Category Archives: Chuck Wendig

2013: An Assessment – Individual Authors and Titles

This is the second part of my assessment of 2013.  The first looked at publishers.  Here I’ll feature some authors and/or individual titles that I thought were standouts.  Links for books will be to my reviews (the reviews will have links to buy if you’re interested.)  Since I’ve been doing a weekly post at Amazing Stories, with only one week missed, I’ll be including some of the titles I reviewed there in this list.

As with the publishers, these are in alphabetical order.  I’m probably overlooking someone or a particular book.  I apologize in advance.  This list consists of titles and authors I read in 2013 and isn’t intended to be inclusive.  Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments.  Again, I’m including mystery, crime, and science fiction as well as fantasy. Continue reading

Chuck Wendig Pulls Out All the Stops

TheCormorant-144dpiThe Cormorant
Chuck Wendig
Angry Robot Books
UK Print
Date: 2nd January 2014
ISBN: 9780857663375 Format: Medium (B-Format) Paperback
R.R.P.: £8.99
North American Print
Date: 31st December 2013
ISBN: 9780857663382 Format: Mass-Market Paperback
R.R.P.: US$7.99 / CAN$9.99
Date: 31st December 2013
ISBN: 9780857663399 Format: Epub & Mobi
R.R.P.: £5.49 / US$6.99

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know I’m a fan of Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series. (Reviewed here and here.) Frankly, I find it one of the most compulsively readable series in any genre.

Things take a darker turn in this one. That’s saying something since the whole premise of the series, the hook upon which all things are hung, is Miriam’s ability to see how anyone she touches is going to die. Until now, Miriam has mainly used her abilities to rob people at the time of their deaths.

This time she’s graduated to killer. It isn’t working out as well as she’d hoped. Granted, she’s only killed to save someone’s life, but it’s taken a toll on her psyche.

Miriam is on her own again, and she ends up in Florida, lured their by a lucrative opportunity. When she touches the man she’s about to make a deal with, she sees his murder a year later. In the vision, she sees a message the killer has left her. Continue reading

What is The Blue Blazes?

The Blue Blazes
Chuck Wendig
Angry Robot Books
UK Print
Date: 6th June 2013
ISBN: 9780857663344
Format: Medium (B-Format) Paperback
R.R.P.: £8.99
US/CAN Print
Date: 28th May 2013
ISBN: 97808576633518
Format: Small (Mass-Market) Paperback
R.R.P.: US$7.99 CAN$8.99
Date: 28th May 2013
ISBN: 9780857663368
Format: Epub & Mobi
R.R.P.: £5.49 / US$6.99

Chuck Wendig’s latest novel is the first in new series, about a gangster named Mookie Pearl.  It’s an over the top blend of fantasy, horror, and noir wrapped inside a family drama.  This is what urban fantasy for guys looks like, although I’m sure a number of ladies will enjoy it as well.

Mookie is a gangster who has a special skill set.  He deals with problems the Organization has with the Great Below, the underworld where several supernatural races live and scheme against humanity.  He’s divorced, hasn’t spoken to his ex in years, and is trying to build a relationship with his estranged teen daughter who’s building a criminal empire of her own.  Somehow she’s learned that the head of the Organization, The Boss, is dying of cancer.  This is not yet public knowledge.

When the Boss’s appointed heir and nephew asks Mookie to try and find a way to cure The Boss in the Great Below, Mookie knows it’s a fool’s errand, but really, what choice does have?  The Blue Blazes of the title refers to a blue powder mined in the Great Below.  When rubbed on the temples, it allows a person to perceive the supernatural world around them.  There are other substances, all of them with colors in the name, that are rumored to exist but by and large believed to be mythical by most people.  It’s one of these the nephew wants Mookie to find in order to save his uncle.

The task would be bad enough, but there are other who are also aware of The Boss’s impending demise.   And they’re moving to take advantage of it.  Including Mookie’s daughter.

The action in this one moves fast and furious.  Wendig has crafted a compelling mystery, a suspenseful thriller, and a gritty urban fantasy with a dash of Lovecraft.  And along the way he manages to make Mookie Pearl a sympathetic character in spite of the fact that Mookie isn’t the sort of man who would want to invite to dinner.

The secondary cast are well developed.  While the story is told primarily from Mookie’s viewpoint, Wendig shows us the other characters’ thoughts and motivations. Mookie’s friends and enemies are an assorted lot, including mobsters, ordinary, humans, and even a dead man (that Mookie had killed).

The major plots lines were all resolved, but things won’t be going back to the status quo.  It’s going to be interesting to see where Wendig takes this one.  And in case you’re wondering, no, he hasn’t abandoned the Miriam Black series (reviewed here and here).  There’s an announcement of the next one, The Cormorant, in the author bio.

I’d like to thank Angry Robot for the review copy.  Below is an excerpt.  Check it out.

New Acquisitions

Today a friend and I took my son hiking in Palo Duro Canyon while our wives stayed home doing whatever wives do when husbands are away.  (I don’t want to know; that it involves spending money is enough.)  This will tie into a Dispatches From the Lone Star Front post later in the week after another road trip. 

When I go home, there was a package waiting for me.  It contained a copy of Ari Marmell’s In Thunder Forged from Pyr Books.  Along with Wrath-Breaking Tree (James Enge) and Kindred and Wings (Philippa Ballantine) that came Thursday and Nebula Awards Showcase (Catherine Asaro, ed.), which arrived last week, that’s four from Pyr in about ten days.  The Marmell and Nebula Awards will be reviewed first since the former will be out in a couple of weeks, and the latter is out already.  That’s not to say some of the other review copies Pyr has sent me won’t end up in the queue in the next couple of weeks.

I’ve also got several titles from Angry Robot in my ereader:  The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig (which I’ve already started and am loving), iD by Madelaine Ashbury, and A Discourse in Steel by Paul S. Kemp.

Finally, I’m looking forward to diving into No Return by Zachary Jernigan.  He was kind enough to send me a copy of his first novel.  This one got some good advance buzz, and I love the cover.  It’s up Blue Blazes

Anyway, those are the novels from publishers and authors I’ve agreed to read and review.  I still plan to increase the amount of short fiction I review.  (Sooper Seekrit Project #2 requires me to do so.)  I’m also going to stick in some novels just because I want to read them.

Think all that will keep me busy?

Mockingbird Sings an Original Song

Chuck Wendig
Angry Robot Books
6 Sep 2012
384pp B-format paperback
£7.99 UK

28 Aug 2012
mass-market paperback
$7.99 US $8.99 CAN

28 Aug 2012

Class? Let me have your attention please, class.  We’re going to start today’s session with a quiz.  The topic is Chuck Wendig’s forthcoming novel, Mockingbird.  This will be multiple choice.  Mockingbird is a) relentless, b) creepy, c) compelling, d) surprising, e) likely to keep you up too late finishing it, f) all of the above.

No looking on your neighbor’s paper.  Please pass them to the aisle when you’re done.

Do I have all the papers?  Good.  The answer, of course, is f.

If you read Blackbird (reviewed here), then you know the basic premise.  Miriam Black has the ability to know the time and circumstances of a person’s death just by touching them. Wendig made the most of that premise in the first novel of the series, in which Miriam touches a man and learns that she will be present at his murder a month in the future.

When I had an opportunity to grab an eARC of the sequel, I jumped at it.  Mockingbird opens about a year later.  Miriam touches a woman in the grocery store and sees the woman will be gunned down in about five minutes.  So she acts to save the woman and launches a series of events that will totally change her world.

And that’s a rough paraphrase of the blurb Angry Robot has posted.  I’m loath to add too much to it, even though it really doesn’t tell you much.  I’ll say this.  Miriam finds herself in a situation in which she has to prevent a series of killings that are a few years in the future.  Beyond that, I don’t want to give too many details away.  Spoilers, ya know.

The story didn’t go where I expected it to.  I was surprised several times.  Wendig has come up with a killer that is at least as scary as Hannibal Lector.  There were scenes that were downright flawless in their creepiness.  I doubt I’ll ever look at crows the same way again.  We learn more about Miriam, and it’s kinda spooky, some of the stuff we learn.  Of course, Wendig only gives us so much.  He leaves plenty of questions and implications hanging, making us want more.

He also does a great job of balancing how many times Miriam uses her talents in the book.  Too little, and she’s not really special; too much, and it becomes blase.  Wendig has her use it just enough, and every time it heightens the suspense or gives us some important piece of information or moves the plot along.

The prose is lean and compelling.  I’ve stayed up way too late tonight finishing the book and writing this review.  It’s that good.

The publication date here in the US is still about six weeks away, which should give you plenty of time to put the book in your reading schedule and to read Blackbird if you haven’t yet.  (Points deducted if you haven’t.)  Angry Robot hasn’t posted an excerpt yet, or I would provide one.  I’ll just leave you with your assignment, class, which is to read this book.  It’s going to be one that people are talking about, and I expect to see at least one volume from this series on the award ballots next year.

Recommendations from the First Half of 2012

There have been a lot of lists posted or published, depending on the format, in the last few weeks, claiming to enumerate the best books/stories/graphic novels/dirty limericks/ransom notes/whathaveyou from the first half of 2102.  To which, I say, yeah, right.  Unless these lists were compiled by committee, no one person could have read enough novels to say their list is the best.  And if the list were put together by committee, well, we all know what too often comes out of committee.

Now I’m not saying those lists don’t have value, just the title “Best” is misleading.  So I’m going to call the list that follows simply my recommendations for the first half of 2012.

First, a couple of ground rules.  I’m going to limit myself to novels, and with one or two exceptions which were self-published, novels published in 2012.  I’m making an exception for the self-published novels because they sometimes need a little time to develop some momentum.  Anyone paying attention to the trade publishers should be aware of forthcoming novels.

I’m also going to take the coward’s way out and not try to rank them.  I started to, but quickly ran into the issue of trying to decide between two books I thoroughly loved but for entirely different reasons.  I could bite the bullet and give them rankings, but tomorrow I’d probably change my mind.  Instead the books will be listed alphabetically by title.

So here are my recommendations from the first half of 2012, along with an occasional cheeky synopsis.  If more than one book in a series came out in the first part of the year, I’ve only listed the first book.
Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig  This is short, dark, compulsively readable tale of a young woman who can see the death of any person she touches through the eyes of that person.  One day she touches a man and sees herself present at his death.  Review here.

Carpathia by Matt Forbeck  The Carpathia was the ship which rescued the survivors of the Titanic.  What if there were vampires onboard?  Review here.

Crazy Greta by David A. Hardy  I called this the book John Bunyan would have written if he had been dropping acid while writing The Pilgrim’s Progress.  I stand by that statement.  Review here.

Feyland by Anthea Sharp  An entertaining and well-written young adult novel about what happens when the immersive computer game becomes a little too real.  Review here

Giant Thief by David Tallerman  So this kleptomaniac steals this giant, see?  Then he gets roped into being the hero against this warlord.  The only problem is his sticky fingers keep getting him in trouble.  Review here.

Hunter and Fox by Philippa Ballantine  An emotionally wounded woman serves as a hunter for a tyrant in a world in which the landscape changes on a regular basis.  Review here.

The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp  Two thieves kill a demon while robbing a tomb.  Only the demon has powerful friends…A great adventure that reminded me of why I read sword and sorcery in the first place.  Review here.

Rise and Fall by Joshua P. Simon  An epic fantasy about duty, honor, family, and the ties that bind.  An impressive debut.  Review here.

Shadow Ops:  Control Point by Myke Cole  A world in which those with magical abilities are either drafted into covert military teams or exterminated and what happens when one man says, “Enough is enough.”  Review here.

Shadow’s Master by Jon Sprunk  The conclusion of a dark trilogy about a man who is heir to the shadows seeking to learn who he is.  Review here.

The Straits of Galahesh by Bradley P. Beaulieu Flying ships, astral projection, Machiavellian politics, an invading army, and a doomsday cult trying to bring about the end of the world.  In the midst of this, can two crazy kids find true love?  Review here.

Thief’s Covenant by Ari Marmell  Another YA, but with a dark edge.  Widdershins is a thief who has minor deity living in her head.  One of the most fun books I’ve read in a while in spite of the dark content.  Review here.

Blackbirds Coming Home to Roost

Chuck Wendig
Angry Robot Books
3 May 2012
320pp B-format paperback
£7.99 UK

24 April 2012
320pp mass-market paperback
$7.99 US $8.99 CAN

24 April 2012

This is a novel that will most likely appeal to fans of Joe R. Lansdale.  It’s a high octane ride through the dark recesses of humanity, a smashing blend of noir and the supernatural that combines the best of classic crime novels with downright genuine creepiness.

I absolutely loved it.  With one small exception.

That exception being the level of profanity, which is extremely high.  There comes a point above which I will put a book down if the profanity level reaches it simply because I’m trying to tune out the language to the point I can’t focus on the story.  This book passed that point, and not only did I keep reading, but I turned the pages as fast as I could.  I’m making an issue of this because I want you to understand how good the writing was to make me keep reading.  I can name on one hand the number of writers I will knowingly read who works contain that level of profanity.  Chuck Wendig is now numbered among them (as is the aforementioned Mr. Lansdale).

Part of the appeal is the voice Wendig uses to tell his story.  More on that in a bit.  In case you aren’t familiar with the plot, here’s a brief summary.  Miriam Black has a special ability, the ability to see how and when a person will die.  All it takes is a brief touch of skin on skin, a brushed elbow, a tap on the shoulder.  And it happens.  Completely involuntary.  As you can probably imagine, Miriam likes to wear layers.  Seeing all the ways people die can get to you after a while.  Miriam, like a blackbird, is a scavenger.  She uses her knowledge to be present when people die alone so she can go through their pockets for loose change.  And loose bills.  And loose credit cards.  And anything else that might be useful.

One night Miriam meets Louis, a long haul trucker who gives her a ride and gets her out of a tight situation.  When she shakes his hand, she learns that he’ll die a violent, painful death at the hands of someone else in one month.  And that she’ll be there to witness it.  So she tries to run.  In doing so, she meets Ashley.  What Miriam doesn’t know is that Ashley is a con man who knows there’s something unusual about Miriam, although he doesn’t know exactly what.  He just knows that he can use her in a scam, one which will eventually involve Louis, and so he’s been following her.  What Ashley doesn’t know is that there are people following him.

Bad people.  Very, very bad people.

The thing that made this book so refreshing to read was the voice Wendig used to tell it.  It’s by turns sardonic, funny, bleak, compelling.  And, yes, as I’ve already stated, profane.  It was only a few pages before I was caught up in the narrative, and then it was like literary crack.  I couldn’t get away from it.  Before it’s over, Miriam will have to face some things about herself, none of them pleasant, most of them consequences of the choices she’s made through the years.  All the chickens coming home to roost, although in this case they’re blackbirds.

And the humor.  I loved the humor.  It was gallows humor at its finest, subtle and dark and a perfect fit, from the chapter titles to the dialogue to the point of view.  The humor was needed as a counterpoint to all the times Miriam touched someone, or had someone touch her, and saw how they died.  There are a number of ways to die, most of them unpleasant.  Maybe it says something about me and my state of mental health, but I found this one of the most fascinating aspects of the book.

While this one may not be for everyone, it’s one of my favorites for the year.  Read the excerpt below and see what I mean. The book hits stores here in the states the day after tomorrow.

The sequel, Mockingbird, is due out at the end of August.  It’s going to be a long summer.


The Next Week or So

I’m getting over a sinus infection at the moment, something that isn’t helped by the dust and the wind here on the South Plains.  Unless something major happens tomorrow, I probably won’t be posting anything new until Sunday night or more probably Monday evening.  I’ll be attending ConDFW this weekend and will give a full report when I get back.  I’m also reading Mark Finn‘s updated biography of Robert E. Howard, Blood and Thunder, and Matt Forbeck‘s Carpathia.  They’re both great reads, and I’ll review them next week.  I had hoped to finish one of them in time to write a review before the con, but being sick has slowed me down some.

In the meantime, this Saturday will see the first guest post here.  Author Ty Johnston is doing a blog tour to promote his new book, Demon Chains, the latest in his Kron Darkbow series.  I’d like to thank Ty in advance for his column.  I’ve read it, and it’s good.  Check it out.  And if you haven’t read any of his books, start with City of Rogues, which I reviewed a few months ago.

Coming up after the report on ConDFW, I’ve got commitments to review (not necessarily in this order) Shadow’s Master by Jon SprunkThief’s Covenant by Ari Marmell, The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle, Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, Trang by Mary Sisson, and Rise and Fall by Joshua P. Simon.  I’ll probably look at some short fiction in the midst of all that, plus the occasional essay.