Blackbirds, by Chuck Wendig: A Review

Chuck Wendig’s novel Blackbirds is something I’ve been looking for for a long time: a new and creative story written in prose that is vibrant and stimulating, but not opaque.

Miriam is a young woman who, when her skin touches yours, sees when and how you die:

“. . . in his fifties now, fatter than ever, his nose one big gin blossom, and he's yelling at some woman in a yellow dress, and sweat is beading on his brow, and flecks of spit are flying out of his mouth, and suddenly he plants his fat hand on the kitchen counter as the heart attack tightens the left half of his body and turns his every nerve ending into a roadmap of pain.”

This troubles her. Early on, when she first discovered this ability, she tried to intervene to stop the foreseen death. After all, if she knows when and how a person dies, wouldn’t she have the moral obligation to try to prevent it?

But fate is a jealous master. Fate means fate. The root word of fatal. One day while at a fast food joint a child touches her. She sees the child’s death. It will take place that day, on his birthday, at this fast food joint. She must do something. When her efforts to save him instead cause the child’s death, she realizes that there is no intervening.

She is reduced to a life on the road with crappy boyfriends, fighting, getting beat up, and seeing how people die. But there are certain advantages to knowing when a person is going to die. If you are with them at the moment of death, you can, after they die, take their stuff. And this little con can lead to fun fun fun.

I’m not going to give away any more of the plot. It’s enough to say that it’s a brutal, violent world in which we live. If you are averse to blood, and to one person causing pain in others along the lines of the Scarface chainsaw scene, maybe you should look elsewhere. But if you enjoy reading about man’s cruelty to man, and you enjoy doing it in exciting and interesting language, then this book is a great ride.

Fresh, exciting, and very readable. Five stars.