Mockingbird (published by Angry Robot Books) is the sequel to Chuck Wendig’s excellent Blackbirds and if anything, this is even better than the first book. Given that Blackbirds was one of the best horror/urban fantasy books I’ve ever read that’s really saying something.
A lot of it is down to its anti-hero protagonist Miriam Black. I don’t use the term anti-hero lightly. Miriam is not a nice person. She’s a street fighting, hard drinking, self centered maelstrom of chaos that runs rough shod over just about everyone she meets. Yet, Miriam is also strong, caring and insightful and it is very hard not to like her…
Especially when you take into account her peculiar skill set.
The thing is, Miriam knows how you’re going to die. She knows everything about your final moments; whether you’re destined to get hit by a bus next Tuesday or you’re going to die of wolves twenty years from now during an elaborate role playing session, Miriam knows, all she has to do is touch you.
The problem is not just that she can see you die, no that would be too easy, it’s that she might just be able to save you as long as she can find someone else to die in your place.
While Miriam is undoubtedly the star of Mockingbird the side characters feel very real to the story. Louis, Miriam’s hulking one eyed truck driving love interest in particular feels like someone you might meet at truck stop. He actually reminds me a little of Captain Carrot from the Discworld series, in that Louis is the series’ moral compass.
Mockingbird also manages something fairly rare, in that it is both very funny and truly horrific. It’s been a long time since I’ve been disturbed by something I’ve read but the main death vision in Mockingbird made me put the book down for a second to consider just how awful that vision was. It was a great, visceral reaction to a superbly written scene and one I don’t get often.
As good as Wendig has always been, this is a jump forward in his writing. His action descriptions are top notch, especially the hand to hand combat. His characters, plot and set up are all jostling with each other to be the best part of the book but in the end it’s the voice that kept sparking the ‘dang this is great’ thoughts in my head.
The only real downside to Mockingbird is that it is incredibly violent. That’s not necessarily a downside for everyone, if you like horror novels then you’ll be fine but it is worth being aware that Wendig handles the horror side of Mockingbird so well that it hits a lot harder than such scenes normally do.
You can read Mockingbird without having read Blackbirds first, but you’ll enjoy it more with the extra background that the first Miriam Black book will give you. So if you can, pick up both. I just hope there’s another one coming soon, because the world that Wendig has built is so interesting that I can’t wait to visit again so I can learn more about the very strange game Miriam is playing against fate.
All in all I can’t recommend Mockingbird enough. It’s a fresh voice in the often overloaded urban fantasy market with a memorable protagonist and a universe that manages to be both unique and just one step away from the real world we live in.