Audiobook Review: Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig

20 09 2012

Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig (Miriam Black, Book 2)

Read by Emily Beresford

Brilliance Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 4 Min

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Mockingbird is the rare sequel that truly elevates a series.  It’s a visceral trip through the gutters of human evil, with a character walking the fine lines between righteousness and damnation.  Mockingbird expands the mythology of Blackbirds, and continues to build on it with exciting potentiality. It’s a dark journey, but one definitely worth taking.

Grade: A-

Chuck Wendig is one of a very few authors that I have followed on twitter before ever reading a word they had written in fictional form. The thing was, so many people that I followed would retweet his crazy, bizarre and often profane tweets that I decided I may just as well follow this strange, strange man and get my crazy directly from the source. Now, as a faithful follower of Mr. Wendig I have grown to enjoy his specific blend of reasonableness and insanity. One thing I enjoy is that when he discovers a new review of one of his pieces of fiction, he doesn’t just retweet the reviewer, or link to the review, but provides a favorite quote of his. This says to the reviewer, not only do I appreciate that you took the time to write a review, but I actually read it. So Hoo Zah! Yet, it also places a bit of pressure on the reviewer to come up with a Wendig worthy quote for him to tweet. I mean, do you really want the King of Cockwaffles to tweet some bland, roller-coaster ride, stayed up all night reviewing cliché? As a reviewer, you need to find a way to say, BANG! I liked this book, and I am also a twisted, socially questionable, mind freak like the author. So, I needed to play around with my blurb. Originally, I thought I wanted something sort of visceral and borderline pornographic, like "Mockingbird penetrates your mind like a uranium tipped dildo." But, I never had my mind penetrated like a uranium tipped dido, and I doubt most people could relate to that. Plus, it didn’t sound pleasant. So, then maybe pleasurable, yet pop culture infused would be good, so I was going to go with "Like taking a bubble bath in a hot tub full of Seanan McGuire’s cats." But then, I thought, if Seanan McGuire’s cats are anything like mine, they would have no desire to jump into a hot tub with any human, let alone the type that would read Mr. Wendig’s work. Plus, maybe my readers have pet allergies. So finally, I thought, embrace the cliché and go with, "I stayed up all night on the edge of my roller coaster’s seat reading this action packed thrill ride." Then I remembered I’m an audiobook blogger, who probably listened to this awake, walking and driving around without the help of any seat’s edge. So, in the end, I decided, maybe I should listen to the book first before coming up with a blurb. So that’s what I did.

Miriam Black was never built for the straight life. If working retail wasn’t hard enough, living in a trailer park with the assorted examples of humanity trailer parks tend to collect just has her on edge. Yet, she was willing to try for her trucker boyfriend Louis, willing to keep her hands gloved so to not experience the death visions that is her curse. So, when Louis finds her work using her skills, she jumps at it, to his chagrin. Yet, what seems like a simple case of predicting a teacher at a private girls school’s demise, turns to something different when she envisions a gruesome death of one of the girls by a twisted serial killer. I was a big fan of the first Miriam Black thriller, Blackbirds, yet, honestly, something about it just didn’t totally resonate with me. Originally, I thought it was simply the fact that I totally despised most of the characters. Yet, reading Mockingbird, I think I realized what it was. Miriam Black is such a dark character, and the majority of the tale takes place in gritty locales with less than respectable characters. It felt like painting Ravens onto a black canvas, no contrast. Yet, in Mockingbird, Miriam is set against a tapestry of quiet rural Pennsylvania, at a seemingly idyllic school for troubled girls. The contrast between Miriam and the setting really brought the story to a whole new level. The undercurrents of darkness that Miriam discovers, and her attempts to combat it seemed more vivid, and the stakes much higher. Mockingbird is the rare sequel that truly elevates a series. The plotting is tighter, and the mystery has a much bigger payoff. I love the journey that Wendig has taken Miriam on. Miriam confronts not just evil, but her own darkness. She faces horrific acts, yet, she is also confronted with the fact that the motives behind them are a mirrored reflection of her own. My only frustration with Mockingbird is with Louis. God save us from the righteous disappointment of good men. Louis is the kind of man who acts how you wish you would, but when placed in similar situations, most wouldn’t. He knows Miriam, and what she can do, yet attempts to restrain her, to force her into a normalcy that just will never suit her.  It’s frustrating to see this as a man, and as a reader. One word of warning, Wendig infuses this tale with not just darkness, but the incessant uses of profanity, politically incorrect musings, and in your face sarcasm. Wendig will find your trigger, the one thing that just grates on you, with his shotgun approach. This makes Miriam hard to like, but compelling to follow. Mockingbird reminded me again of why I love supernatural horror tales, why I was willing to risk groundings and other such punishments smuggling books by King and Koontz into my Fundamentalist home as a teenager. It’s a visceral trip through the gutters of human evil, with a character walking the fine lines between righteousness and damnation.  Mockingbird expands the mythology of Blackbirds, and continues to build on it with exciting potentiality. It’s a dark journey, but one definitely worth taking.

While I enjoyed Emily Beresford reading of Blackbirds, I felt there it took her a while to get comfortable with the character’s voice. In Mockingbird, any such reservations were gone. Beresford give a strong, consistently solid reading, capturing Miriam’s voice effortlessly. Gone were the hesitations that hampered Blackbirds. Beresford seemed to really just channel her inner Miriam and let her rip. Her pacing was markedly improved, particularly in the books finale, where she kept the action moving briskly. There were a few moments early where she seemed to over annunciate some words, which sort of tripped up the smoothness of the reading, but as you got deeper into the plot, this disappeared. I have to particularly point out her creepy performance of the Bad Polly song sung by the serial killer. There had to be some temptation to pull out her American Idol skills and give a good performance, but instead she performed it as described, with fluctuating registers. It was perfect for the mood, and contributed to the flavor of the audiobook. Mockingbird improves itself on every level over Blackbirds, which was a pretty good audiobook to begin with. This one is a true winner.

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One response

21 09 2012
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

Um, I totally just LOLed.

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