Earlier this year I read and reviewed Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig and if I'm being honest I have to admit that it did blow my tiny little mind just a bit. Like a David Lynch directed version of The Littlest Hobo (if the Hobo was a young women with supernatural powers rather than a dog) I really enjoyed this dark, nightmarish tale. When I heard there was another novel featuring the same character, I was keen to give it a whirl.
Once again I found myself amazed at how quickly I was hooked. Damn your black heart, Wendig! Miriam continues to be delightfully antagonistic with everyone that she meets. With a mouth on her like a longshoreman and a tough as nails exterior it's difficult not to immediately full in love with her. Her shocking language and her pragmatic approach to life are just so much fun. The phrase `brutally honest' may well have been invented with Miriam in mind. For all her foul mouthed bluster though, Miriam does actually care. Somewhere, way WAY deep down, there is a good person who does want to try and help people. The help she provides might be a little unconventional at times but she does try.
What of the plot then? Serial killings, a private girl's school and a ballsy heroine with more attitude than you can shake a wide variety of sticks at. I ask you what's not to love? Wendig is the sneakiest of authors. On the face of it Mockingbird is a straight forward urban fantasy but delve deeper and it's actually so much more than that. The narrative deftly explores themes like revenge and the nature of redemption while still managing to be entertaining but never preachy. In this novel Miriam is forced to confront some harsh truths about the power she lives with. During Miriam's continuing journey she has to try and learn how to live with what she knows. She also has to try and learn how to exist with others in her life rather than trying to shut the entire outside world out. I love the fact that the reader is privy to the thoughts going on in her head. It is so much easier to empathize with a protagonist when motivations are clear. There is a genuine sense that Miriam's character is evolving as the plot unfolds. The Miriam the reader meets on page one of Blackbirds is most definitely not the same Miriam on the final page of Mockingbird.
Some may find Mockingbird too much. There is no denying that at times things get pretty extreme, but personally I found it pitched just right. I've read other authors in the recent past who have attempted to write in a similarly graphic style and I have found their work unpalatable. I never felt that way while reading this novel. Wendig knows exactly when to shock and when to leave your imagination to fill in the blanks.
I don't often bring up the topic of book covers but once again I feel compelled to mention the truly striking covert art created by Joey Hi-Fi. A complex portrait of Miriam that uses basic black and white with just a splash of red to very effectively capture the spirit and tone of the entire novel. It's the sort of thing I could see myself getting framed and hanging on a wall. Actually, if anyone at Angry Robot reads this review I've said before that you guys know good cover art, how about creating some posters?
In conclusion, I will offer these following words of warning. I think we may have to start collectively fearing this author. I mean, I can only assume that Mr Wendig has made some sort of Faustian deal with the Dark Gods. Perhaps his books, and their addictive crack-like quality, are only the first step in some far more diabolical scheme? It appears that the dark side doesn't only offer cookies, they also have Chuck Wendig. Mockingbird is a darker-than-dark adult flavored urban fantasy that will mess with your head in the best of ways. Seek it out now (or after reading Blackbirds if you haven't already done that).
Chuck W. has pulled of that most difficult of things: a sequel that is every bit as good as the original.
If you've not read Blackbirds: (Angry Robot): 1 then I'd say, even though this book stands perfectly well on it's own two feet, it would be better to read that first.
Mockingbird is a gritty urban-fantasy thriller stuffed with good characters, plot, violence, naughty language - the way only Chuck can do foul-mouthed - but very little sex.
The protagonist Miriam, jaded with the idea of settling down, ends up doing 'her psychic thing' for a friend of Louis who works at a school. What starts out as a simple job spirals horribly out of control after she inadvertently touches one of the pupils.
As previously - the character of Miriam is as uncompromising as a brick wall and twice as hard.
If you've already read and enjoyed Blackbirds - you'll not be disappointed. Mockingbird has got everything Blackbirds had: excellent characters, a rocket-propelled plot and plenty of action. But even more than that - this one is at least three shades darker on the colour chart.
I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who likes gritty urban-fantasy.
on 8 September 2014
When I grow up I want to BE Miriam Black. Not that she'd be impressed with anyone saying that... And I'm supposed to be grown-up already, but still.
Mockingbird is the sequel to Blackbirds, but can easily be read as a stand-alone, as Wendig tells you the bones of what you need to know in his trademark fast-track style. Rest assured, this is most definitely not a book that hangs around with lots of lengthy exposition - but you always know what's going on.
The star of the show is of course, Miriam. She's foul-mouthed and flawed - from experience and personal history, not just because the author thought he should write a "feisty" female (ick!) to appeal to readers with lady-parts.
She's also got heart - although she'd want to punch anyone who suggested it.
The action is unremitting and violent: sometimes a bit much for me, but that's a matter of personal taste. The dialogue is smart and quick-fire, with some killer one-liners as well as some knowingly terrible jokes that can't fail to raise a smile.
But there's more going on here. And it's hard to explain what without spoiling the plot. All I can say is there's something here about not just what people do, but WHY they do it... And how that can play out later on down the line.
One small gripe. And I can't work out whether this is intentional or not. Miriam sometimes refers to her on-off partner, Louis Darling (and oh, he so is!), as "Frankenstein, on the grounds that he is a very well-built fella, like the monster from the book and films. Now, surely she'd know that Frankenstein was the name of the scientist, the creator of the monster, rather than the monster himself? Ok, so there are gaps in Miriam's education - that's all part of her story... But, for me, it doesn't quite ring true that she doesn't know this.
As I say, it's a small gripe and I'm not going to quibble on it.
I highly recommend you read this if you want a quick and quirky read that challenges you a little bit more than you might think it would from the outset. Very enjoyable.
It’s several months after BLACKBIRDS. Miriam and Louis are living together in a trailer in a small New Jersey tourist town. She’s wearing gloves to stop her having visions of a person’s death when she touches them and she’s even got a job at the checkout of the local supermarket. But Miriam can’t be normal for long.
When Louis asks her to meet a friend, Katey, who’s convinced she’s going to die, Miriam’s unprepared for what she finds. Katey works as a teacher at a boarding school for troubled teenage girls in a town near Miriam’s home town. As Miriam’s forced to confront her past, she discovers that something very wrong is happening at the school and that those responsible have gifts similar to hers …
The second in Chuck Wendig’s MIRIAM BLACK SERIES is another dark, foul-mouthed, noir fantasy ride with razor-sharp dialogue and a female main character who’s finally found a role for her terrifying gift. I loved how Miriam’s developed from being a witness to death to a bringer of it and Wendig does well at showing the impact this has on her – both as a temptation and as a terrible consequence. I also loved that there’s no happy ever after here – the relationship between Miriam and Louis feels realistic and though I was disappointed by it, it does completely fit Miriam’s self-destructive, contrary character. The supernatural elements are well handled and creepy and the plot cracks along at a breakneck pace. Again, my only real gripe is with the antagonists who I’d have liked to see more of because Wendig gives them a terrifying motivation but they still feel a little underdeveloped on the page. That aside though, I think this is thoroughly entertaining, dark fantasy fiction and I’ve already bought my copy of THE CORMORANT.
I enjoyed the backstory elements for Miriam in this book, particularly the introduction of her dodgy uncle Jack but also the fact that her relationship with her religious mother becomes more rounded. Similarly the friendship that develops between Miriam and Katey (who could easily have been a figure of pity but doesn’t) and the quasi maternal relationship between Miriam and the mouthy Wren help to flesh out some of the more abrasive elements of Miriam’s character and make her more relatable. She’s very much a Marmite character, but I can’t get enough and will definitely read the next book.
on 29 January 2013
Chuck Wendig's sequel to Blackbirds in the Miriam Black series took to a different direction than I expected in Mockingbird and I didn't quite connect with it as much which is unfortunate to say. Blackbirds unexpectedly surprised me and I was looking forward to starting Mockingbird however it was a little more dark and twisted than I expected and maybe could stomach. Miriam seemed to kick up the violence, language and lonely solo act in this novel and I didn't appreciate the move away from the romance that kindled in the previous novel which I think represented a light of hope in the novel. However, I felt things were really strained in this novel and they took a lot darker approach in the aspect that the characters really looked inside themselves.
I think my main problem came with Mockingbird in that I didn't actually like Miriam's character as much. Before she was bad-ass problematic woman who was a little eccentric. However, Miriam pushed everybody away in this novel, she seemed to be hating on the entire world and she took a trip into the past. I think I'll be more intrigued to witness the resolving off the issues that Miriam has in the next instalment because we'll finally be getting to the core of her issues. I just felt like as a character she didn't make a lot of progress in this novel, she seemed to bounce of walls and fire insults at everybody. She did make some character connections with new people, but these were all underlying with foreboding and death which makes my stomach churn at the thought in nervous anticipation. I can appreciate that Wendig does not creep around the idea of death and destruction and he shows this through Miriam pretty brutally which is why I didn't like her character for this novel because she became a little harder and colder. However, he has to be applauded for stepping where other authors tend to shy away from.
"Each song of an album, each page of a book, every panel of every comic, they're all doorways, little escape hatches where Miriam can flee the sad shadows of this life."
Louis is a character that seemed to make some development in this novel with uncovering some of his issues with Miriam. However again, we're still not at the bottom of his problems and I hope he returns to resolve these because just like Miriam his life is full of problems. Wendig certainly doesn't sprinkle fairy dust over people and Louis has lots of demons I feel still left to fight, so I hope we haven't seen the back of him.
Nevertheless what I did love was the return of the crass humour and eccentric behaviour that occurred in Mockingbird that so reminded me of Blackbirds which was a new venture for me into a book I probably wouldn't usually read. Mockingbird is not for the faint-hearted and if you are a little queasy or put off my bad language, death and lots of violence I would suggest avoiding this series all-together. However if you want something that delves into the darkness of humanity, something crazy with talking-birds, visions, death warnings and all kinds of crazed happenings then Mockingbird and Blackbirds are the perfect book for you. I think Wendig manages to develop his very own genre with these two books that isn't alike anything I've read and this unique nature that he brings is a reason that I still manage to enjoy this book.
One thing I did love about Mockingbird were the chapter titles. They always manage to make me chuckle and I think Wendig has something very new and encapsulated Miriam's character perfectly who is our protagonist and narrator and I think this engages your attention before the chapter even begins to keep reading and explore further into the mind of Miriam Black.
"Lords of Google, Hear my Plaintive Cries."
Despite not enjoying Mockingbird as much as the first novel in the Miriam Black series, I will be continuing with it and looking out for what exciting adventure comes next because dark and gritty this series is and I think it still manages to be innovative and exploring into the dark nature that lays latent in so many books.
*quotes taken from an uncorrected arc copy so may change on the original version provided through NetGalley from Angry Robot.
on 8 December 2012
Mockingbird is the second book in the Miriam Black series, picking up a year after the events of blackbirds.
Miriam and Louis have settled in New Jersey into a semi 'normal' life, Louis is driving the long hauls gone for weeks at a time and Miriam works at a seaside resort supermarket. A boring, mundane job that finds Miriam wearing gloves to harness her ability/curse, when finally she gets sacked and is just about to hightail it out of there, she 'sees' the death of her boss and a number of customers at the hands of a psycho with a gun. Fate and destiny averted, the old Miriam is back, itching to get back on the road with no ties.
Louise arranges a 'reading' with an old teacher friend of his, Katey, who thinks she is dying from a terminal illness. Whilst at the school for troubled teens, Miriam touches a young girl, Lauren and see's her murder at the hands of a brutal serial killer, troubled by this she later touches a second girl who's outcome is the mirror of Lauren.
Miriam investigates further and becomes intent on saving the girls and finding the killer.
An excellent second novel in the series and the 'reveal' is very well done, with the scale of the murders bordering on the insane.
We get to see more of Miriams past and the supernatural side of the visions/dreams she has is expanded further, making the book even darker if that was possible.
A slight change in tact with Mockingbird compared with the first book, we don't get POV chapters from the bad guy's as its all saved for the moment when everything is revealed to the reader and for me this didn't make the book as fast paced or compelling as Blackbirds, that said the last quarter of the book is fantastic.
There is alot more focus on Miriam however, which could never be a bad thing as she is one of the most engaging and strong characters I have read about.
The black humour and excellent characterisation coupled with a fantastic lead character make this a highly recommended series and I look forward to the next Miriam Black novel.
on 24 September 2012
Earlier this year I read, reviewed and loved Chuck Wendig's first Miriam Black novel, Blackbirds. Even though it took me a bit, I fell in love with his caustic, sharp and foul-mouthed protagonist, Miriam. Combined with a fascinating premise, a psychic who only foresees the manner and moment of a person's death, and an edge-of-your-seat suspense, she blew all my reservations about Blackbirds away and I was really looking forward to reading Mockingbird; an anticipation which turned out to be justified, as Mockingbird was even better than Blackbirds. A word of warning: Mockingbird is the second in a series and talking about it will automatically give spoilers for Blackbirds, or rather one big spoiler. If you want to remain unspoiled for Blackbirds, now is the time to click away!
When we reunite with Miriam, she seems to have taken both a step back and a step forward in trying to lead a normal life. One of the things I loved about Miriam in Blackbirds is that she's stopped running away from her gift, she's even turned into the way she makes a living, even if it means a life adrift. In that sense she's taken a step backwards, she gone from using and acknowledging her gift, to hiding and denying it. Where she has taken a step forward is in the settling down and making an emotional connection to Louis. Settling down isn't going smoothly and the road still calls her name, but she's making an effort. Of course, this sort of peaceful existence can't last, we all saw that coming, so we rejoin her story on the day she snaps and walks out. Instead of going backwards or forwards, she's taking a step sideways in her development. She goes back to using her gift, finally soothing the almost withdrawal-like itch she's had, but the cracks Louis has made in her walls aren't as easily cemented closed again. In the first book Miriam's motto seemed to be 'It is what it is', in Mockingbird she develops into 'I am who I am', with all that entails. And I loved to see this growth.
Wendig shows us more of Miriam's unhappy past and the demons she still deals with on a daily basis, which go a long way to creating more understanding and sympathy for Miriam's idiosyncrasies and her unapologetic inability to from a bond with other people. However, Louis has managed to crack her walls a tiny bit and throughout Mockingbird we get glimpses of a less misanthropic Miriam, who is drawn to helping people despite herself. This slow thaw of Miriam's defences also seems to make it easier to connect with secondary characters. Where I felt emotionally distant from many of the characters in Blackbirds, in Mockingbird there are far more people to care about, such as Louis and Katey and to a certain extent Wren. How much of this is actually due Miriam's changing outlook on life or whether it's more a case of increased familiarity with Wendig's remains to be seen. It would be interesting to see how this develops in further books.
While we learn a little bit more about the onset of Miriam's gift and its workings, it also gets a little weirder with the addition of Trespasser. The source of her visions becomes more and more ambiguous and it also gives an entire new dimension to the use of her gift. I loved this shift in the use of her gift though, I thought it made for a good set up for further entries in this series, in the sense that it creates the possibility of more serialised mysteries to solve with an overarching storyline worked in, much like many crime series do. And you have to hand it to Wendig, he writes a mean mystery. Mockingbird's central mystery is fantastic. I really and truly hadn't seen the twist to the story coming and I adored it. In addition to being unexpectedly twisty, it is also completely creepy and shudder-inducing. I've read and watched plenty of crime and mystery series, but this was one of the creepier whodunits I've read in a long time.
Mockingbird was a fantastic book; all the reservations I had regarding Blackbirds were absent or improved on in Mockingbird. Wendig is proving to be a must-read urban fantasy author and I can't wait for his next book, the first in a new series, next June. I also deeply hope we'll get to see more of Miriam and discover where she'll drift next and what her gift will ask of her. If you haven't yet given Chuck Wendig's Miriam Black series a try, you're missing out. Mockingbird, like Blackbirds, isn't for the easily offended or weirded out and definitely not for the faint of heart, but if you like your urban fantasy dark, brutal and unforgiving then you shouldn't miss reading Miriam Black's adventures.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.
on 17 September 2012
This second outing for Miriam Black (last seen in Blackbird) finds Miriam working in a New Jersey seaside resort supermarket, fed up with her job and the constraints of life with Louis in a trailer park, when she `sees' the death of her boss and a number of customers at the hands of a serial killer. Because Miriam Black touches a person's skin and sees the exact moment and method of their death in full flashback colour. Pardon the pun, but she can make a killing from her `gift' if she sees the death of a person with money, follows them to their point of death and runs off with their cash and credit cards.
But Miriam is trying to go straight, which is why she is there at the supermarket, having just been sacked, three minutes before all hell breaks loose. Trying to help her, Louise arranges a reading with a teacher, Katey, who thinks she is dying. It is at the school for delinquents where Katey works, that Miriam accidentally touches young Lauren, who is doomed to die at the age of eighteen at the hands of a brutal killer. Only Lauren isn't the only future victim, and Miriam becomes intent on saving them all and finding the killer.
Bursting with black comedy, and social commentary, Mockingbird is a tour-de-force of horror fantasy. Miriam, as always, is a strong and compelling lead character and through Katey's voice, Wendig pursues interesting debates about women's place in society. This is an excellent book, with plenty of character interaction, brutal murders and laughs aplenty despite the grim material. Wendig never fails to deliver. He is a name to be watched.
on 30 August 2012
Chuck Wendig can seriously write a great metaphor - his language is stunning and original and I'm always re-reading lines to try and fathom the layers. This is definitely horror with a suitably violent and nasty serial killer hunting young girls, mutilating and murdering them. Miriam Black, with her visions of how people die tries to change the fates of the girls she meets by hunting down the killers. But is her gift, or curse, beginning to twist her mind into madness? It's hard to tell as Miriam is one crazy chick, but a brilliant character. There's kick-ass action scenes as well as psychological weirdness. Highly recommended, but don't read last thing at night ...
on 10 February 2013
As with 'Blackbirds' (the first entry in the Miriam Black series of novels), 'Mockingbird' is a fantastically written book, filled to the brim with sharp, witty dialogue and instantly likable characters. And profanity. LOTS of profanity.
Prose is razor sharp, and Chuck's ability to make you hate and love characters is truly remarkable.
Aside from some sloppy editing, this book is a solid read with an intriguing tale.
Recommended for anyone who likes their fiction dark, their protagonists complicated, and their profanity in abundance.