Thursday, 9 August 2012

'Mockingbird' - Chuck Wendig (Angry Robot)

If you’ve been around these parts for a while then you’ll know that I have a problem with about ninety percent of Urban Fantasy that’s on the shelves at the moment. This is probably why I don’t read ninety of percent of Urban Fantasy that’s on the shelves at the moment… :o) That other ten percent though… There’s some amazing stuff hidden on those shelves if you have the time to go and look for it. Chuck Wendig has already written one of those books and another one is set to be released very soon (late August or early September depending which side of the Atlantic you’re on).

I’ve been a fan of Wendigs work since the brutal ‘Double Dead’ came my way and ‘Blackbirds’ took things to another level entirely. You can read my review Here or run your eyes over a couple of choice paragraphs just below,

‘I’m hard pressed to remember any other book that I’ve read where death haunts the pages in the way it does here. Death is quite literally everywhere; whether it’s in the bleak landscape Miriam walks through, the hearts (and ultimate fates) of the people she meets and Miriam herself. ‘Blackbirds’ is a short read, clocking in at two hundred and eighty seven pages, but it’s a book where the subject matter makes the book feel that little bit heavier in your hands.’

‘The guy has only written two books and already I can’t get enough. If you’re after some urban fantasy that is by no means typical then ‘Blackbirds’ is probably already on your wish list. For everyone else, give it a go anyway and have your mind blown. Wendig takes you on a journey, down the forgotten highways of America, that you won’t soon forget.’

You can imagine my reaction when ‘Mockingbird’ turned up at the door… :o)

I read a few pages and then I couldn’t stop reading until there were no pages left to read. Chuck Wendig has only gone and done it again with a book that, for my money, eclipses its predecessor.

Blurb copied and pasted once again as it’s ‘nap time’ and I need to shave seconds, off writing this, wherever I can!

Miriam is trying. Really, she is.

But this whole "settling down thing" that Louis has going for her just isn't working out. She lives on Long Beach Island all year around. Her home is a run-down double-wide trailer. She works at a grocery store as a check-out girl. And her relationship with Louis--who's on the road half the time in his truck--is subject to the piss and vinegar Miriam brings to everything she does.

It just isn't going well. Still, she's keeping her psychic ability--to see when and how someone is going to die just by touching them--in check. But even that feels wrong somehow. Like she's keeping a tornado stoppered up in a tiny bottle.
Then one day she touches a woman, in a supermarket, and finds that the lady has exactly three minutes to live. That’s when it all starts to fall apart again.

If you haven’t already read ‘Blackbirds’ then you really need to give a go before moving onto ‘Mockingbird’. Not only is it a great story in its own right but there’s a lot of back-story that you will want to get caught up on first. Miriam is just one of those characters that you will find yourself wanting to know everything about. A dark and sometimes nasty character but nonetheless compelling for that. A character who really wants to do the right thing but whose innate viciousness (lashing out against a world that has treated her very badly) will lead her down dark paths. That’s what Wendig brings to the table here and, once again, the results make for stunning reading.

What I would say though is that Wendig isn’t really doing anything that he didn’t do in ‘Blackbirds’. Same character, same relationships, same themes. Once again, we’re headed deep into ‘If it ain’t broke, why fix it?’ territory… It made for a difficult review to write, what with me not wanting to repeat myself (just click on that link if you haven’t already)…
I’m in two minds here to be honest. ‘Mockingbird’ does repeat itself but gets over that for reasons that I’ll go into in a bit. It’s something that you should be aware of though. Having said that, the signs are that the final volume, ‘The Cormorant’, should take things in a whole new direction entirely so I’m cool with things headed along the same path as before (at least for the moment).

What really saved it for me though, and edged ‘Mockingbird’ past ‘Blackbirds’ in terms of quality, is just how deep Wendig is prepared to go in order to give his readers a story that they will not be able to stop reading, I certainly couldn’t.

If you thought ‘Blackbirds’ was a dark read then I’m giving you advance warning to adjust your expectations accordingly, ‘Mockingbird’ is a whole lot darker. Wendig takes us further into Miriam’s head, showing us just what she is capable of when the chips are down (or when she’s feeling suitably bloody-minded). Miriam isn’t just acting like this for the hell of it either; the mystery that she faces is brimming over with the kind of deaths that even someone like Miriam has never seen. It’s a mystery that Miriam has to solve, especially when it becomes clear that doing so will help her discover her own place in this strange world. I liked that last bit in particular, Wendig’s worldbuilding is so subtle that you won’t even realise its happening but it is and fleshes things out in a most intriguing manner.

Wendig plumbs real depths of bleakness and horror to bring us the world that Miriam must negotiate. It’s a world that we all know is there and one we are secretly glad that we can put down when the book is done; no-one would want to live with what Miriam has to. The way Wendig presents it though makes for nothing short of compelling reading, a book that eclipses ‘Blackbirds’ in its determination to head to new depths for the sake of a good story. Wendig knows that his readers deserve nothing less.

If you’re waiting for ‘Mockingbird’ then take it from me, you’re in for a bit of treat. If you’re not waiting for ‘Mockingbird’, well… you should be.

Nine and a Half out of Ten


Unknown said...

You're not making my book ban any easier, Graeme. I've heard a lot of good stuff about Wendig, I think he needs to be on top of my list once the ban is lifted. Thanks for the review :)

Elfy said...

Blackbirds blew me away, I was delighted to find out that Mockingbird wasn't that far away. Very much looking forward to this one.

Ellie said...

I have the same feeling about urban fantasy. Will definitely try Wendig now!