Audiobook Review: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

23 04 2012

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Read by Emily Beresford

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 10 Min

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Blackbirds reminds me of a novel Dean Koontz would write if he was high on ecstasy and learned how to swear properly. It is a ripping yarn that is equal parts bittersweet, and profane. Forcefully paced and darkly humorous, Chuck Wendig doesn’t just establish himself as the new voice of horror, but jumps on top of the genre and does a little dance to prove his point.

Grade: A-

I hate spoilers. It is one of my ultimate pet peeves. Screw global warming, inflation and international crises, I will vote for the candidate who promises to outlaw spoilers and make the death penalty an option for habitual offenders. You spoil a book, movie or TV show for me, and I will no longer be your Facebook friend. (I’m looking at you mom.) For this reason, I don’t want to know how I will die. Sure, I can see that there may be a bit of freedom in knowing the exact moment and cause of your death. No longer would you need to look both ways before crossing the street, or bother with wearing your seatbelt. You could take up cigarettes, red meat and high-risk sexual behavior without a worry that it will lead to your demise.  But, is the added feeling of security and freedom worth it? Not to me. I want the adventure of crossing the street without knowing ahead of time whether or not a secret CIA black helicopter will fall out of the sky and land on my head. I want to experience the twists and turns in my life without knowing how it all is going to end. I want to believe that I may not end up sad, lonely and struggling to get that last breath out of my disease riddled lungs. I want life to be full of surprises, and just enough risk to make it interesting.

In Blackbirds, Chuck Wendig has created a character who should be wearing a T-Shirt that says, “Spoiler Warning.” With a simple skin to skin touch, Miriam Black can see how you will die. Estranged from her overbearing mother, she travels around the country like a vulture, bearing witness to the deaths of strangers, and stealing from their corpses. Despite how much she tries, she is a slave to fate, unable to prevent the deaths that she witnesses. Then one day she meets a kindly truck driver, envisions his brutal murder, and hears his last words, her name. Check Wendig invigorates my love of supernatural horror with this visceral, fast moving thriller. While typically I feel like just an anonymous observer in most tales I read, Wendig managed to put me right in the story, eliciting gut level responses to his characters. I found myself equally compelled and frustrated by Miriam, wanting to connect with her, wanting to understand the world she lives in, but often becoming frustrated by the choices she makes. I utterly hated Ashley wishing death and dismemberment in horrific fashion upon his person. These types of reactions only come when you are totally immersed in a tale, and from the earliest moments of this novel Wendig had me hooked. One of my pet peeves in horror is the often heavy handed foreshadowing that many author’s use, but Wendig uses the talents of his main character to foreshadow events in a natural way bringing greater depth to the narrative. To make things even better, I totally loved the ending, it creates so much potential for Miriam’s character that I already am looking forward to Mockingbirds, Wendig’s follow-up to Blackbirds.  Blackbirds reminds me of a novel Dean Koontz would write if he was high on ecstasy and learned how to swear properly. It is a ripping yarn that is equal parts bittersweet, and profane. Forcefully paced and darkly humorous, Chuck Wendig doesn’t just establish himself as the new voice of horror, but jumps on top of the genre and does a little dance to prove his point.

I have mixed feelings about Emily Beresford’s narration of Blackbirds. This seems to be her first foray into audiobook narration, and I feel she has a lot of potential. Yet, I also feel she may have been miscast for this production. Miriam Black is an edgy, irreverent character who swears like a sailor, and even had me blushing a few times with the things that come out of her mouth. Beresford’s interpretation of her sounded a bit like a suburban mother who takes a secret naughty pleasure in saying a bad word, but is uncomfortable with it. The beginning of the novel, her pacing seemed a bit forced. Yet, as the novel played out, I felt Beresford got more comfortable in the tale. She definitely handled some of the more vocally defined characters well. Her handling of accents was excellent and she made some interesting choices for characters that I feel paid off in the end. While my feelings are mixed overall, I came away with a generally positive view of this production, and hope the Beresford continues with Mockingbird, just with maybe a bit more edge added to Miriam’s voice.

Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review. Blackbirds will be available in paperback, E-Book, Digital Audio and Compact Disc on Tuesday, April 24th.

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5 responses

28 04 2012
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

Sounds like an AWESOME book, even if the narration didn’t quite do it.

29 04 2012
Shooting Blackbirds: A Round-Up Of News And Reviews

[...] From The Guilded Earlobe, a review of the audiobook: “In Blackbirds, Chuck Wendig has created a character who should be wearing a T-Shirt that says, ‘Spoiler Warning.’” April 30th, 2012 | terribleminds | No Comments [...]

19 10 2012
Release Week: Chuck Wendig’s Mockingbird, Adam Christopher’s Seven Wonders, and Lee Battersby’s The Corpse-Rat King | The AudioBookaneers

[...] on Brilliance Audio — Length:9 hrs and 4 mins —after Blackbirds earlier this year, reviewed very warmly by The Guilded Earlobe. Here: “Miriam is trying. Really, she is. But this whole “settling down [...]

10 01 2013
The AudioBookaneers 2012 Year in Review, Part 2: Books We Missed | The AudioBookaneers

[...] reviews all year long, which so often guided my own selections as well as leaving me intrigued for Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams, The Twelve by Justin Cronin, Lamentations by [...]

23 04 2013
dog eared copy/Tanya

I just read the eBook edition this past weekend and I *loved* Blackbirds! I was amazed at how Wendig was able to deliver high impact scenes with an economy of words. The dialogue shaped the moods and rendered the whole of the novel dynamic and thrilling! I’m looking forward to seeing where he takes Miriam in Mockingbird :-)

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