Miriam Black Knows How You're Going to Die



by Chuck Wendig

Did you just say shrug instead of actually shrugging?― 

Chuck WendigBlackbirds


Miriam Black knows when you will die.

She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.

But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.

No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

My Thoughts

While Miriam Black’s devil-may-care attitude coupled with the wit and ultimate self-destruction would generally appeal to me as a reader, Blackbirds, Chuck Wendig’s uber-popular urban fantasy series, left me flat. Chuck Wendig is a helluva writer if you have read Wanderers or Invasive. In Wanderers, Chuck demonstrated his ability to create a plot with a slow burn that comes together with a symphonic crash; Invasive frankly scared the shit out of me. But, Blackbirds is written with such an unlikeable character that I could not get into it. Sometimes, unlikeable is excellent. It allows the author to have a small redeeming quality that can redeem, or at the very least make them not suck so much. I waited for the entire novel for Miriam to have that moment, and it did just not come.

 “She thinks, I want an orange soda. And I want vodka to mix into the orange soda. And while we’re at it, I’d also like to stop being able to see how people are going to bite it. Oh, and a pony. I definitely want a goddamn pony.”

Miriam is a chain-smoking, talking-like-a-sailor, broken person who has a gift/curse of knowing exactly how a person will die down to the time and date. A gift like this would break anyone. I get that. As soon as I understood that in the first chapter of the book, I understood why Miriam is the way she is. This ability needs skin-on-skin contact, and in the beginning of this curse Miriam attempts to help people. To stop or prolong the reaper. But she can never help. It is as if she is watching horror movies for every person she comes into contact with. Death will come for who they want, and no one will stop it. 

While hopping from city to city in a vagrant lifestyle, stealing as she needs to, she comes upon a truck driver named Louis. He is a small beacon of light in the shit-storm that is Miriam’s life. He shows her kindness when he doesn’t have to and generosity when he gets nothing out of it. Miriam touches him, and low and behold, Louis is going to die a horrible death very soon. But the real punch to Miriam’s gut is that she will be standing right there watching him die. 

This is a real problem for her. 

At the start of the novel, I could not put this book down. I plowed through the chapters. Miriam appealed to me. I enjoyed reading someone who was not so perfect and whose actions did not seem so telegraphed. About midway through the novel, and with the addition of a few characters, I could not understand the purpose of Miriam’s wanderings were too much. I found myself wanting Wendig to get to the point. Chapters began to slog. Wendig’s usual frenetic writing style I usually enjoyed only came in bits and gasps. A murder here, a bit of torture there, all for the sake of not pushing the plot along. I feel that a lot of the wandering is setting up the future novels in the series, which now stands at six. 

“Some of life’s best moments are during a good bowel movement, and to have that robbed from you, I can’t even imagine.”

Miriam, as a character, is a lot to take. She is potty-mouthed, which doesn’t bother me, and violent again does not bother me. But at some points in the novel, I could not tell if Wendig was going for edgy rather than purposeful with the violence. Instead of urban fantasy, this is much more of urban horror. If that is a genre? My expectations of the type of book that this is were reevaluated pretty quick into it; if readers expect the typical urban fantasy heroine, Miriam is not her. Not a bad thing at all. 

I can see Miriam being a great HBO/Netflix tv show. She reminded me a lot of Jessica Jones. Similar snark, attitude about the world, and general lack of ability to take anyone’s crap. But where Jones was noir, Miriam is horror. 

While this did not completely do it for me, and I won’t be continuing the series, I know that it will appeal to many people. It is a very loved series. So give it a swing if you like your urban fantasy with a side of horror; Miriam Black might be your gal. 


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About the Author

Chuck Wendig is a novelist, a screenwriter, and a freelance penmonkey.
He has contributed over two million words to the roleplaying game industry, and was the developer of the popular Hunter: The Vigil game line (White Wolf Game Studios / CCP).

He, along with writing partner Lance Weiler, is a fellow of the Sundance Film Festival Screenwriter’s Lab (2010). Their short film, Pandemic, will show at the Sundance Film Festival 2011, and their feature film HiM is in development with producer Ted Hope.

Chuck’s novel Double Dead will be out in November, 2011.

He’s written too much. He should probably stop. Give him a wide berth, as he might be drunk and untrustworthy. He currently lives in the wilds of Pennsyltucky with a wonderful wife and two very stupid dogs. He is represented by Stacia Decker of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

Where to Find Them

Beth Tabler

Elizabeth Tabler runs Beforewegoblog and is constantly immersed in fantasy stories. She was at one time an architect but divides her time now between her family in Portland, Oregon, and as many book worlds as she can get her hands on. She is also a huge fan of Self Published fantasy and is on Team Qwillery as a judge for SPFBO5. You will find her with a coffee in one hand and her iPad in the other. Find her on: Goodreads / Instagram / Pinterest  / Twitter

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