Blackbirds is a Chuck Wendig book. It should probably come with a warning. Strong language, weird sexual language, and situations which will offend everyone at some point or the other. Despite that, books as fast paced as this are why the audiobook format is a great medium. Wendig’s books are so fast paced a reader can miss some really great, subtle stuff. A reader can’t miss points with an audiobook. The reader is automatically paced by the narrator, especially when the narrator is as good as Emily Beresford. You can’t get ahead of the narrator; you can cheat and rewind when you realize you have heard a clever phrase and want to reconsider it. With a print or eBook, successive good points don’t release their grip and the reader can miss great turns of phrase.
This is my first ever review of an audiobook. I will begin with my impressions of Blackbirds followed by some observations on audiobooks in general. Some spellings of names are what I heard; the name spellings in the print copy of the book may be different.
Miriam is the first scary lady the reader encounters in Blackbirds. If you shake hands with her she will be able to tell you how and when you will die. Any skin to skin contact will transmit this information to her. This is extremely distracting when walking through a crowd and being jostled by passersby. Miriam is not evil, although the reader will not believe that by the way she expresses herself. She is not only profane, vulgar, and slutty in speech, she is creatively so. However, if we can get past that, we can see that she is extremely distressed when she can’t save the life of the nine-year-old boy with a red balloon. Miriam believes that if she knows how and when someone will die, she may be able to prevent it.
But Miriam is also a realist. If she knows when someone will die and she is present at the death, there might be some advantages for her. Cash in wallets of the deceased, credit cards, jewelry; all of these things help solve Miriam’s problems with employment and income production. Things do not go smoothly, Ashley meets Miriam in a bar, seemingly by chance. There is a seduction and Ashly reveals that he has been stalking her. He knows of her abilities and wants to team up with her to identify future targets for robbery and burglary. To say Ashley brings baggage to the partnership is an understatement. He has a briefcase full of “crystal meth” which he keeps nearby in hopes of an opportunity for sale. And he might use a little every now and then. But Ashley stole the drugs and is being pursued by unhappy previous owners. Frankie just follows orders; he will shoot anyone. But he is straightforward about it. His partner Harriet is in it for the thrill of the torture and gets upset when Frankie kills the object of sport too soon. Their boss, Ingersoll, likes torture also but sees a spiritual side to it that involves voodoo.
Wendig writes of the differing agenda of all characters in this race to a happy ending for all. Ashley wants to enrich himself and escape his pursuers. Each pursuer has a different motive during the chase; usually one that dictates which type of torture will be used on anyone delaying them. Miriam, the one who is pure of heart but foul of mouth, wants to save the life of Louis. She has seen him die in a dream, but the dream was different from all others before and she wants to take another shot at defeating the inevitability of a kind of death determined by her dreams.
I liked the book. I liked all the Chuck Wendig books I have read. I have them in a password protected file. My children should not read these books. I hope they have not already done so.
Thoughts on audiobooks in general and this selection in particular.
Audiobooks have their particular appeal for many people. I do not agree with those who think you can listen to audiobooks while multitasking. For me, that means your task does not deserve your full attention OR that the work you are listening to is not particularly worth your attention. The latter is a disservice to the work’s creator. Background music can be good. Listening to something you have heard before, something you are reviewing, or something you are listening to that has specific content you are looking for, OK. But in general, if you are listening to an audiobook; it demands the same attention as reading printed matter, whether that is a print book or an eBook. I do not believe one should choose an audiobook solely for the reason of saving time.
References to a chapter are to those chapters noted in my Audible.com download. If you listen to the book from another publisher, or even from Audible, you will notice the narrator announce “8” or “Chapter 8” but it will be Audible track “11.”