Wednesday, 15 January 2014

‘The Cormorant’ – Chuck Wendig (Angry Robot)

I’ve still got a little way to go before I’ve read everything that Chuck Wendig has ever written but if he has written a bad book, I haven’t read it yet. I don’t think I will either; Wendig’s ability to strip humanity down to its most raw state (and then wrap that up in a compelling plot) seems to neatly sidestep the possibility of him ever writing a bad book. And long may that continue as far as I’m concerned, I love having authors that I can rely on (and trust) to take me away from the commute and give me a good read.
‘The Miriam Black’ books are, for me, the best thing that Wendig is writing at the moment. This is for a whole load of reasons that I’ve already written about on my old blog and will proceed to revisit here. That’s right, I’ve spent the last couple of days getting really quite annoyed when my train journeys came to an end and I had to put ‘The Cormorant’ down to interact with the real world. Today I just didn’t bother interacting; reading the book as I walked along just so I could finish the last few pages before I got into work.
If you’re new to these books, and are thinking about giving them a go, you need to go off and read ‘Blackbirds’ and ‘Mockingbird’ before you pick up ‘The Cormorant’. Don’t worry, they’re both excellent books and this review will still be here when you get back.
For everyone else, here goes…

Miriam is on the road again, having transitioned from "thief" - to "killer". Hired by a wealthy businessman, she heads down to Florida to practice the one thing she's good at, but in her vision she sees him die by another's hand and on the wall written in blood is a message just for Miriam. She's expected… Now Miriam must find out who is stalking her from the future before they kill again.

My immediate urge here is to just go on at length about how great this book was. And it was, I absolutely loved the hell out of ‘The Cormorant’ and the thought of another Miriam Black novel to come (‘Thunderbird’) has left me all impatient and wishing that the publication date would just hurry up and get here. There is a lot in ‘The Cormorant’ that a reader can really get their teeth into but, for me, it felt that it was all over far too quickly. That’s the mark of a great entertainer although you would be hard pressed to call the subject matter ‘entertaining’; lets just say that it is ‘thoroughly compelling’ and leave it at that.

Chuck Wendig’s America is a dark place where messed up people tread lonely paths and death is everywhere you turn. Well, it is if you’re Miriam Black; that’s kind of the whole point of the series really. Miriam is as spiky and in your face as ever but there’s a real sense now that she is moving on, from previous books, and trying to make her ‘talent’ either work for her or, at the very least, be something that she can just about live with. It’s really sad then that, despite her intentions, the way Miriam protects herself means that she will never find the place that she wants in her world. Or maybe she has already found it but doesn’t want to admit it just yet. There’s at least one more book to go before we can see those answers but in the meantime, it was good for me (as a reader) to spend time with a character who wants to move forwards rather than have Wendig just be content to have Miriam stay as she is and live off that ‘one trick’.
It’s even more sad then to see Miriam want to move forwards but spend most of this book trapped by faces from her past. There is some kind of redemption to be found but Miriam must also face up to her past mistakes and settle them once and for all. Wendig does a lot of good things here by the way, not least opening up the possibility of a world where Miriam’s power isn’t as unique as she thinks it is. Others have come into something similar through similar trauma, there’s a world opening up here and the background just got a little more interesting. Wendig also poses questions that make the plot one that absolutely has to be followed. How can Miriam track down her stalker from the future and, once she does, how can she kill someone who knows her every move before she does? I’m trying hard not to give away the villain’s identity here but it is worth sticking around for, as is the resolution.

And just how much death is in this book? People dying and people who are going to die one day (which is everyone else). All those grimdark and epic fantasy writers who think they have a high body count should visit Mr Wendig for a lesson in how to really do it. Once again, Wendig appeals to the dark bit in all of us that likes to know how everyone else dies (whilst secretly feeling glad that we don’t know the details of our own demise). It’s the ultimate form of gossip isn’t it? Especially when the person concerned doesn’t know how they’re going to go… You feel a bit bad for reading these moments but it’s another connection to Miriam and a way to empathise with her situation; Wendig has all the bases covered and the result is a book that you can’t put down until it’s done.

‘The Cormorant’ is another superb addition to the Miriam Black series and promises amazing things for the next book to come; you can’t ask for anything more than that really. Fans of the series will love it, newcomers have a bit of a treat in store.

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