Miriam Black is not normal. She has been cursed with the power to see the moment and manner of death of any person she comes into physical contact with. I say curse, because she is unable to control it. It just happens.
This curse has driven her to flee a normal life. She’s accepted what she can do, and she uses her powers to find people who will die soon and pick the money out of their pockets once they do die. It’s a lonely life on the road, and she resorts to hitching rides with strangers.
So, on what should be a typical hitch-hike with a trucker she’s never met before, she’s shocked when she shakes his hand and sees that he will die a horrible, torturous death one month from now. And right before he dies, he speaks her name.
What I just told you are not really spoilers, since it’s figured out by the first few pages or by looking at the back of the book. Nevertheless, when I read the description of the story, I had to pick it up. And it didn’t take long for me to finish it. Let me tell you why.
I’m the type of person who likes intense, visceral scenes. Like the previous book I reviewed, Dead Things, this story is brutal and unforgiving. The situations are basically hopeless. The people in it are vicious, conniving, and sometimes unforgivable. And what’s really great is that the story keeps going. In other books, there are breaks in the action. Some kind of exposition or a rest are needed. This book is no different, but even the interludes and story breaks are interesting and sometimes even just as lively as the main story!
The main character, Miriam Black, is a gem. Not because she’s clean and sparkling. Far from it. She’s very, very human, and she struggles so intensely that we can’t help but keep our focus locked on her every thought and every move. She’s not even a nice person, but Chuck Wendig has figured out how to make me sympathize and even root for her. When she was about do make another fuck-up decision, I nearly screamed at the book for her to stop. But then I realized that whatever she did was going to make things even more interesting.
Fate and Destiny play a huge part in this story. Those things fascinate me, as I’m sure it fascinates many, even though I am not a believer in fate or destiny. In this story, there’s a monumental struggle to overcome what she sees as preordained. It’s a story similar to the Oracle, where the prediction itself may cause the prediction’s outcome. There’s also a smattering of Cassandra’s Tears, where knowing the future is a curse because of the inability to change it. I don’t know what I’d do if I were cursed like Miriam Black.
Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig is a wonderful book. You do yourself a disservice if you haven’t yet read it. I give it a thumbs up.