In Blackbirds, Chuck Wendig tells the story of a modern day Cassandra. Miriam has had the visions for years. All it takes is the touch of another person’s skin on her own, and she sees their death. When she meets a trucker named Louis, she sees him call her name before he dies. Can she stop it? Or is she merely the instrument of his destruction?
Miriam is a dynamic, manic person – half crazed by the visions she’s forced to endure, scavenging from the dead whose deaths she’s foreseen. Scarred by her past, angry at her own impotence, she punishes herself with bad choices and her own tormented imagination. This struck me as a very real and believable state of mind for a person who has suffered something this emotionally devastating.
The pace throughout the story never lets up. There is always something dramatic going on – always a dangerous situation, a race for safety, another devastating vision. The use of present tense gives everything a greater sense of urgency, as though a choice can be made to save someone whose death is preordained.
The story is not told linearly, so sometimes the action is hard to follow – mimicking Miriam’s disjointed state of mind. Scenes shift from one time and place to another; lines between reality and delusion blur. Is what she sees real, or is she losing her mind?
One of the things I did not enjoy was the excessive profanity. In the beginning, Miriam’s non-stop cussing was not only original but creative. However, it wore thin quickly. There is a sadistic sex scene, and Miriam also jokes about women saying no they really mean yes. Considering the source of this information is a half-crazed prophet of doom, this might not seem so bad, but I still didn’t appreciate it.
I would not recommend Blackbirds to the easily offended or the very young, but it makes a great guilty pleasure book. It’s a fast-paced, easy thriller with plenty of interesting death scenes that the horror junkie is sure to enjoy.