Angry Robot, out April 24 (US), May 3 (UK)
Miriam Black can swear like a sailor, eat like a lumberjack – and see exactly how you’re going to die. And there’s absolutely nothing she can do about it – or so she’s thought for eight years. But when she realises a kind stranger is going to call her name just before his horrific death, she determines to do something about it…
It’s a cliché in reviewing to say that you couldn’t put a book down, that you ended up reading all night because you couldn’t bear to leave the story. In reality there haven’t been that many books written – ever – that have that indefinable quality that demands your full attention. Blackbirds is one of the few I’ve come across in recent years.
It’s not the gripping story that unfolds, the puzzles that are presented and then very effectively solved. It’s not Wendig’s use of language: the similes are original and have that ability to make you stop and think for a moment. Sure, this book contains profanity for much of the time, but it’s there for a reason rather than the author just chucking the f-bomb in because it’ll have a (mild) shock effect. It’s not the matter of fact way in which horrifying things are described in a way that makes them vivid in your mind’s eye.
It’s all of these things and more. It’s the characters who seem at times as if they’ve stepped out of a modern variant of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, until you learn their histories and realise that they are far closer to you or me than we’d probably feel comfortable admitting. It’s the underlying discussion of fate vs. free will – and discovering what it will cost to defy fate.
Blackbirds won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but I started it getting on a plane, and, perhaps for the first time ever, was pleased that the flight ran slightly late, giving me time to finish this in one sitting. And the better news? A sequel is out soon!
Verdict: Straight into my Top 10 for 2012. 9/10