting; there’s a current timeline interspersed with timeline from an interviewer. Using an interviewer is a clever way to get background into a character that doesn’t particularly like to spend a lot of time either in introspection or getting to know other people. On the other side, the narrative also includes a couple of “stories” from other characters and other scenes away from Miriam. That choice had mixed results for me; the choice of whose story was shared was odd, and really didn’t add dimension or tension to the overall plot, although it did allow a chance to ratchet up the violence level.

Wendig had a kernel of a good idea, demonstrated in his moving images of people’s instance of death. But he lost those small moments of compassion and transcendence in the movie-violence extremism of the plotting, the shallowness of the characterization, the vague setting and the bleakness of the book. It’s a definite pass in my book.

For excellent reviews, check out Tatiana”s discussion of Miriam’s voice and Esin’s overall analysis of the general -isms of the book.


Well, crud. My review is so off-topic, it's likely to get deleted. Links to the discussions are at my website. Find it permanently at:

Profile Image for Lyn.
1,851 reviews16.4k followers
July 15, 2019
Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig is founded on a great concept: by touching a person, skin to skin, Miriam Black can see a vision of the moment when that person will die.

Pretty damn freaky, but an awesome idea for an edgy, gritty story.

Beginning here and moving on to a tight, lean and very dark narrative, Wendig tells a solid paranormal fantasy.

Maybe the greatest strength of this book is the author’s spot on characterizations. Miriam is a psychological train wreck dealing with this “gift”, but Wendig also does a better than average job with the handful of other characters. Dialogue is an element of many urban fantasies that too frequently comes up lacking, corny, or just outright bad; Wendig's lines flow like an actual conversation and this helps rather than hinders the already good narrative.

Blackbirds also explores ideas about fate, existentialism and the occult. Dark fiction fans will want to read this.

Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,895 reviews10.6k followers
September 16, 2013
Miriam Black has an interesting talent. Whenever she touches a person's bare skin, she can tell when and how they die. On the run most of her life, she gets by hitchhiking and stealing. When a good Samaritan picks her up, she finds that he dies a few weeks later, saying her name as a knife goes through his eye and into his brain. Can Miriam beat fate and save the man's life? And how does Ashley, the grifter with the mysterious briefcase and the two FBI agents that are after him fit into everything?

So, yeah, I love Miriam Black. She's a foul-mouthed girl with a closet full of skeletons but I love her just the same. Imagine, being burdened with a "gift" like hers. Blackbirds brings her to life on the page and I could kick myself for not reading it as soon as it was published.

Blackbirds is the tale of one woman trying to beat fate, no matter what obstacle falls into her path. Miriam is far from the typical heroine. She's got a mouth like a sailor with Tourette's syndrome and is about as trustworthy as Mike Tyson at a beauty pageant at first glance. Her chance meetings with Louis and later Ashley set her already rocky life going up diarrhea drive on four bald tires.

Ingersoll, the baddie of the story, is obsessed with beating death and wants Miriam to help him. His flunkies, Harriet and Frankie, are ready to do whatever it takes to bring Miriam in. Although that's not how things get started.

I loved the way Wendig alternating between an interview with Miriam about herself and the tale as it unfolded. It was a good way to explain things without infodumps. It also sowed seeds for future stories down the line featuring Miriam's mother and other relatives.

Ordinarily, I'm not a huge fan of stories told in the present tense but I was so gripped by Blackbirds that I didn't notice the present tense until it was far too late to object. By that time, I was too invested in Miriam and the web of trouble she was entangled in to care.

That's about all I have to say. Blackbirds is the way urban fantasy is meant to be. Four out of five stars.
April 2, 2017
The Only Thing I Liked about this Book is its Cover Buddy Read (TOTILatBisCBR™), over at the MacHalo Asylum Mansion ☢

Disclaimer #1: Petronilla, my reviewing mojo is currently holidaying with the murderous crustaceans' cousins in the Andaman Sea. Being quite totally unable to write semi-passable crappy non reviews without her most wondrous help, I had to resort to hiring RonaldTroopers Inc again. Desperate move if there ever was one, I know, but there you have it and stuff. One Pathetically Pathetic Uninspired Crappy Non review Check List Thingy (PPUCNRCLT™) coming right up!

Please meet Petronilla, my Little Barnacles. Yes, an air-headed, blonde mojo with a silly smirk on her face does indeed reside in my little head. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

» Ze BlackBirds Crappy Non review Check List Thingy «

Third person present tense narration, aka please someone kill me now.

✘ The continuous accumulation of supposedly batshit crazy/fucked up/whatever stuff does not a plot make. Especially when it's, you know, continuously accumulated. For no other reason than to be, you know, continuously accumulated. It serves no purpose. It's overkill. It feels forced. It ends up becoming borderline ridiculously laughable and laughably ridiculous. Which gets old bloody shrimping fast. As for the supposedly batshit crazy/fucked up/whatever itself? Let me tell you, my Lovely Arthropods, this ain't naught compared to what I went through in my nefarious subaquatic youth.

Barely there, simplistic plot is barely there and simplistic. It's quite delightful, really. And oh so gripping, too.

✘ This book is Emotional Flatland Paradise (EFP™). It is wonderfully populated with delightful cardboard box-like, one-dimensional, allegedly fucked-up characters (yawn) who happen to have as much personality as barnacles (no offense, my Tiny Decapods). They really are quite remarkably engaging. Which makes for a fascinating, thrilling read. Oh yes, most definitely. This ain't one of those boring, lackluster, dull stories at all, my Comely Branchiopoda. Oh no, absolutely not.

This is one of those books that feel like the author wrote them for the sole purpose of having them turned into a TV/Netflix/Hulu/Whatever series. And given that I am one of those ancient, archaic freaks who never watch TV/Netflix/Hulu/Whatever and would rather observe copulating shrimps than watch TV/Netflix/Hulu/Whatever series slightly dislike series, this somewhat annoyed me. Not much, mind you. It just kind of made me feel like a homicidal maniac of sorts, that is all.

That ending. You have got to be shrimping kidding me. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong , but this is supposed to be a supposedly batshit crazy/fucked up/whatever story, right? Just checking. Because that silly, HEA-smelling ending could have fooled me. Okay, so this is not exactly a Care Bears Land HEA (CBLHEA™), but bloody fishing hell, did it come close. It made me want to either eyeroll myself to death or put a bullet through my lovely little head. But then I thought that if I did, you Little Barnacles would miss me too much, and therefore decided to survive a little longer.

Now, since I am all fairness and kindness and compassion and all that crap, I have to admit this book is not ALL bad. No it isn't. I did give it a 2-star rating after all, and not one of those Spontaneous Combustion Inducing 1-Star Ratings (SCI1SR™). Which means, that yes, I do have something positive to say about this captivating tale. I bullshit you not. Because the truth is, this book is bad, but at least it reads fast ♫ Always look on the bright side of life and stuff ♫

» Ze End of Ze BlackBirds Crappy Non review Check List Thingy «

➽ And the moral of this Ɗắɳ Rated this One 4 Stars so it Was my Nefarious Duty to Slightly Dislike It Crappy Non review Check List Thingy (DRtO4siWmNDtSDiCNRCLT™) is: most of my Barnacled Friends Minions had the despicably bad taste to enjoy this book but it's okay, I love like tolerate them anyway. Sometimes. A little. Not much though. Because it would be hazardous to my black, withered heart's declining health and stuff. Ha.

[Pre-review nonsense]

Oh wow, what a deeply emotional read. I don't think I'll ever recover from this one. So much excitement, passion and intensity. It really is more than my tiny black withered heart can take.

►► Full Bloody Hell with Books Like this One Who Needs Blood Pressure Pills Crappy Non Review (BHwBLtOWNBPPCNR™) to come.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 2 books247k followers
June 17, 2019
”Miriam’s been out here for twenty minutes, and she wonders why this isn’t easier. Here she is, tight white T-shirt--a tight, white, wet T-shirt with no bra in sight--and her thumb out for a ride. Prime, Grade-A Road Trash, she thinks. And yet, nobody stops.

A Lexus speeds past.

‘You’re a dick,’ she says.

A white SUV rumbles by.

“You’re a superdick.”

A rust-fucked pickup approaches, and she thinks, this is it. Whoever’s driving this junk-bucket is sure to think he can score with this thin slip of road pussy.”

To say that Miriam Black is living on the edge is almost a laughable understatement. Here she is, standing out by the side of the road, a living breathing woman, in dire circumstances, sporting a she-must-like-it-rough black eye, and she can’t get anyone to even slow down to take a lingering, leering look at the dark smudges of her cold induced erect nipples.

What’s a girl got to do?

The white elephant of a question is, how does a woman find herself in so much trouble that even a potential rapist, stopping to spirit her away, is a relief?

As she will tell you, her body is no temple. There is no vestal virgin lurking behind the zipper of her jeans. The laws of the universe are clear: ass, grass, or gas, no one rides for free.

Her life has always been a kaleidoscope of varying degrees of trouble, but recently somebody turned the fan on high and shit started flying at her faster than she could flutter her eyelashes.

She needs some ”zen and the art of repression.”

Her boyfriend, Ashley Gaynes, who is not her boyfriend, is carrying a suitcase full of stolen meth. He is a real asshole, too.

”’I figured you might be able to push it.’

‘Me? Are you kidding?’

‘You look...like you maybe do meth. Or did.’

‘No,’ she seethes, ‘I look like I do heroin--and I don’t do that either. I have all my teeth and I don’t smell like cat piss, so don’t think I’m some basehead tweaker fuckface.’”

Yeah, he is a gem.

There is also Ingersoll, whom we will just call the Hairless Fucker, well, because he is hairless, and his two hench people, Frankie and Hannah, want and need to hurt Ashley because they want the meth back.

Miriam turns out to be a pleasant surprise. She has something that is much, much more valuable to Hairless Fucker than a suitcase full of meth, even if that meth was blue and made by Walter White. It isn’t, but if it was, it still wouldn’t be more valuable than what Miriam can do.

She can tell you when you are going to die.

Now if you are a unmitigated, unequivocal asshole like the Hairless Fucker, you know your demise is probably going to be heinous, gory, and probably have something to do with fucking somebody over.

If you can know when you are supposed to die, maybe you can avoid the whole damn thing and live to a ripe old age in the Cayman Islands.

In Miriam’s experience, ”Fate is an immovable object.” There is no changing your destiny. Your life has already been woven, and the fates are plucking the strings. ”All of our lives are just a series of events carefully orchestrated to culminate in whatever death fate has planned for us. Every moment. Every act. Every loving whisper and hateful gesture--all just another tiny cog in the clockwork ready to ring the alarm for our ultimate hour.”

There is the possibility that Miriam is wrong. What if we could change our fate by making different decisions? On the day we are supposed to be splattered all over the front of a Greyhound bus, what if we stay home, locked in the bathroom, curled up in the tub, waiting for a new day to dawn? Does the bus crash through our house and splatter us anyway? Or does the Grim Reaper find us, snickering at our feeble attempts to trick him, and we are found in the tub split from head to toe by a weapon that the coroner can’t identify because it hasn’t been used to cut wheat in a hundred years?


Would you want to know?

Me, you’re asking me?

No way, no how. I want to be the most surprised person on the planet when my heart explodes in my chest, or a burst vessel sprays hard pumping blood all over my brain pan, or a meteorite blows through my head at a thousand miles an hour. Knowing the ending would certainly screw up the middle pages of my autobiography.

Miriam needs to get away, as far as she can, from the Hairless Fucker and from Ashley Gaynes. The only problem is, she can’t ever run far enough or fast enough to outrun herself. The same old face will still be staring her in the face in Milwaukee as it was in Phoenix.

You will cringe. You will laugh. Your sphincter will pucker. Your stomach will churn. Your head will ache. You will emerge from the pages of this book a different person, tasting tarnished pennies in your mouth and needing to spend the rest of the day with the shades drawn, Tom Waits on the turntable, and slowly working your way through a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Wait! Miriam?!?! Is this how I croak? Shit! No, no, for the love of Odin, don’t tell me.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Ɗẳɳ  2.☊.
156 reviews294 followers
November 19, 2019
Miriam Black has been given a gift, or is it a curse? With merely the slightest touch, she’s able to see the exact moment and method of your death, but oddly not the where. Such a gift has the potential to be quite useful, right? With a bit of detective work, perhaps she’ll even be able to prevent your untimely demise. Unfortunately, she’s learned the hard way that fate is a fickle bitch, and what fate wants fate gets.

She’s haunted, in particular, by one devastating incident involving a young boy. By inserting herself into his final minutes, in a desperate attempt to thwart his tragic death, she inadvertently facilitated it. Turned out fate had a plan all along and she was merely playing her part. So now, rather than constantly swimming against the tide, she’s chosen to go with the flow; let fate dine on your flesh. Perhaps she’ll pass by to pick through your bones after the fact because a girl’s gotta eat. But you’ll not be needing that cash or those trinkets when you’re pushing up daisies.

Confused by the apparent lack of purpose for such a gift, Miriam’s taken to a life on the road, opting to exploit her curse for a little pocket change and a few free meals. Then one day fate twists the knife a bit deeper when she’s picked up by a white knight and sees a vision of how she’ll ultimately be responsible for his brutal murder. Horrified, Miriam does her best to get as far away from him as possible, but skirting fate is, “Like trying to derail a train with a penny or kicking a wave back into the ocean.” Is she forever destined to be fate’s bitch, or will she finally figure out a way to turn the tide?

Miriam Black is quite a remarkable anti-heroine. I love her quick wit and sharp tongue, and ever-creative use of profanity. I love how she always speaks her mind and has absolutely no filter between her brain and mouth. Needless to say, she's one awesome chick. Blackbirds sets her up with a great premise and throws her into a fun road trip type of adventure, but I couldn’t help but feel a little let down by the lack of a well-rounded cast. Most of the characters were of the shallow, one-note variety with a cartoonish quality about them.

The third-person present tense lends the tale a “cinematic” feel, which Chuck claims, “creates a greater sense of tension and urgency. It's saying, things are not yet written. And with a story asking big questions about fate versus free will, that seemed apropos.” Some may be annoyed by that style or his overuse of sentence fragments, but I personally had no problems with either. There’s a plethora of cursing, dark imagery, and graphic violence throughout, so if you take umbrage with any of that, you should probably steer clear. But if you’re a fellow Merchant of Death like myself, you may be wondering, with so many memorable dirt naps to choose from, which was my favorite? Two words…“Carpet Noodle.”

This was another buddy read with a few of my favorite foul-mouthed girls: The Boarish Lady, The Evil Queen, Miss Thaaang, and, better late than never, goodreads very own Annie Wilkes. Ed tapped out from fear of literary lingchi, or death by a thousand fragments, and the inevitable fanboy blowback, after he’d eviscerated Chuck’s choppy writing style.

4 stars. Love ya, Miriam.
♫ Come on, Baby
(Don't fear the reaper)
Baby, take my hand
(Don't fear the reaper)
We'll be able to fly
(Don't fear the reaper)
Baby, I'm your man ♫
If I wasn’t clear, Miriam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=10&am...
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,743 followers
March 8, 2016
You may not want to shake hands with Miriam Black.

By simply touching anyone Miriam gets a vision of the exact date, time and circumstances of anyone’s death. The bitch of the situation is that she can’t do anything to change it. In fact, by trying to stop it she may actually cause it to occur. Since she feels like a helpless puppet to fate Miriam has taken up a nomadic existence of roaming America’s highways that she funds by being around to loot the wallets and purses of anyone who goes toes up. After she meets a friendly trucker named Louis and gets a vision of his brutal homicide caused by him meeting her a horrified Miriam tries to get away from him. However, events involving con man, a couple of killers, and one creepy drug dealer draw her back to Louis and seem to confirm that fate won’t be thwarted.

This is an odd one in that the main character is simultaneously the best and worst part of the book. The idea of a young woman trying to outrun the gift/curse of being able to know how anyone will die but being helpless to stop it was a helluva of an intriguing concept. It’s certainly understandable that Miriam would turn into a drifter with a bad attitude and a love of booze and cigarettes.

Unfortunately, she drifts a bit too far towards being a glib smart-ass who is delighting in her self-destruction rather than a tragic figure. It’s a difficult line to walk because it’d be tiresome if she was a hand-wringing guilt-ridden mess for the entire book, and there’s a certain charm to her frank appraisal of her situation and her own nature. But at that same time it seemed like she also took a giddy joy in her circumstances that gives her a license to not give a damn. That could be interesting angle for the character too, but it always played as just a bit off to me.

I still enjoyed the book overall. It’s a fast paced supernatural road story with some colorful villains and a nice hook of Miriam’s spooky ability. For being a violent story about death, it’s got some good laughs to it, too. I just wish that Miriam wasn’t quite so delighted in her misery of being fate’s butt monkey.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,910 followers
June 16, 2018
I had some pretty darn strong reactions to reading this. I mean, I already know that Chuck Wendig writes some gritty and hard-hitting unlikable crap-like characters that wallow around in the muck and make even more of it, but that wasn't really where my strong reactions were coming from.

Or were they?

Let me back up. Reading this is like reading the lovechild of Chuck Palahniuk and Seanan McGuire. One half of it is an emotional and vivid supernatural UF ride with a strong female who is on the way to hitting bottom when we first get to know her, and the other half is Marla Singer.

She's WELL on the way to breaking the glass-bottom boat and going all the way through. And why? Every person she touches, she see's the moment of their deaths. Her coping mechanism went through the other side of drinking herself to death to making a sport of hooking up with truckers on the side of the road at 1 am just to combat the death that's always inside her.

It's dark and self-destructive and its hard to like her even if I feel some sympathy.

It gets easier and better as she tries to make real connections again and she's forced into fighting for her life as con men and murderous women and criminal organizations use and abuse her because at least she's not being so self-destructive. Others have that covered.

The best parts of this novel are the LANGUAGE. :) Such COLORFUL use of it. And the resolution is quite satisfying, too. The many, many descriptions of death, both foul and disturbing, were brilliantly depicted. The MC's viewpoints on EVERYONE comes through like a slap on the face, too.

I mentioned Chuck Palahniuk for a reason. It's almost a nihilistic sex-sport gothfest for con-men and women. It's also graphic as hell.

For those who like this kind of thing and like it SPICY, I totally recommend this UF. :) It's hard to like these characters, but I was absolutely entertained by them. :)
Profile Image for Sarah.
286 reviews10 followers
March 14, 2013
I got about half-way through Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig and had to stop. Not because the writing was bad - it was excellent. Not because the story was boring - I was riveted. Not even because I didn't like the characters - they were wonderfully heart-breaking.

I had to stop because it felt like my mind and heart were being dragged through a cesspool. And I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way. Reality is that there's a whole lot of crap in life, and it deserves as much literary attention and honesty as the more pleasant parts. In fact, the two parts are often intertwined in some way.

My problem is that I become completely absorbed in the world of a well-written book. Some people, like my hubby, are able to separate from it and deal with it on an intellectual, more abstract level, and that's great. For me, though, stories have the ability to shape the way I view myself and the world I live in on a fundamental level. And while I acknowledge the existance of the world's crap, dwelling on it is counterproductive to my ultimate goal of trying to become the best version of myself that I can be.

So I'm sorry, Mr. Wendig. I had to break things off.

It's not you. It's me.
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews1,984 followers
April 25, 2012
Original review posted on The Book Smugglers

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.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,740 reviews750 followers
October 24, 2020
Holy freaking cow, this book is goddamn brilliant and it just gets better every time I read it and I fall in love with it all over again. From the very first page I was totally enthralled by both the story and the characters. Miriam has become one of my all time favourite characters ever. She is foul mouthed and rude but she also has heart and is just so badass that I can’t help but love her. Not to mention her awesome ability to see how people will die with a single touch. And then you have Louis who is just such a sweetheart that you can't help but love him too. Now this book is definitely not for the faint of heart, it's gory and violent and bloody and filled with scenes that made me cringe. But that just made it that much better because as weird as it is, the more uncomfortable a book makes me, the more I love it. This book is nothing less than a masterpiece and I really could go on and on about how freaking great it was!
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,160 reviews2,009 followers
November 24, 2020
Some time ago I read a short story which featured Miriam Black and I promised myself I would read the series it came from. So here I am having just finished book one.

I have a strong feeling Blackbirds is not a book which everyone can love but I really enjoyed it. Not sure what that says about me! To all those people who want to read about a really strong woman - meet Miriam - but only if you can accept her bad language and a rather serious lack of personal skills. On the other hand she has quite a lot to cope with since if she touches you, even accidentally, she instantly 'sees' the manner and time of your death.

The story tells of how Miriam copes with her unnatural ability and what she does and does not do with her knowledge. It is a clever idea and Wendig writes it well. Usually I dislike swearing in a book but in this one it fits the character and is just part of the way she is.

So, an odd and unusual book but a clever, well written one, although not for all tastes. I will definitely be moving on to book 2 in the near future!
Profile Image for Jillian -always aspiring-.
1,816 reviews197 followers
April 24, 2012
A few weeks ago, I came across an essay written by Neil Gaiman and titled "All Books Have Genders": the beginning of the essay touches upon the truth that, whether we (readers or writers) like it or not, most books can be defined as either girl books or boy books. What determines what a book's "gender" is? I'd say it's a mixture of things, particularly the main character, the mood of the story, the focus of the plot, and the narrative's voice. What does any of this have to do with the novel I'm reviewing? Well, despite having a female lead, Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig is undoubtedly a "boy book."

As far as being a "boy book," there's nothing wrong with that, but I suppose my expectations muddled my reading experience a bit. You see, Blackbirds's synopsis gives the promise of urban fantasy: Miriam Black, through touch alone, can know how the person she's touching is going to die. For Miriam, it's an instant thing, experiencing someone's death in the span of a few moments even if the dying itself may last minutes or hours from the person's eventual perspective. Given this dark gift, it's not unexpected that Miriam's become affected by its power...but sometimes she seems less a "realistically-written woman damaged by her strange ability" and more "damaged woman written with the voice of a guy." There's a difference, believe me, especially when you're reading it.

Now, Miriam's gift leads to her gaining the attention of quite a few unsavory characters: a con artist, two dangerous people claiming to be FBI agents, and a creepy hairless man who stabs someone through the eye in one of Miriam's death visions. The problem? Miriam seems to be the cause of that last death, and over the course of the novel she attempts to maneuver a way to prevent this death even though she had long ago accepted that fate is a merciless storm that won't be diverted no matter what she does.

For the first 100 pages or so, I rather liked the novel (the thought-provoking aspects of fate particularly intrigued me), but at some point the story became quite gratuitous with its moments of gore, akin to movies like the Saw series. If such movies are your thing, then you'll probably enjoy Blackbirds. As for me, I don't mind gore -- unless it's used for shock factor or a way to include narrative punch. Sadly, Blackbirds seemed to thrive on using gore in just those two ways, and thus reading the book became quite an unpleasant experience for me at times.

Given my mixed feelings on this first novel, I can't say I would follow Miriam through an entire series, but perhaps I'll see where her journey goes in the sequel, Mockingbird. As for whether you should read it or not, I'd recommend reading a few reviews and sampling the novel's first few pages before you commit to reading it in its entirety. It's definitely not one of those urban fantasy novels that will jive with everyone, but I'm certain it will find its audience who will enjoy it for what it is with few complaints.

(Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.)
1 review3 followers
February 14, 2014
I am absolutely baffled by the amount of people praising this book.

The second page of this book tells me that Wendig has written another novel, a novella, a collection of short stories and four books on writing. One of the latter is called 500 Ways to be a Better Writer. So I naively assumed the author would have some idea about how to write a readable book.

This book had a lot of potential; I love the concept, I love the theme of fighting fate and it promised some dark humour. It was a complete let down and I only finished it by accidentally arriving somewhere an hour early and having absolutely nothing to do but to read this terrible book.

So, let's crack on:

The novel opens will an epileptic having a seizure and choking on their tongue. Chuck Wendig cannot use Google it seems, as a thirty second search containing only the words "tongue" and "choke" brought up some websites that proved that you cannot actually choke on your tongue. I am surprised his editor didn't point this out, as I thought it was common knowledge that choking on one's tongue is an urban legend. So, it wasn't off to a good start.

The books is written in present tense, which I don't like. Wendig has not met a simile he didn't cram into the pages, often two at once. He repeats bits of description and words, and he has this awful habit of saying something and then saying it again. Reiterating. Rephrasing. Restating. Repeating. Echoing. Replaying. And that brings me to the sentence fragments - in small doses they are powerful and can really add impact to something. But there they litter the pages, like some sort of bomb went off in the prose and destroyed all the complete sentences.

I grew tired of all the gritty language and purposefully grim prose. In small amounts it adds atmosphere and credibility and so much more. Here it's just ... there. Nothing's yellow, it's always "piss-yellow" nor is it a layer of grey clouds it's a "a bright greasy layer of gray", which doesn't even make all that much sense. It's like a bad film where the background's black from the night, everyone's wearing black and all the props are black - you have to squint to see what's going on. What I'm saying is, there's so much "gritty" darkness in the novel that there's no contrast; it's just one bit book-sized slab of unrelenting blackness.

To say the plot is spread thin would be a bit of an understatement. The novel is padded out with pointless interludes and boring Symbolic Dreams that dragged on and on. I think it is done to disguise how actually straightforward and simple the plot is; let's just say the ending isn't hard to suss out.

Miriam Black, our protagonist, is a terrible character. The plot just happens to her; she doesn't make choices or do anything proactive until the very end. She's angsty, angry and to call her one-dimensional is an insult to dimensions. It is also incredibly obvious from the first page that she is being written by a man. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but she reads like a man's fetishized view of what a strong but damaged woman should be. There's no understanding or even attempt at understanding the key differences between the experience of men and women.

She's a wildly inconsistent character. At times I didn't know how she'd react because she honestly doesn't seem to have a set character. She does whatever the story requires her to do, characterization be damned. Her bag gets turned out at one point and she's carrying two romance novels, but nothing in her character suggests she would enjoy reading those (to be honest, she just seems to enjoy being miserable, given she never even half-heartedly attempts to strive for anything even slightly better). It felt like Wendig wrote them there because he thinks that's what women like.

At another point the narrative says something along the line of "Miriam didn't know the phrase 'Eurotrash', but it's what she'd have called Ingersoll" and about a hundred pages later she called Ingersoll "Eurotrash" to his face. Well done there, Wendig. I have been informed that I am attributing this to the wrong character, and I unreservedly apologize to anyone I may have misled. I also would like to apologize to Mr. Wendig - the book is .0001% less bad that my original review states it is. Thank you for the correction, Emily

As for the other characters, they were equally one dimensional. Even worse, they all had the exact same voice as Miriam, using the same words and phrases. The villains didn't really seem to have much of a reason for their evilness, killing people willy-nilly for nothing more than looking at them. They're flat and boring. Not to spoil, but one of them apparently wanted out or something, but they didn't really seem like it at all in the bits of the novel leading up to it.

The novel was also chock-full of ableism, sexism and homophobia, most of which comes directly from the protagonist's mouth. It made me hate her from the start and it left a terrible taste in my mouth. Miriam does not meet a woman she doesn't immediately deride for whatever reason crosses her mind. I'm sure people will argue that she does it to the men too, but she doesn't in the same way. Louis is treated as a saint for no real reason. Even comparing how the novel treats Harriet and Frankie, you can see a massive difference. Ashley is also a rapist - Miriam tells him to stop/take his hands out of her pants and he doesn't. Disgustingly, the narrative supports him and Miriam says something about how she didn't really want him to stop. Regardless, she verbally withdrew consent and he continued.

In summary, I honestly don't see how people liked this awful book. I didn't set out to hate this book; I wanted to love it, but it was just bad in so many varied ways. It's a real shame. Everything I've seen or heard about Mr. Wendig has shown him to a genuinely nice and interesting bloke, and it's very disappointing this doesn't extend to his work. The only real redeeming feature of this novel is that it introduced me to the work of Joey HiFi who is responsible for the wonderful cover.
Profile Image for Trudi.
615 reviews1,405 followers
June 15, 2012

Really 3.5 stars but since I enjoyed parts of it so much, I'm rounding up. What? A girl's allowed to feel generous every once in awhile. This book is not without its flaws, but goddamn, it has a gritty, modern noir sensibility that I just fell in love with.

Miriam Black is a damaged -- you could even argue deranged -- anti-heroine who isn't a very nice person. She's pretty fucked up actually, and she's just as likely to rob you as she is to spit in your eye. She fills her days (and nights) with booze and sex with strange men. She's a champion of letting the expletives fly. Miriam has enough personal demons and closet skeletons to fill a soccer stadium. And they hunt her. They torment her. And no matter how much she runs, or how far, they are always just at her heels nipping away. While her jagged edges and self-destructive tendencies might not make her very warm and sympathetic, I still found her to be extremely dynamic and interesting. Her choices mattered to me and I became very invested in how her story was going to end.

This is a crime novel in that there is a lot of criminal acts taking place and a lot of vivid descriptions of violence and physical trauma. Miriam's is an unusual problem -- at the touch of skin-on-skin she can foresee the time and circumstances of a person's death. Such intimate foreknowledge is a heavy burden to bear, especially since Death and Fate cannot be foiled. The only control Miriam has over these situations is to maybe be there right at the moment of your destined demise to relieve you of your money and credit cards (you don't need them anymore, right?)

She's pretty much come to accept her powerlessness. It has made her cynical, entirely dysfunctional, and dangerous. Then she meets Louis -- a hapless, widowed truck driver who only has a month left to live. His death involves torture and would be considered gruesome even by mob standards -- and this is what Miriam knows: her name is the last word that falls from his lips. The mystery becomes how do we end up at this point, and despite knowing better, will Miriam be able to cheat Death this time? Will she even try?

While Louis is merely a character sketch, the other woman in this story -- Harriet -- is one of the creepiest, most memorable characters I've read in a while. Like the best noir classics, this book too is all about the damaged women and the choices they make. It is they who drive the story, and the men are just along for the ride.

This book concludes quite solidly but there is a sequel planned that I will definitely be checking out. Miriam is pretty intense and I really want to know where her story goes next.

If you're curious about the writing at all, here are some of my favorite turns of phrase:
The Barnegat Lighthouse has 217 steps. Each is an agony. Each a troubled birth, an expelled kidney stone, a black widow's bite. The steps are corrugated steel painted in flaking yellow. They wind in a tight spiral through a channel of black brick. It is like ascending the throat of some ancient creature.

"You want to make a change...so cosmic you're unwriting death and kicking fate square in the face, then you best be prepared to pay for it." -"With blood," Miriam says. -"With blood and bile and voided bowels."

Miriam stops walking. Clouds drift in front of the sun. Somewhere out over the water, a storm brews, and rain clatters against the tides....Lightning licks at the ocean way out there under the steel sky.
Profile Image for Brandon.
895 reviews234 followers
January 8, 2014
Miriam Black doesn't want your help. She’s a loner by choice. Why? Well, Miriam can tell you with 100% accuracy when and how you’re going to die. With a little simple skin on skin action, she can peer into the future and find out when you’re going to meet your maker. Big deal right? If Miriam knows how you’re going to die, why doesn't she just become a superhero and save the day? The thing is – fate ain't got time for superheroes. What fate wants, fate gets and avoiding the grim reaper isn't something she’s equipped to deal with.

Unfortunately for Miriam, she can’t always choose her battles. Crossing paths with a kindly trucker forces her to let her guard down which allows a friendship to take root. However, when she sees how he’ll kick the bucket, she opts to get as far away as possible, hoping to somehow avoid the whole mess altogether. Remember what I said before? How fate always gets its way?

This book was straight up awesome. Wendig has a way with words; like he’s cooking with literary hot sauce. And don’t give me any of that crap about how Wendig wrote Miriam like she’s a dude; as if there’s any set way a man/woman is supposed to act within fiction. Miriam is Miriam. She’s a loose cannon. She’s fun to read, she’s a breath of fresh air and the girl can trade verbal barbs with the best of them. Seriously, there are some of the best one-liners in here. If you’re not laughing out loud at what Wendig throws at you, your funny bone is broken.

Not only is Miriam memorable, the supporting cast shines in their roles. The two thugs on her trail, Frankie and Harriet, provide excellent entertainment while Miriam is off screwing something up somewhere. Her boss, Ingersoll, is obsessed with tracking down Black, hoping she’ll help him expand his operation beyond its minimal existence. All three are solid foils for Miriam. Despite knowing there are two books that follow, they’re not written as simple obstacles for her to overcome. They have a serious mean streak and will linger long after you close the book.

I loved the hell out of this and I can’t recommend it enough. On to book two!
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
478 reviews786 followers
September 27, 2015
Blackbirds is a paranormal thriller filled with harsh language and writing about a drifter named Miriam Black who has the ability to see the death of anyone she touches. The novel gets two stars because I did finish it.

I enjoy stories about psychics, about people with a gift they didn't ask for and can't return. Their gift gives them them godlike powers on the one hand but the very mortal weakness of loneliness due to their inability to connect with others, at least in the way that really matters.

Miriam's path reminded me of a script by someone who watched Kung Fu or The Incredible Hulk as a kid, a kid who recounted the episode on the playground using four-lettered words he'd picked up on HBO. Something kind of cool has to come from those influences, right?

Rule #11 in Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing and the late author's most important "rule": "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." Chuck Wendig ignores this rule from the coin toss. I can't imagine how obnoxious the sequels are.

Blackbirds is chock full o' writing. There are stock characters doing a TV plot -- "Next on Blackbirds, Miriam is rescued by a truck driver whose lease on life is about to be revoked. Can she save him? Tune in tonight at 10pm/ 9 Central!" -- exchanging Tweetable dialogue with a lot of dark and gritty posturing. I didn't buy any of it.

Overpriced on Kindle for $11.99 (as of 9-2015), I'd recommend renting a digital copy at your library. If you're in the mood for a psychic girl reigning fire, panic and chaos down on bad guys, purchase Firestarter by Stephen King instead. I can read about Charlie McGee squaring off against The Shop again and again and never get bored.
Profile Image for Josh.
1,628 reviews146 followers
March 4, 2019
"Something is dead inside you. A deep, black, shriveled thing, and its crying out like a lost child for its mother. You are the hand of death. You're its mechanism."

Miriam Black has the unique gift, or curse, as it were of being able to visualize a person's cause of death whenever it is to occur simply by a slight contact of skin. In 'Blackbirds' Miriam uses this ability to tempt fate - can she keep the reaper at bay by saving those she seen die and if so, at what cost?

'Blackbirds' is a fast paced supernatural story with a noir protagonist who's multi dimensional character allows the reader to grow as she does. From a dark and lonely throw away living a life of crime without cause to a fatale who looks death in the face only to throw a fist right back shattering the hopelessness that's so long held her hopes at bay.

Make no mistake, there is an element of mystery and the greater supernatural in 'Blackbirds' yet the foundation is laid upon a bed of struggle, pain, heartache and love. Author Chuck Wendig has created perhaps one of the most memorable and emotionally deep characters I've had the pleasure of reading.

I loved reading this the second round time just as much, if not more so, than the first. 5/5 stars.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews256 followers
April 19, 2012
5 Stars

I received this incredibly fun read from Net Galley and F#ck ‘n A, Miriam is one cool ass, strong, brave and extremely foul mouthed piece of trash that captured my heart and my interest as she let her first explicits fly.  This is a very cool book… it was my first Wendig novel, but surely will not be my last. I loved that Wendig holds no punches back. He writes with a gritty and raw flare, without pussy footing around being politically correct. Yes, he can be vulgar, the language is rough, and there is a lot of sex, drugs, and alcohol.  For the record, I am very much the way Miriam describes most men, I am a “pig” that finds that the raunchier, the gorier, the dirtier, and the more explicit things are, the more I will probably like it. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same and as a result, they may miss out by passing up on reading about this highly original, charismatic, white trash woman. They may feel that there is simply is too much dirt and grime on these pages preventing them from being able to see through to the shiny parts on the inside. Enough about this: on to the story.


“The first rule,” Miriam says, “is that I only see what I see when skin touches skin. If I touch your elbow and you’re wearing a shirt, then nothing. If I wear gloves – and I used to, because I didn’t want to bear witness to all this craziness – then it prevents the vision from happening.”


Our amazing heroine Miriam has a unique ability, a curse in her eyes, in that whenever she first makes skin contact with a person, she can see when they will die, and how they will die. Wendig uses a fantastic structure to this novel, utilizing many interludes in which we are given more backstory, more details, and told more about the characters. This structure worked, and I looked forward to the pauses in the storyline because they enriched the story and increased my enjoyment of it. Plus I loved the reading of her diary and the image of tearing out the pages on her life.

Wendig fills this book with many colorful, funny, and interesting characters. Louis “Frankenstein” makes for a great guy for us to root for, and for Miriam to be involved with. Ashley is the annoying son of a bitch that thinks people like him, when in reality; they cannot help but loathe him. Frankie and Harriet: The tall man and short stocky woman made for the scary bad guys that also brought some fun to the table. They had some witty and funny dialogue exchanges that had me laughing out loud.  There are some great action scenes involving a guy, “Fat Dude”, and his buddy “Gray Pubes”. Of course the hairless man, Ingersoll made an awesome head bad guy.

Wendig’s writing matched this messed up story perfectly. It is filled with creative colorful metaphors that will make you cringe and laugh all at the same time.


“Miriam speaks in a small voice. “Miss Nancy? Are you okay?”
“What are you?” she hisses.
“What? What do you mean?”
“Something dead is inside you. A deep, black, shriveled thing, and it’s crying out like a lost child for its mother. You are the hand of death. You are its mechanism. I can hear the wheels turning, the pulleys pulling.” “


““Do not be scared of what I can see, because what I can see is part of nature. It is natural. I read natural things, like bones or leaves or fly wings, and they tell me what is coming. The world has its strange balance, and what I can see is no more magic than how you look down the road and see a mailbox or a man walking – I simply see how everything will balance out.””


This was a great fun read that I did not want to put down for a second. It is a visceral rush that builds up steam and unfolds in an awesome fashion like a bang at the end. Damn, I am so glad that this will not be the only time that I will get to read about Miriam Black. A 2012 must read!!!!
Profile Image for Becky.
1,319 reviews1,611 followers
July 18, 2015
I read Chuck Wendig's book The Blue Blazes last year, and I really enjoyed it. Based on the success of that experience, I vowed to read more of his books... though with the half-cringing knowledge that I might have my OHGODWHY?? button pressed a couple times. *Shudder*

I really enjoyed Blue Blazes. I loved the setting, the characters, the monsters, the grime and the crime and the feel of it. So I went into Blackbirds fully expecting to love it as well. Maybe not in the same ways, because this story is very different from Blue Blazes, but still. I think it's clear that Chuck can tell a kick-ass story and isn't afraid to take things to eleven.

It didn't quite work out that way though.

The thing is... I never really felt fully connected to the characters in this book like I did with Blue Blazes. I liked Louis a lot, but he was the least realistic of the bunch, in a too-good-to-be-true, white-knight, sort of way. I could understand Miriam, at least as much as we were allowed to see of her, but I couldn't really empathize with her or like her. I understand why she didn't, but I still felt like Miriam should have taken a bit more ownership of her life, rather than letting it carry her along 'like garbage in a stream'. That really bugged me, and I was glad to see her moving a bit away from that in the end. But the way that she let Ashley commandeer her life...

*deep breath* No. Just... No. My 'Guy-Who-Will-Fuck-Over-Your-Life' Proximity Alarm™ started blaring like a million decibel air raid siren the minute he walked onto the scene. I'm surprised that Miriam couldn't hear it through my Kindle, though she likes them fucked up and stupid, I guess, so maybe she heard it and just ignored the fact that her ears were bleeding. Dogs were barking 3 towns over, that's how loud this fucking thing was, though. Just saying.

Ashley made me... hateragey. I can appreciate a good con man. I can appreciate a good opportunist. But holy fuck, I hated that douchebag so hard. Every single time that guy put in an appearance, I wanted to throat punch him and then knee him in the face as he gagged, and then kick him in the junk as he toppled backwards, and then bash him in the face with a brick. Specifically. I think they should have let Harriet have at him. And good riddance. Stupid motherfucking bitch-ass, dickfaced, girl name having smarmy fucking punk. Fuck off.

*Deeeeeeep breath*


Ok. I'm good now.

As I was saying, I didn't love the characters. There was just something... off-kilter about them for me. Either they were too good, or too bad, or too.... lifeless. I don't know what it is, but I just wanted a little more. Maybe the next book in the series will help out with that, though, because in a lot of ways, this felt like a prelude to something bigger.

I wanted to know more about Miriam's history and her back story, and while we did get quite a bit of that, I feel like the real key elements are missing. Right before the interview interludes would have touched on it, they ended abruptly. (And speaking of which, those sessions, while interesting, annoyed the hell out of me, because the interviewer kept getting sidetracked by seriously stupid details about nothing. This woman is telling you the story about how she can SEE HOW PEOPLE DIE, and you're stunned by the fact that she mentioned pooping.

Really? *headdesk*

Anyway... All of this complaining should not be taken to mean that I didn't like this book. I did, as a whole, but just not quite as much as I enjoyed Blue Blazes. This book has a great premise and some interesting possibilities for the series, but I just didn't find it as engaging or entertaining to read. I am, however, still interested enough to read more of the series. I have a feeling that after this introduction, shit could get mighty real. And when Wendig's writing it... it's probably not going to be all fluffy bunnies and flower petals raining from the sky.
Profile Image for KaleidoscopicCasey .
335 reviews161 followers
March 30, 2017
2* - It is what it is Stars

*That awesome cover is saving your ass a star

I really don't want to fill my review with the things I didn't like about this book. It's not a bad book. It just didn't work for me like it did soooooo many of my other friends and buddy readers. Like:
Shelby, Kelly, or Sh3lly.
They all liked this way better than me and their reviews make sense. As opposed to mine. Obviously.

So right, the book...
In all honesty, this is a great concept...
Young woman can touch you and know how and when you are going to die. But not just know it, she essentially lives those last moments of each person she touches lives in a matter of a blink of an eye. She knows on what is practically a cellular level what happens to the person's body.

You want an example? Sure. So let's say she bumps a guy on the the subway with her bare arm against his.
She would have a vision of not only him dying in 2 years, three months, 16 days, 4 hours, and 32 minutes from that exact second, but she also know that the cause of his death is a heart attack. She will feel the tightness in his chest as the pain rips through his body because his heart is failing him and know that he recognizes this is the end.
In the book you get excruciating detail of the death of every single person she touches, and some of those deaths are not pretty. If you can't handle that, turn back now because that is the LEAST of your concerns in this book.

And I liked Miriam's character. She curses more than I do which I wasn't entirely sure was possible. Not only that but she is pretty hard core and does some sketchy shit to get by. Like really sketchy shit. Sketchy shit that we get to read about, we're not just told that it happened in some distant past and she is now reformed (fyi - that's such an annoying trope. if you want to write a chick that has no chill and gives no fucks then show her doing all the things that make me believe it, don't just tell me she had a shit upbringing that she once did horrible unconscionable things).

Speaking of... I didn't mind the cursing and the gore in the story one bit. Some *cough* Sarah*cough* felt that maybe the author was trying a little too hard to cram in as much bat-shit crazy as possible. I totally get that, because it sure as hell seems off the rails, but I didn't feel as strongly that it was too much or forced. Don't get me wrong, there are a few scenes that had me going... uhhhh, that was not necessarily what I wanted to read on my lunch break... but in the end I think it helped set the mood for this gritty story.


There were two things about this book that made it almost painful to read and then left me with a sour milk taste in my mouth at the end. One of these is super spoilery so I'll tag the shit outta that one, but the other not so much.

Problem number one: The narrative style.
I just can't. The alternating first to third person present tense with flashbacks and so much foreshadowing I could choke on it...
It was just too much for me.
Every time I had to take a break from reading it it would take me forever to get re-engaged into the story. It took me way too long to get through this.

Problem number two: The ending:
So here's where it gets spoilertastic. Do not read beyond this point if you plan on actually reading the story.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,005 reviews2,597 followers
June 18, 2013
4.5 stars. Oh man, what can I say about Miriam Black? Funny how Chuck Wendig was able to hook me on his Blackbirds female protagonist the way he couldn't with Mookie Pearl in The Blue Blazes, my first book by this author. I may have mentioned my aversion for rough, brutish, brawn-over-brains characters like Mookie in my review of that book, but here I find myself completely taken with Miriam and her snarky, foul-mouthed, firebrand hellion devil-may-care badass ways. This chick had me at, "That's me. My fair fuckin' lady."

Miriam also has a very special ability -- she can foresee the manner in which a person will die and know exactly when, down to the very micro-second. All she needs is any skin-on-skin contact and the visions will trigger, the deaths playing out in her mind in their entirety but lasting only a couple seconds to anyone watching from the outside. She used to care, used to want to save others from their preventable demises, but quickly learned her lesson: What fate wants, fate gets. Now she's a vagrant, hopping from city to city trailing those she knows will soon meet their end, so she can swoop in and rob them at the time of their deaths and no one will be the wiser.

Then one day she meets Louis, the random truck driver who gives her a lift and is the first person in a long time to show her even a hint of kindness. She finds she likes him, but then she shakes his hand and sees his death -- in 30 days, Louis will be brutally murdered. Miriam is shocked; she's seen hundreds of deaths from accidents, suicides, and health problems, but very rarely has she seen murder. And the kicker is, in her vision right before Louis dies, he looks up past his killer and calls Miriam's name...like he sees her there.

It was difficult to put this book down. Obviously, the plot being such a tease was a major draw, but like I said before, I was also very much taken with Miriam. I still don't know why, really; it's not like I can relate to her all that easily since I am nothing like her, but I felt connected to her regardless. She's definitely unique, and it'll be a mistake going into this book expecting her to be just another independent, tough-as-nails paranormal fiction female protagonist. Miriam would probably just beat someone like her up, but only after cussing her out and drinking her under the table.

A lot of the criticisms I've seen directed at this book claim Miriam's character doesn't read like a "real girl", but I have to disagree. Not only do I know women who act just like Miriam, I also think that her rough, trashy badass exterior reflects the kind of life she's had growing up with her disturbing power, making her behavior and personality convincing and refreshingly honest. At the same time, I sense that underneath is someone more perceptive and complex, with a introspective, kind and caring side to her that you just have to dig a little bit beneath the surface to find. Okay, maybe make that dig A LOT beneath the surface, but I still know it's there.

This book also made me start appreciating Chuck Wendig's style a lot more than I had before. His writing, topics, and characters are infused with this attitude which to me is a little reminiscent of the transgressiveness in books one might find by authors like Chuck Palahniuk or Bret Easton Ellis. I also love the paranormal spin to Blackbirds, but I would also hesitate to categorize it as urban fantasy because it throws so many of that genre's conventions out the window; my guess is that a person can be really put off by this book if caught completely unprepared by it.

Sometimes, it does feel like the book is deliberately out to shock you, what with some of its violent and graphic scenes as well as Miriam's potty mouth, but I was strangely cool with it. The subject matter also had a way of making me feel deliciously unsettled, but it at least made this book memorable. I admit I was somewhat initially hesitant about tackling another Chuck Wendig book after enjoying but not being completely blown away by The Blue Blazes, but I definitely liked Blackbirds more than I thought I would.

See more reviews at The BiblioSanctum
Profile Image for Mara.
400 reviews275 followers
April 14, 2014
Three and a half stars, but I'm feeling withholding this morning.

The Rules of Engagement:

I'm a bit of a noob when it comes to the genres of science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, horror, thrillers and the like and am (despite a lackluster attempt at googling it) decidedly unclear on the differences among the supernatural, preternatural, paranormal and ultranatural (if that's even a thing). The point of my rambling about this, is that what Ido like is worlds in which abilities that are beyond the "normal" are subject to certain rules (I guess I'm a bit like Annie Wilkes in that capacity). Chuck Wendig's world of Miriam Black, thus far, seems to have done just that.

For our anti-heroine (another word I use without fully understanding) Miriam, the briefest of skin-on-skin contact allows/forces her to see how a person will die. She gets to know when (down to the minute) and how, but is not privy to the location (outside of clues she can glean from context).
You know how many people you bump into on the subway during summer? Everybody in short-sleeves? It's all elbows, Paul. Death and elbows.
If ever a girl had a good excuse to be a bit of a nihilistic misanthrope, it's Miriam because, unlike Bill Murray's ability to catch the kid falling from the tree or step over puddles in Groundhog Day, Miriam can't prevent these things from happening.

My Musings:

I readily admit that it's all the things "wrong" with Miriam that make me think she's so gosh darn swell. Her acerbic inner monologue and callous disregard for others are understandable (hey, deterministic philosophers weren't always buckets of sunshine either), and are downright funny to read.
I want an orange soda. And I want vodka to mix into the orange soda. And, while we're at it, I'd also like to stop being able to see how people are going to bite it. Oh, and a pony. I definitely want a goddamn pony.
I definitely enjoy Chuck Wendig's style which, though not especially elegant, is well-paced and laden with dry humor. There were occasional similes that felt a bit amateur hour (plays out...again and again like a YouTube video set to repeat), but he more than makes up for it 80% of the time.

Also, there's a good bit of gore. Like, the kind of gore that if the picture below leaves you feeling squeamish and not wondering why you never see this kind of thing at the grocery store, you might not enjoy.

Severed Foot Gore Galore

All in all, Miriam is my kind of girl, and I foresee keeping up with her exploits and more Chuck Wendig in my future.
Profile Image for Lou.
879 reviews857 followers
May 19, 2012
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

A story featuring a main protagonist Femme fatale, I can see the future kind of gal.
She knows how you will die, when you will die year, day, hour and minute, but she does not know where it will take place exactly. The location is a mystery for her to solve.
She considers herself in this story as a hideous little no good-nik. She says she does horrible things and has horrible thoughts. Curses, drinks and smokes.
I reckon she still has heart and guts.
Change the course of fate can it be?
This dwindling answer constantly doing a circuit round her brain.
One character Louis she unearths love for, a trucker, whose fate of a bloody end has already been see by her touching him like many others. This guys end she simply can't let it be and is one she won't just let pass by as fated.
That 'can I change the future?' question even more behind her mind, can I change this mans end a fateful bloody end?
He's used an unique style of writing in this story that at first seems a bit disorientating but after a chapter of two hooks you in line and sinker and adds to the fast past paced series of occurrences. This is no grand work of literature but a crime story with supernatural strain delivered in a unique style of his own.
There's plenty of dark humour, thrill and things you would want your kids to read about like foul language and sex. Bad assed characters, slick and original awesomeness!

He has an awesome website that has everything to do with writing and his novels. He gives great advice on writing: @ http://terribleminds.com/

Podcast: Interview with Chuck Wendig, Storyteller: @

Also @ http://more2read.com/review/blackbirds-miriam-black-1-by-chuck-wendig/
Profile Image for Stepheny.
381 reviews541 followers
August 30, 2016

Thanks to a few like-minded weirdos I stumbled upon this little gem. I was supposed to be apart of a buddy read but everyone knows I’m a slow poke and everyone was finished with the book before I even got through chapter one.

EITHER way, I was able to enjoy this book a great deal, and I have a forespecial thank you to hand out to Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan for gifting me a kindle copy of this here book. (I promise, we will get to book two before 2017. Scout’s honor.) And a few more thank-you’s go out to Kelly, Shelby and of course, my darling Delee for putting up with my slow-ass and “encouraging” me along the way.

Jeff, I now understand your dislike of whips.

Miriam Black is possibly one of the best female MCs ever written. She’s bad-ass. She takes no shit. She’s snarky as fuck. And has one of the best worst gifts known to man. If she comes in contact with you she witnesses your death. She watches it all play out in her head. The date, the time, the cause- no matter how boring or gruesome.

As if the mindfuck of knowing the details of how someone is going to die isn’t enough, Miriam is unable to stop anyone’s death from occurring. Just think about that for a second…. We aren’t just talking about your run-of-the-mill, natural causes of death scenarios. We are talking about children, teenagers, mothers-to- be- all dying of different causes. And there is NOTHING she can do. Even if she tells them and they by random chance believe her, their new actions will only lead them to the same fate.

So, dealing with this she does what anyone would do. She drinks and smokes and tries her best to separate herself from any real connections in life. She removes herself from family and friends. She lives on her own and puts everything into her journal.

How does she live? Wellllll, she is sort of shameless. She maps out deaths in a calendar and takes what little cash they have on them after they’ve departed. To her defense, she only takes what she needs to move on to the next location and it isn’t like she has any chance of stopping the death from happening. She knows what she does* isn’t exactly right, but how many of us are able to throw stones?

After taking a pretty bad beating and trying to move on to the next death, Miriam is picked up on the side of the road by Louis. Everything is going smoothly until he accidently comes in contact with her and she sees his death play out before her eyes. He says a name in her vision of his death…not just any name…. her name. What could this possibly mean??

Now, before you all freak out that I have ROONT the whole story, be assured that I have not. This is just the tip. (teehee). It’s a good story, decent writing and even some sex scenes that I actually enjoyed. I look forward to checking out the second book with my BFF Dan sometime in the near future. ;) If you’ve been on the fence about this one, it is time to jump. Read it. Love it. Or get locked in my basement and suffer my wrath. :D

Profile Image for David Sven.
288 reviews445 followers
May 3, 2014
For some reason I thought this was supposed to be horror - it's not. I also thought the main protagonist was going to be black - but that's not really an afro on the cover...apparently.

Anyway, Miriam Black has a gift...or maybe it's a curse - when she touches people skin to skin she sees there moment of death and knows when it's going to happen. So with great power comes great responsibility right? No, Miriam uses her powers to turn up at the right moment so she can rifle through the dead person's pockets for loose change. She's not greedy - she just takes what she needs.

Miriam is a vagrant, trailer trash, potty mouthed, petty thief who steals from the dead for a living. She doesn't bother trying to save anyone she sees die because she's learnt long ago you can't change fate and all you end up doing is making what happens happen.

I liked the premise of the story - it made me think of whether I would like to know when and where I would go. I don't think I would because as long as you don't know you can still hope or pretend you'll live forever. I didn't feel there was enough meat on the story or the characters to make this as dark as it could have been. Still, it's fast paced and action packed even if the bad guys were a little cliche - swap out "hairless" with "Albino" and you get the idea. A bit of splatter thrown in for those who like their chunky bits.

A quick easy read that wasn't quite as dark as it wanted to be but at least it races along to its fated, fatal conclusion

3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,563 reviews5,863 followers
April 14, 2016
Miriam Black is either cursed or blessed with a little talent. She can touch someone and know the date, time and manner in which you die.
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Miriam just floats around not really belonging anywhere. She smokes.
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And drops more F bombs than I do.
Palm Springs commercial photography

She stumbles upon a guy named Ashley and he has a metal case that he is all protective over. Miriam goes against her better instincts and hooks up with him.
Miriam knows she shouldn't get involved. Best thing would be to slink out of the bar with the antifreeze bourbon under her arm, never give a look back. Of course, she's never been the Queen of Good Decisions.

She also gets picked up by a do-gooder trucker and sees his death. That she witnesses. She tries to stay away from him because she thinks she can't change fate but here's hoping.

Stuff just doesn't seem to work out for Miriam. She gets in more trouble in this book than I do on Goodreads.
I LOVED her character. She admits to being a bad girl but not a bad person, because duh, you can't save em all.
Palm Springs commercial photography

AND the best part. I picked up some new cussing from her.
"No shit. Your dull, Eurotrash seed couldn't father a donkey. Though I'm sure you've tried, you froo-froo piece of shit donkey-fucker skinhead."

This book also taught me what a Blumpy was..because...
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I read this one as a buddy read with Kelly, Delee and 2.0 It will probably end well since 2.0 reads everything wrong.
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Profile Image for Paul Nelson.
626 reviews140 followers
November 19, 2012
Blackbirds is a dark, brutal, intensely written joyride of a book. Enjoyed it so much after the first 10 chapters I bought the second book of the series.
Miriam Black is a young woman with an extraordinary curse, by touching someone skin to skin she can immediately see their final moments before death takes them, in such explicit detail that every moment is memorable.

Miriam lives from day to day at the arse end of society, drifting from town to town, reduced to finding scores from the unfortunates whose time is almost up. She runs into a trucker named Louis and with some horror see's that she is there at his macabre killing. Thrown into turmoil, does she attempt to save him and divert fates hand or does she let it ride out knowing that if she gets involved she could well be the cause of his death, as has happened before every time she's tried to intervene.

Miriam is a compelling and likeable antihero, tough as nails, she drinks and smokes like there's no tomorrow, she's cold and has a sharp tongue with a wit to match. A truly riveting character with so many flaws, its hard not to be totally drawn in by her.

In fact all the characters are relevant, memorable and multi-dimensional, the lines between good and evil are definitly blurred to some extent. Everybody has a reason for doing what they do, everybody has a past and its an interesting, emotional journey discovering all their story's.

The story is laid out in short impact chapters, I'm a big fan of this as my personnel ocd is to always stop reading at a chapters end, not that I check my back doors locked 20 times before I go to bed its just the way I like to read
There are chapters containing Miriam's grim and vivid dreams, her past, the violence that surrounds her and the supporting cast, including some particularly nasty individuals as they chase Miriam and the people she runs with all in pursuit of a caseload of drugs. The change's between past, present and dreams give an amazing insight into Miriam and the different characters without breaking up the pace and flow of the story - a credit to the author.

I must admit I've never read anything like this, Wendig's writing style is sharp, distinctive and every word packs a sledgehammer of a punch, nothing's padded out and I have to thank the author for not toning anything down to fit a YA profile.

I don't read many Urban Fantasy novels but coupled with the horror elements make this a fantastic read. Highly recommended and straight onto the next in the series.
Profile Image for T.D. Whittle.
Author 3 books188 followers
March 12, 2021
I wanted to like this book because I was reading Chuck Wendig's blog at the time and found him to be intelligent and funny. However. This book centres around Miriam Black, who reads to me like an all-boy fantasy of what a woman should be, which is basically a guy in a hot-girl body: emotionally contained (clamped down on her own feelings, yet sensitive and responsive to the needs of others); built for violence and holy vengeance but conveniently packaged in an effortlessly lithe and fit body; loves all things guy and shuns girly frivolities . . . you get the drift. I guess she is somebody's version of love but not mine and not even interesting or believable to me.

I got deadly bored about halfway through, not only by Wendig's comic-book depiction of his protagonist but also with the gobsmacking level of gratuitous violence that jumped off the pages. It was exceedingly graphic and grotesque, and also completely ineffective after a while. A reader becomes numb to it.

On the other hand, this kind of over-the-top violence, especially when carried out by a girl, must be amusing to some people. Maybe the kind of people who revel in extreme action films where explosions and gunfire take the place of character building and dialogue. Or, perhaps it is meant to be a kind of prose comic book? I suggest that not as a slur against comics but because they often have crazily over-the-top violence in them, with loads of pictures and a little text pushing the narrative. I like Spiegelman's Maus and everything by Shaun Tan, including The Arrival. I adore Neil Gaiman's The Sandman Volumes 1-10. That said, I am not a devoted comics reader and rarely think of buying them.

What I am trying to say is that I'm not the right audience for this. I suspect adolescent boys / men (from 12-34?) are the majority of his readers for this series. And maybe some manic-pixie-dream-girl wannabes? I dunno really and can't be bothered to find out. This novel put me right off listening to anything Chuck has to say about writing though since this is not at all the kind of writing I aspire to.
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