It takes a certain type of person to have the power of psychometry, the ability to touch and object and know its past or future. You have to be a noble soul, with strong morals and urge to always help. You have to be a heroic person willing to fight just so you can change the bad to good, willing to sacrifice everything to help another, for if you do not then your power is wasted.
Psychics are all alike.
Miriam Black is nothing like those psychics.
In Chuch Wendig’s novel Blackbird, Miriam Black is a nomadic woman traveling across the country touching people and seeing their deaths. She’s foreseen car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides, she knows every last detail of the death including time and place. She may not see you life but if Miriam Black touches you, she’ll know how it ends.
In this book , the first of a proposed trilogy, Wendig tells us the story of Black’s life and how it get turns upside-down when she meets two mysterious men. The first is a man with a mysterious suitcase, an opportunistic drifter looking to profit from people’s death and the second is when she touches a kind-hearted truck driver and sees his death, but just before he dies he cries out her name.
The book is a thrilling, dark adventure that doesn’t have those usual glimmers of happiness or hope. There is no home for Johnny to go to, no family for Allison DuBois, or a class of students for Ralph Hanley to teach. The only moments of happiness Miriam really has is when that random guy she chooses to knock boots with tonight proves he’s actually good at getting her off. It is a dark and brooding book to begin with and as the story builds so does the terribleness of her life.
The true value of this book is its main character. In most ‘psychic detective’ stories our protagonist are like I mentioned above. They are good people and they are heroes. Miriam is not. She is a flawed character. She is a broken husk that drinks, smoke, sleeps around and curses. What really drew her to me was how much alike she was to people I actually know. Miriam is that punk girl who dies her hair outlandish colours every couple of weeks, dives headfirst into the deepest depravities she knows how all while fighting against her feminine side. This results in a hard-fighting, brute of a woman’s exterior with a very fragile shell beneath.
This makes for a very different type of ‘psychic’ book. We don’t have our shining beacon of hope like Johnny Smith. We don’t have the carefree soul of Chuck Bartowski and we don’t have the heroism of Ralph Hanley. We have a protagonist who hates her gift and wishes them gone. We have someone not looking to do well or change the world; instead we have someone who is more akin to a convict in a prison. “I’m just doing my time and not causing any waves.”
Another highly noteworthy aspect is the chilling introduction of the evil Harriet. The henchmen we all love to hate. Her job, as good henchmen, is to hurt our hero, and she does it well. This all culminates in a horrific torture scene. Through Wendig writing we wince at every blow and feel every ounce of pain. Not since Fleming’s Casino Royale have I witness a torture scene so visceral and brutal. I am not a fan of torture in books, not because of the principle but because I never find it carries over well enough. I often find the details to lacking, to the point I wonder the need to even put it in, or to overwhelming, where it just becomes humorous. There is fine line when writing a torture scene and Wendig seems to be riding it perfectly.
This book straddles the ‘psychic’ genera perfectly, embracing those that came before it, like Stephen King, while building something new for itself. This book is a wonderful read and an exciting story.