Sequel City again! Today we’ve got Mockingbird, the sequel to Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig. Miriam Black is back in part two of her trilogy from Angry Robot Books. Since it came out a couple months ago, I’ve seen praise all over the place for this book, just like I did with the first. There’s a bit of a different flavor to it this time about though because I know I sure had high expectations coming into Mockingbirds.
No mucking about today! Back of the Book time!
Miriam Black has a terrible talent.
The first time she touches someone, she will see the moment of their death. Still in her early twenties, She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides and slow deaths by cancer. It is all she can do to keep her talent – her curse – in check.
But when Miriam touches a woman while standing in line at the supermarket, she foresees that this woman will be violently killed – right her, right now.
Cool. Awesomesause. That sounds intense. That’s just chapter one. It’s the first domino on the crazy train we’re heading out on. See, Miriam has evolved from the first book. I use evolve because she’s not really better off than she was before; it’s a lateral move at best. She’s still at the fringes of society and if anything, Miriam is more miserable than ever.
Is this surprising? Eh, not overly. As I talked about in my musings on book one, flawed characters are interesting characters and Thou Shall Be Interesting is commandment number one. What blew my mind was the dark place that Wendig went with Mockingbird. While the first book in the ‘hard to classify’ series leaned closer to urban fantasy than anything else. Mockingbird is still in a weird anti-genre place but it’s much closer to a horror novel than anything else this time around. There are still plenty of moments of levity because that’s who Miriam is with her foul as hell mouth. We’re not rocking a hold-your-breath for 300 pages kind of thing but there were few holy crap moments that rocket you forward another 80 pages before you look up again.
The new tone never felt out of place to me though. Wendig writes Miriam with one of the strongest voices you’ll ever read. It’s not just the swears. (The swearing is glorious again) It’s the attitude behind the swears which lets Miriam into your head. That makes it very easy to slip right into book two even though it had been a few months since the last book.
So now what? Let’s get into the plot, as much as I can without spoiling anything. This book is very stand-alone. Other than the fact Louis is still her beau, there’s not much beyond Miriam herself tying the two books together. That’s a double edged sword. I had no problem with it, but I can see where it may miss the expectations that some people have when it comes to a series. But by being the independent book that it is, my horror buff wife is interested in scooping this one up. Miriam gets a new audience that can jump right into the thick of things.
The only thing I really missed with this book is that I think Louis was a bit of an afterthought at times. It’s a tough feeling because he is around from time to time and helps move the plot forward. In fact, one of the creepiest chapters of any book I’ve read in a while is one of the Louis chapters. It’s Miriam’s book though. It’s her swears, her story, her picture in the kick ass Joey HiFi art on the cover, so I can’t complain too much. Miriam pushes him aside very easy at times and I think he should have fought it more.
I digress with nitpicking. Fast paced swearing will propel you from cover to cover. In that, it is no different than any of Wendig’s other writing from Blackbirds to his blog. For whatever your opinions on the shift of tone from the first book, it’s that kick to the pants that keeps you reading which is the true expectation from Wendig. He delivers. In spades.