Tag Archives: Chuck Wendig

Be Careful When You Play Dangerous Games

Dangerous-Games-Jonathan-Oliver-smallDangerous Games
Johnathan Oliver, ed.
Solaris Books
Paper $9.99
electronic $7.99 Kindle Nook Kobo

Solaris has become one of the premiere publishers of original anthologies, and I would like to thank Lydia Gittins at Solaris for the review copy. Dangerous Games is a concept anthology that overall I found quite satisfying.

The premise (obviously) is that some sort of game must play a significant role in the story, and that there’s an element of risk involved.  With a theme like that, possibilities are wide open.  And while there are examples of science fiction and fantasy, the overall trend is towards horror, often with elements of other genres thrown in.

Here are some of the ones I like the most: Continue reading

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

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.

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.