[Review] Chuck Wendig – Mockingbird

Chuck Wendig - Mockingbird book cover

Sometimes you get your hands on a book that pulls off a quick reversal. The more you keep reading, the more it feels like it’s got you pinned down. Chuck Wendig’s Mockingbird is one of those books. It hooks you, drags you through the night. Leaves you behind smelling vaguely of ink and covered in papercuts.

Miriam Black is a troubled, foul-mouthed, possibly insane woman in her early 20s. She lives with a guy who’s live she either saved or ruined, the judges are still out on that one, in a trailer park as she tries to turn her life around. Does her best to keep down a shitty job in a supermarket, trying to make this new life work. She also has the power to see how anyone she touches dies. A power she considers a curse and doesn’t want to think about, which brought her to this new life away from that.

Before I get any deeper into my review of Mockingbird, I think now’s a good time to say I didn’t read the book that came before it, Blackbirds. It’s something that’s been on my to-read list for a long time. If my local bookstore had it in stock instead of this one, that’s where I would have started. Instead, I started off with the second book starring Miriam Black: Mockingbird. Luckily, Wendig explains back story whenever relevant without slowing the pacing down. If you haven’t read the first book, you shouldn’t have a problem getting in into this one.

Miriam’s character is a good example of how to go the dark route and write emotionally damaged characters. There’s a lot going on with her during the book, and her mental state is pretty much all over the place as she tries to figure out what to make of her power and her life so far. Both for completely justifiable reasons having to do with her past, which thank fuck dares to swerve away from clichés, as well as the effects from her powers. Not just the trauma of constantly seeing how and when everyone dies, but also the extra ways her powers communicate with her at times. It gets freaky, but never quite ridiculous or stupid. A fine line that is walked incredibly well.

Speaking of freaky, I haven’t seen too many books go back and forth between past and present tense quite like Mockingbird before. Although I found it confusing at first, it made the narrative whole feel a lot more pressing. Shame it’s an effect that’s often underused in writing, it’s incredibly dynamic and gives just that extra bit of edge to the narrative.

Only one thing made me trip over the book. The editing. I can excuse it in an self-published e-book, but in print it sticks out even more. Maybe it’s the feel of permanency to a physical product over a digital one, I don’t know. Often enough, half-removed sentences pop up after the part that replaced them. Regular sentences are marked with quotation marks as if they’re dialogue. Random quotation marks pop up next to words, not really part of anything else. Loose words in between sentences that have nothing to do with the rest of the work. The further into the book, the more frequent these problems seem to get.

It feels a bit sloppy, which is a shame considering the strength of the rest of the book. Seriously, I’d drop most books over these kind of errors in this quantity, if it wasn’t for the absolute strength of the story and writing from Wendig outside of these editorial errors and oversights. Hopefully later editions take care of this.

Mockingbird is a fantastic piece of dark urban fantasy, managing to stand out in an incredibly crowded genre. Chuck Wendig’s got himself a strong case with Miriam Black. I honestly can’t wait to see more of her.

Pros

  • Miriam Black
  • Mixing of past and present tense
  • Incredible sense of humor

Cons

  • Editing feels sloppy
  • Last few chapters after the big climax felt a bit tacked on
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