Put a cussing bird on it

Still enjoying my, erm, “gainful employment furlough” (YES, that is what this is. JEEZ). Meanwhile, the kiddies are back at school tomorrow. Ha ha ha ha haaaaa ha, suck it, kiddies – aw, damn, never mind. My heart’s just not in it. Shameful confession: I am kind of envious of the school-bound young ‘uns. So many things to miss… the intricate politics of the classroom, the bitter feuds and fierce rivalries and intense passions, “O Canada” over the P.A., finding new and perverse ways to chip away at the teacher’s mental well-being, the sense of purpose, afternoon recess (always better than morning recess, am I right?), and the grades, dear sweet baby Thor, the grades.

“Grade me…look at me…evaluate and rank me! Oh, I’m good, good, good and oh so smart! Grade me!” – Lisa Simpson

Yeah, um, I think I need to get out of my house a little bit more.

This week, my joes, it’s Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig.

And just for the record, the image above does not even come close to the doing that cover justice. I mean, you hold this book in your hands and your lexicon is limited to Bill-and-Ted monosyllables. I even broke my e-book rule and bought the book-book version just so I could salivate over that cover art.

Alrighty, let’s lindy hop the shizz outta this plot!

Miriam Black has many talents: she’s smart and witty, pragmatic, an excellent judge of character, and she uses obscenities with as much genius as Picasso did oils. These are good talents. Alas, not all of Miriam’s talents are enviable. Namely, that whole being business of being able to see how a person will die when she touches them. Except Miriam’s making it work for her, as best as she can… until Louis, a kindly trucker, enters her life and throws a block of concrete into the rusty gears of the mechanism that is her life. Because when Miriam lets her hand brush against his, she sees that Louis is going to die soon – within a fortnight – and just before he gets done for in a nasty way, he’s going to look up and see Miriam standing just behind his murderer. Now Miriam is determined to find out how she can do what she never could before: unravel the ugly, rotting tapestry of miserable fate and change what has been foretold.

I almost didn’t review this book. In fact, the blog silence of the past weeks has been due not entirely to my personal emotional cocktail of depression, self-pity, and creative lassitude in conjunction with an epic Tolstoy re-read. Some of it was due to my despair of ever adequately summing up the unspeakable awesomeness of this book. This book is BAD. ASS. Like, the baddest, assiest bad ass ever. Like Al Swearengen on blue meth.

Miriam is utterly delightful. She is bitter, angry, heartless, witty, and tough. She lies, cheats, and steals. She carries around a mysterious, battered notebook filled with inscrutable notes. (Second shameful confession: I identify a little too much with Miriam.) She feels like a very real character, even with her unusual ability, and I think that Wendig did an excellent job creating a female character that is very clearly damaged, but certainly not broken. Actually, Miriam reminded me a lot of Lisbeth from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy – a character whom I liked, but did not fall utterly in love with and fangirl over the way some people did. (What was with that?) Miriam is, dare I say, a better Lisbeth. Yes, she’s unlikable. That’s partly why I liked her so damn much. If you’d gone through what Miriam had, you wouldn’t be a cuddly koala bear either.

The supporting characters were brilliant, too – Ashley the skeevey grifter, the murderous Laurel and Hardy duo, the Villain, and Louis, dear, sweet Louis, who kindled a smouldering book-crush in my cold, cold heart – but it’s Miriam that drives this amazing novel.

I mean, why isn’t this book on ALL THE LISTS? Seriously, I’m a librarian (albeit unemployed – SO?) and I just stumbled on it. By accident. In the bookstore. That utterly terrifies me. It is my business to know about books like this. Why didn’t I? WHY???

The thing about Blackbirds is that it’s so different from anything else I’ve read in a long time. It’s a game-changer. It’s… Ziggy Stardust.

Wendig, like his heroine, has a bewitching way with words. If you don’t mind the cussing (and the gods know I sure don’t), it’s transcendent. The writer in me was so envious, I looked like She-Hulk; reader-Robyn, however, wanted to sink to her knees and gaze in adoring awe at the wonder of the rapid, present-tense, bizarrely inventive prose. As for the story itself, another win. Kind of urban fantasy, kind of horror, lots of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, and I loved every minute of it.

I don’t – I can’t even – listen, just read this book. I know, I know. I say this a lot. Maybe I’m just a terrible reviewer of books. Who cares? The brats are in school, so the library parking lot will finally be empty and you can get a damn space without having to engage in parking lot fisticuffs. So tomorrow morning, send the brats packing, queue up outside your book depository, shuffle in with olds when the doors finally open a minute late because librarians are sadists who enjoy power trips, and tread lightly over the worn, dirt-coloured carpet until you find yourselves in the curiously woebegone section of fiction that is the W’s. With any luck, the mouth-watering cover porn of this book will be staring back at you. And then, because of the miracle of government funding and the far-reaching influence of notorious union suppressor Mr. Andrew Carnegie, you can actually just slip that little gem of a book off the shelf, press it to your bosom like a heroine in a nickelodeon, and strut up to the checkout desk like you’re Tom Hardy (cor, that man’s got swagger). Then you can smirk at the librarian, content in the knowledge that you found a book she and her bookish comrades did not include on any lists. No, you found this one yourself – with a little help from moi, of course.

Best Line(s): For Miriam, choosing life is nothing so grand as seeing the vast reservoir of potential that a continued existence would allow. Her mind’s eye does not play movies of kids on swings and a dog in a yard and the warm glow coming off a golden pond. No, as it is so often with Miriam, her decision to live is based on spite and anger – a mouth full of vinegar that drives her once more to sabotage her own plans.”  (p. 323)

Rating: Five out of five cussing, peripatetic prophetesses. (Even Idiot Boy liked this book. See, I’m not playing.)

Sequel alert: Just came out last week! Mockingbird. I’m halfway through it and so far, so good.

BONUS! If you want to see a video of Chuck Wendig reading all of the profanity from Blackbirds and its sequel, go here. And if you want to see a very effective book trailer for the two books, go here. And Chuck Wendig runs a blog both entertaining and informative at terribleminds.com

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