Aug 28, 2012

[Books] Mockingbird

Ever since I discovered the amazing works of Chuck Wendig, writer of great books that touch on horror and writing tips along with contributing to various White Wolf tabletop RPGs, I've been keenly interested in his releases. Given his gaming experience, a lot of his fiction novels share a bit of that feel and thus often it almost seems like his stories are records of  games played with friends.

You need to be an RPG player to fully understand what I mean by this. The easiest way to explain it is how in TV shows and movies you clearly know who the protagonist is since they have an uncanny ability to survive horrible situations compared to others. In gaming terms, it's like how characters can spend certain points or use special powers to get out of situations that would normally kill them.

Miriam Black, the dark heroine of Blackbirds is one such character. She has one gift - the ability to see the circumstances of a person's death with a single touch. But that's just about it. It doesn't mean she has super strength or other magic powers. She has one dark gift and that's all she has to work with.

Thankfully she behaves like a player character and not an NPC.

Synopsis: Mockingbird is the sequel to Blackbirds as written by Chuck Wendig. I managed to read this book rather early as a member of the Angry Robot Army, the reviewer program affiliated with Angry Robot Books.

When we last left Miriam, she had managed to save the burly truck driver Louie from his fate. Now the two have been living together for some time, but Miriam isn't adjusting well to "normal" life. She has been actively avoiding the use of her special ability and has been shifting from one odd job to another. But she's getting pretty fed up with normal life, being attached to Louie and denying her gift. Like a junkie, she inevitably goes back to her old ways.

Ever faithful Louie tries to help her by arranging for her to meet with a "client" as he presents her as a psychic  to a hypochondriac teacher. At first it seems like a good idea - an easy way to be able to exercise her abilities without too much danger, or too much criminal activity given Miriam's past. But it turns out that there's more going on behind the scenes at The Caldecott School. And it looks like the fates aren't quite done with Miriam Black and her unique ability.

Now I have to admit that after reading Blackbirds, I thought that we were done with the adventures of Miriam Black. I had no clear idea how they might write a sequel for that first book given she managed to achieve her goals in that book and things seems pretty closed in terms of plot lines. But leave it to Wendig to find a way to turn things around and find a way to push the narrative flow even further and show us just how bad things can get for Miriam.

Now sequels always present the benefit of being able to focus on story without needing to go back to building backgrounds and explaining the "rules" of things, as applicable. And Wendig certainly pushed this to the limit as the interludes that used to be utilized to give background were now more focused on Miriam's strange visions and dreams that sort of guide her path in things apart from her special psychic abilities. And I like this growing aspect of her dark gift - that there seems to be a conscious force that is pushing her along and trying to send her where she's needed.

The book stresses how Miriam plays a unique role as an agent of fate, or whatever you want to call it. In the first book she was convinced that the deaths that she foretold were set in stone and there was nothing that she could do. But know she understands the rules of things and while it requires a heavy price, she knows that she can pay it when needed. And thus she remains a dark hero in her own right - she has does have principles that guide her now. She's still pretty badass and not at all friendly but it all comes together.

I enjoyed Mockingbird even more than I had Blackbirds and I think you will too. And I definitely want to see how things will progress in the future adventures of our little blackbird Miriam Black. Thus I rate the book 5 different types of birds presented in Miriam's visions out of a possible 5.

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