Review- “Blackbirds” by Chuck Wendig

12 Mar

So, I made a post a while back about doing at least one book a month starting… er, I think it was early February.  Anyway, I am just a smidge late.  Not due to lack of reading, quite the contrary, but due to the lack of reading books.  I have torn through a lot of short stories, rules for games, and *ack* technical documents that are dry enough to cause my bottom sphincter to pucker like some kind of weird puckering-fish-thing from the bowels of the ocean… or something like that.  Anyway (for the second time), I HAVE STARTED AND FINISHED A BOOK!!!

The Book:  “Blackbirds”

The Author:  Chuck WendigTerrible Minds


“I’d also like to stop being able to see how people are going to bite it. Oh, and a pony. I definitely want a goddamn pony.”  Miriam Black

Summary:  Wow!  This book once it has it’s black talons in you will not let you go.  Miriam Black, the wonderfully self-destructive and deliciously broken protagonist, is amazing.  I don’t think I have seen (or at times, literally felt) a character ever go through this much pain and suffering.  Really, I cringed at times.

So, what did I like about it?  I’ll start with the style.  Mr. Wendig has a way with writing that uses fragments and structure combined in such a way that he matches the way a person thinks (notice, I didn’t say “what” a person thinks).  I found that I could easily slip into the book and zip right on through it.  I don’t do that very often, and I can’t remember the last time it was this easy.  I would nail down twenty or thirty pages and not even realize it.

Everything about this book is visceral.  From the descriptions of violence to the gentle touch of a hand, you can feel it.  Also, the pain you are feeling seems to be equally laid out as physical, emotional, and psychic.  For every physical right, there is an emotional left, followed up by a nasty psychic jab.  You will get feel it.  You will find yourself holding your breath.

Now, that isn’t to say that the entire book is about pain… it isn’t.  Or, rather it is, but it isn’t just scenes of pain being inflicted for pains sake.  Even concerning characters where that would be a tempting thing to say, it isn’t true.  There is a reason behind why everyone is doing what they are doing.  Every character has a reason for why they do what they do; for why they want to cause pain in other people.  Or live on the pain of others.  I am rambling now, so let me bring this back around.

Reading what I just wrote makes me sound like I love pain.  In real life, I don’t.  I’m a sissy-girl-whiner-baby when I get a splinter.  But, in stories I love it!  It’s the driving factor for everything.  People don’t go after the person they love because they feel good, they do it so they don’t hurt (or get hurt).  Most things in life are done to avoid pain.  Only, Miriam doesn’t see that to start with.  She is hauling ass, balls to the wall, pedal to the metal running down that highway of pain trying to feed off of it in hopes of drowning out her misery.  She wants pain, and lots of it.  And that is what sets this up to be a great transformation story.  Not just for Miriam, but the other characters as well.  Granted, a fair share of the transformations for other characters were rather terminal in nature, they were still transforming.

So, to mainly stop my rambling, go read the book.  Check out some free associations I did while reading.  Maybe those will give my rambling some de-muddling (or not).

Character I most wanted to see her matched up with:  Spider Jerusalem

Cigarettes she smokes:  Lucky Strikes, non-filtered

Outstanding question:  Where the fuck did she get a hand grenade?

Actress I kept picturing:  Fiona O’Shaughnessy (her role in Utopia was amazing and I was watching it as I was reading this, so double the violence, double the fun, as they say)

One last thought not about the book, but about the author and his writings:  Chuck Wendig practices what he preaches.  If you read his various posts and books about writing, you will see that he follows those same rules in this book.  If you haven’t read them, do so.  They are great ways to break out of a slump, not to mention highly entertaining.

Utopia: The best description I can give is if Warren Ellis and Robert Anton Wilson had a love child…

28 Jan

Wow…  That’s all I can say about episode two of “Utopia.”  This is one of the most interesting shows on TV right now (glad one of the two I liked got picked up.  I still hope “Borealis” finds a home).  

If you haven’t seen “Utopia,” find a way to watch it.  The best description I can give is if Warren Ellis and Robert Anton Wilson had a love child that learned to broadcast itself via digital media as to better prey on paranoia.

Really, it’s worth the watch… 

Word Magic

21 Jan

Is it just me or does it seem that words have been losing their magic in recent years? Old words like “awesome” or “wicked” seem to have knocked down a notch and become nothing more than ghosts of their former selves.  They have been relegated to the back burner or cast aside like gods of old, no longer as important as they once were.  Other letter combinations have taken their place.  Things like “YOLO,” “SMH,” and “LOL” have pushed the old gods aside as people in this busy age of trying to be everywhere at once and hurrying up so you can wait have embraced the acronym so they can say more words with less meaning faster.  Yes, I am guilty of this as well, but they say that recognition and acceptance are the first steps to recovery.  We have a beautiful language, why do we have to ruin it for the sake of expediency.  My phone now auto corrects “as soon as possible” when I type it out to “ASAP.”  That is not what I wanted to say.  I typed what I wanted to say yet my phone believed I needed to save a few pixels on the screen and bits in the aether.  Even that spelling of “aether” isn’t recognized as it once was.  No, now my computer tried to “correct” an old god to form the word “antler.” The magic words had is disappearing.  It seems that every time one is used improperly, a bit of it dies somewhere until people are using it like the use the word “decimate” when they see a building dropped to the ground.  Most don’t realize that it only means to be reduced by one tenth.  I miss magic some words use to have.  I think I will try to bring it back, even if it is just for me. 

“Utopia” – Dark conspiracy from across the pond

18 Jan

So, stumbled across another gem, much like I did with “Borealis.”  Only, instead of this one coming from our dear neighbors to the north, this one came out of our friends across the pond.  You know, the UK?  If you are looking for a dark, engaging conspiracy show that will have you guessing, speculating, gritting your teeth, and maybe even squirming in your seat a bit, watch “Utopia.”  Having aired on Channel 4 in the UK the 15th of January, this show has already been put out there via blogs, Twitter (#Utopia), and the Channel 4 site.  If you aren’t in the UK, there are various ways of finding it for viewing and I will leave it up to you savvy internet users to determine the right course for yourselves.  utopia

At first, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  It looked like someone had a comic book, er, sorry, “graphic novel” that showed a conspiracy and some people were willing to kill to get it back.  And really, that’s what it’s about in its most base sense.  That’s kinda like saying that “King Kong” is about a giant gorilla that climbs a building.  It sums it up in the most uninteresting way.

So, a summary with no spoilers:  A small group of people come together over a graphic novel with a mysterious and disturbing origin that somehow ended up being published despite the fact that a powerful group involved with government and big pharma who are now trying to get it back by killing anyone who has had even the most remote connection to it.  Yea, that almost sums it up.  There are two bits left out that make the story even better, but if the previous description doesn’t entice you, then the omitted bits won’t make much of a difference.  They are like the vodka added to the orange juice.  They don’t make it, they make it better.

The acting was good and the characters were engaging.  The story is well conceived and you don’t bother asking questions like “why don’t they go to the cops?” or “why don’t they just get online and find out… stuff.”  You pretty much know that from the get-go, these folks are fucked.  The real question is how are they going to survive?  It almost feels like they are going to be crushed and that the villainous group will have to do something stupid to screw up killing them, whereby ruining the idea of a globally spanning supergroup with a large discretionary fund and killers who smoke and eat raisins at their disposal.  So far, the writing is smart and story is engaging so I am hoping that they won’t fall into this scenario.

Check out the odd Youtube Trailer.  I’m not entirely certain of the extreme use of yellow, but I am wondering if it will have some meaning later in the series.

So, go find it and watch it.  Leave some comments below if’n you like.

Not the whole cast, but the ones with the most screen time.  I must say, Lee was one of my favorites.  You will probably find that odd, but it was just the way he played the role.

  • Wilson Wilson – Adeel Ahktar
  • Becky – Alexandra Roach
  • Ian – Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
  • Grant – Oliver Woollford
  • Lee – Paul Ready
  • Arby – Neil Maskell

Books for the New Year

17 Jan

I know, it’s a bit late and to some, maybe a bit bare.  But for me, one book a month isn’t bad, in fact, it’s quite good. I usually have multiple books going at one time and finish them haphazardly.  Unless it’s Jim Butcher, then I gorge myself on the literary goodness letting the words drip down my face and come up for air only when someone hits me or offers me cookies.  My goal is to start one at the beginning of February and work my way through the list.  Doesn’t mean I am starting at the top, just depends on what the pocket book allows that money.  I have one to start out February with already, and that is “Empire State.”  Picked it up on Amazon for the Kindle and have it ready to go.  So, the goal is to read’em, reveiw’em, and rack’em (as in put on the shelf and read again at a later time).

So, here’s the list:

  • Throne of the Crescent Moon – Saladin Ahmed
  • Blackbirds – Chuck Wendig
  • Tarnished – Karina Cooper
  • Red Shirts – Jon Scalzi
  • NOS4A2 – Joe Hill
  • Gun Machine - Warren Ellis
  • 14 – Peter Clines
  • Nocturnal – Scott Sigler
  • The Dirty Streets of Heaven - Tad Williams
  • Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
  • Empire State – Adam Christopher

Have any recommendations.  Leave a comment.  Have a personal review of any of the above?  Leave a comment.  Like baked beans?  Leave a comment.

Until next time…

Update – “Borealis” Campaign for Series

15 Jan


Looks like Ty Olsson has provided the email for the Space Channel and is trying to get fans to email the network letting them know how much they enjoyed the show and want to see it continue.  So, give it a go. Email them at:

Let’s help keep this frontier town open and find out more about the League of Nations, Ian and his corporate sponsors (why is he really there?), why Vic chose to open the place, and what’s up with those really kickass zeppelins!


“Borealis” – It actually filled my “Firefly” hole

14 Jan



I know, bold statement.  I’m sure there are more than a few out there who’ll read that and tell me I’m nuts.  I don’t think I am, though.  Well, at least concerning this.  I had my typical feelings of “oh, I’ll check this out.  I don’t have anything else to watch right now.”  I hadn’t even heard about it.  So, I Googled it the bounced over the IMDB and saw that I recognized some of the actors.  Then thought “well, I don’t have anything to lose.”  Little did I know, I was about to gain something new.  Something potentially awesome!

Here is what I kept seeing about the show:

“Borealis is set approximately 30 years in the future and focuses on a Deadwood-like frontier town situated in the high Arctic. The proposed follow-up series would ‘explore the political, environmental and social impact of a world in which the polar icecaps have melted and countries are vying for the last vestiges of oil in the Arctic.’

Season 1 , Episode 1 – “Pilot”
The pilot is set in 2045 in the Arctic. The polar ice caps have melted, and it is a matter of dispute who will control the region’s oil and gas reserves, the last on earth. There is something of a “Deadwood in the future” vibe to it. Frankly, it seemed a little too smart for something that Space might have initially hoped would have popular appeal, which may be why Space decided not to make a series.”  Courtesy of various and assorted pages who seem to have all pulled it from someplace I can’t quite find, but I didn’t write it.

Immediately, I liked the characters.  Vic, played by Ty Olsson, is great as the frontier bar and hotel owner/customs agent/brawler.  He has the chops for acting, can pull off the humorous dialogue well, and has the size to be more than a bit formidable looking.  You can tell early on in the show that despite his want to make a buck and protect what he has built, he has started feeling a bit protective of those around him.  Not in an obvious and immediate change, but small looks and actions.

Then there is Taq, played by Patrick Gallagher.  I don’t know what to say about him other than “hilarious.”  He was definitely the humor in the show, but also a grounding character that supported Vic and helped make him who he was.  From what little you get to see in the show, it seems the Vic is made more complete by having Taq around him.  Without knowing more, it almost seems like Taq could just up and leave the town one day and be just fine.  No one else in the show seems like they could do that.

Michelle Harrison plays Alison Fremont, the strong environmentalist that is needed to show the complete picture what is occurring in the north at the time the show is set.  She is a head strong and determined woman who doesn’t care what she is up against, which I see ultimately being what gets her in trouble the most.  One thing I really loved about this character was that she didn’t threaten people, she acted.  When he actually shoots a Russian with a tranq dart, I almost lost it.  Most shows would have stopped the character and let the insult ride, only for her character to take the high road later.  Not this show.

Now, my title to this post is true to a point.  While it didn’t completely fill my Firefly hole, it came real close.  Closer than anything has come since Firefly.  It has a dirty, gritty feel to it.  It has characters that are all selfish in some way, but find ways to work and live with one another.  It even has enough mystery left in the first episode concerning characters that don’t have the spotlight for me to immediately want more.  It was very reminiscent of Firefly in mood and character, and I really liked it for that, but it had enough of its own chutzpah and mystery for it to stand on its own to legs and proudly claim “I am here, watch me!.”  Now, if only the folks at various networks would see it that way.  All in all, go check it out now!

The link is below and they are keeping count!

Watch it here:  Borealis – Space Channel


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