by Chuck Wendig
Miriam Black knows when you’re going to die. With but a touch, she knows when you will meet the Reaper. She knows the circumstances surrounding your death. She knows the exact cause.
You can bet that kind of knowledge is hard to take. Miriam wanders the highways of the United States, hitchhiking wherever. When she finds someone about to die, she waits around to pickpocket the corpse. She’s a vulture. She hates it, but then again, that’s fate. She knows better than to tamper with fate. You can’t change anything, anyway.
Until she meets the trucker. When she touches him, she discovers that he dies in less than a month with her name on his lips. She causes his death in some way. Not just witnessing it. She causes it. And now she needs to learn to change fate… or else her time will be up, too.
The blurb on the front cover advertises “Trailer-park tension, horrified hilarity, and sheer terror mixed with deft characterization and razor plotting.” I have to agree with this assessment.
I’m not much on horror. I’ve seen the first two of the Saw films and didn’t think that highly of them. Just not my thing. And this really is bloody horror. There’s a lot of gore in this book. After all, it’s all about death, and Wendig doesn’t try to make death pretty. He shows all the horror that the end of life brings. I’ll admit: it’s not my thing, but I couldn’t stop reading. The prose is magnetic, drawing the attention. I had to know what happened next. Every sentence flowed into the next in a horrific domino pattern, and I had to see how the pieces would fall.
Miriam Black is a terribly flawed protagonist. She smokes. She needs alcohol. Her mouth would put a sailor to shame. Wendig presents this broken woman, flaws and all. She’s seen so many deaths that she’s thoroughly messed up. She’s convinced herself she can’t do anything about it. I wasn’t terribly pleased with the vocabulary chosen, but it all is perfectly in character. Given what Miriam’s lived through, it makes sense that she just throws verbal vomit over everything she encounters.
Wendig does use explicit language to hilarious effect in the chapter titles, though. Usually when an author titles his chapters, they serve as little book titles. Many of these chapter titles are black humor, and I actually laughed out loud at some of them. Well done, Wendig.
Miriam isn’t the only fascinating character. Wendig has populated his world with broken personalities. Louis, the truck driver that is drawn into Miriam’s life, makes an instant positive impression. The antagonists drip evil. Even the incidental characters each breathe as if they had real lives. Every time Miriam touches a person, the reader is treated to what she sees. Wendig has spread around the types of death, so the reader never has the chance to get bored.
I mentioned before that horror, particularly gory horror, usually isn’t my thing. Let me tell you how arresting this novel was: I’m reading the second book of the duology next. Horror is still not my thing, nor will it ever be, but for Miriam Black I think I have to make an exception.