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.
It might take the reader a chapter or so to get used to the organization of presentation. Once fixed in the reader mind, it can still become confusing. Think of things in italics as tape transcripts. They are not really transcripts because these are the words Clay Jensen is hearing, but we have to present them in some way. Clay is listening to tapes and reacting primarily to his own thoughts and remembrances of what Hannah Baker is describing. Hannah is not around for questioning; she committed suicide. She had made tapes (7) with each tape side containing anecdotes of her relationships with one individual which led her to suicide. Seven tapes, 14 sides, but the last is a one-sided tape. (Check the title). Thirteen personal stories of individuals who had done something which led Hannah to her demise.
Carr is an ex-cop. Not because he wanted to be unemployed but because of the kid he had shot. To atone for this, he constantly seeks places out of public view to apply lit cigarettes to his foot. Other than that he is normal except for a weird sense of humor and acceptance of strange things that happen to him. The dead cat that was thrown through an office window was weird. That he would wander around the office stepping on broken glass for many days after shows the acceptance that Carr has for unexpected events.
Tommy Black and Eddie Creech were bad guys always seeking instant gratification throughout their dysfunctional lives. When they didn’t get it, they would remove the obstructions to their goal; if that block was human, they killed it. This did not go unnoticed by the law, after capture they were sentenced to life in prison. Immediately after sentencing, they were to be transferred to Big Sandy federal prison. Marshals Andy Rolfe and Bill Wallace were tasked with the transport; they wanted to get going immediately so they might arrive at the distant facility before a huge blizzard arrived. Due to a perfect storm type of scenario, snow and drifts would cut off various areas of Kentucky completely; all roads impassable, electrical lines down, no cell phone service. The road to the prison went through mountainous areas of a national forest.
Russ, Victor, Harley, and Slake, all ex-convicts, gather to begin work on changing the contents of Big Bertha, a gigantic billboard located in the middle of a field near a highway, but still in the middle of nowhere. As three men ascend to begin the task, Harley stays below with a vehicle and is eaten by a herd of virus-ridden pigs which seems to communicate by some sort of a telepathically transmitted plan that allows the ever increasing herd to act in unison towards a common goal. That goal is to kill, destroy, and eat the three remaining survivors.
Lucas, also known as Lou at some points in the story, is a true crime writer, although not a very successful one as his career has been dormant for years. Out of the blue he receives a letter from Jeffrey Halcomb, an inmate convicted of cult style killings almost 30 years previously. Jeffrey hasn’t talked to anyone about the gruesome killings but has read previous works by Lucas, liked them, and offers Lucas a deal. Move into my old house within a month and I will talk exclusively to you; Lucas might be famous again.
This is not a book about Genghis Khan, but about what happened after his death. The Mongols continued on a path to world domination, secure in the belief that the world would be a better place under Mongol rule. Usually perceived as an unruly bunch of barbarous criminals, this book relates a complex set of rules for all aspects of daily life. The Yasa (rules) prescribed what a person had to do if unfortunate enough to be in a room when a woman died. The same set of rules informed the Mongols of who could kill whom and under what conditions the killing could be done. These life and death decisions were based on tribal affiliation and direct or indirect bloodlines.