Chuck Wendig, Blackbirds (2012)

WARNING! Inappropriate words were used to create this review. A few of them. If you worry about stuff like that, do no read it. And, for f*k’s sake, keep away from the book, it’s waay worse in that regard.

One of my favourite Angry Robot covers. And a book that didn’t convince me.

Seriously though, covers of the series are great:

Urban fantasy with protagonist named Miriam, anti-heroine cursed with magical power of being able to accurately predict both time and circumstances of death of anybody she touches. This turned her into a cynical vulture robbing freshly deceased for living. She swears a lot, drinks even more, engages in risky dalliances and generally tries hard to be as unpleasant and annoying as possible. And my God is she saucy…

Ashley: You are one crafty little cunt, aren’t you?
Miriam: Nice. You go down on your mother with that mouth?

That… might work for you as a humour, or not. Me… I smiled, but soon I was too tired because Miriam never ever stops. Why all the swearing? I mean, I have nothing against a casual fuck, but this novel uses dirty language way too often, evidently just because author likes it that way. And not only language is dirty. Some of the really disgusting images will probably stay in my head… well, hopefully not forever 😉 It’s obscene, but not in a fun way we associate with the likes of Tarantino. For the most part it’s just sad and ugly.

I have nothing against anti-heroes, it’s a great way to make a character intriguing and complicated, but some redeeming qualities are required to make me enjoy the book. Otherwise it has to be really good to make me interested in other stuff. But Blackbirds is a novel about Miriam, with her as the only (3rd person, subjective) POV, and you can’t really like it if you’re unable to like her at least a bit. I wasn’t, although around the middle I started to feel more and more pity. With some exaggeration I can say that my suffering as a reader made me sympathetic towards the suffering of the protagonist. Life is not easy for her, and while her ability makes her fatalistic (deaths she sees seem to be fixed point in time, destined to happened however she tries to stop them), sometimes she makes the effor to do something about that. Finally to discover the secret of changing fate [spoiler ahead, highlight to read] – how many people die is fixed, but no necessarily who dies, this can be changed by… sacrificing someone else, preferably a bad guy.

We hardly learn anything about the world, greater powers involved, rules that govern the paranormal aspects of this universe. It makes sense – Miriam doesn’t know either, but it could have distracted me from how I disliked her. It worked with some other urban fantasy that didn’t work for me, but at least got me interested in worldbuilding (here & here).

We get many cool urban fantasy clichés, many standards from road stories and horrors. Ingredients that could make a great novel, and although I find some really enjoyable passages, the book as a whole didn’t work for me. And it’s a kind of book to be read for fun, not to broaden one’s understanding of the universe. So, without going any deeper:

Score: 5/10

Maybe I’ just tired with urban fantasy, I officially give up on that subgenre until I get my hand on the latest Briggs (it’s already published, but not on yet in my reach), and then I’ll wait till Dresden himself is back for another round.

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One thought on “Chuck Wendig, Blackbirds (2012)

  1. Huh, “Blackbirds”! I really did not enjoy this book. It made me think unkind thoughts about the author… There’s being irreverent and daring, there’s the “expanding the borders and moving limits of what is ethical or appropriate” (some themes from Erikson, for example) and there’s the sick. This book falls into the third category. I don’t think it has anything to do with urban fantasy as a genre – it’s more about an imagination that I felt better without knowing. But don’t think it’s new de Sade or something… “Blackbirds” is no great literature at all – as Piotrek said, almost no worldbuilding, no interesting characters, the main protagonist unlikeable and the plot’s details revolting. Even the writing is poor. All in all, a waste of time.

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