The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig – Review

TheCormorant-700pxwideThe Cormorant by Chuck Wendig

Published by Angry Robot Books

The Cormorant is the third book in Wendig’s series following the adventures of Miriam Black. Miriam is hard-talking, asskicking heroine with some serious social issues born of her ability to see how people are going to die just by making skin to skin contact with them. Her “gift” has brought her more trouble than joy and things are not getting any easier in this third instalment.

Here’s the blurb:

Miriam Black knows how you’re going to die.

All it takes is a touch — a little skin-to-skin action.

Now someone — some rich asshole from Florida — wants to pay her so he can find out how he’s going to die. But when she touches him, she receives a message sent back through time and written in blood: HELLO, MIRIAM. It’s a taunt, a warning, and the start of a dangerous and deadly game for everybody’s favorite carcinogenic psychic, Miriam Black.

So can you imagine driving a sweet 70s muscle car at high speed through an urban area? Not some sleek sports car, but a heavy, gas-guzzling muscle car that has power up the yin yang but handling it is like wrestling a bear. Imagine the feeling of tearing through shopping malls and along beaches and across busy intersections in that car (maybe a Trans Am Firebird or a Mustang convertible) the wind tearing your hair back off your head, people screaming, knuckles white on the wheel of a ride you can’t get off, but that’s okay because you’re loving the shit out of every second of it. That’s this book. It’s a good description of the writing style, the plot and the crazy protagonist herself.

I’ve reviewed the first two books already (Blackbirds here and Mockingbird here) and I really enjoyed those. But with Cormorant, Wendig has cranked the dial up to 11. His voice as a writer here is more assured and tight than ever. It’s written in third person present tense, which means it’s visceral and relentless when done right. It’s hard to do right, but Wendig pulls it off with style.

The plot is deceptively simple, but with enough twists and turns and subtle complexities to keep it riveting. The chapters are small, addictive little bastards that keep you up at night. Just one more. Oh, just one more. Oh, damn you, Wendig!

I’m gushing a bit here, but that’s because this is a bloody great book. I’m already a fan of Miriam Black and in this instalment we see more of her kickass power, but also a lot more of her vulnerabilities and weaknesses, which is refreshing. We get to see more of how her power is as much a curse as a gift. We see the effect of her abilities and her past actions spiralling away in the lives of so many other people. And it also sets up some very interesting possibilities for book 4. I really hope there’s a book 4.

This is a great example of crime cross-genreing with horror, urban fantasy and action. If you haven’t read Blackbirds and Mockingbird yet, I would not recommend going straight in with The Cormorant. You’ll miss out on a lot. But I do highly recommend reading them all, as each book is better than the last. Wendig has knocked it out of the park with this one. And by “park”, I mean the hot, sweaty land wang of Miami and by “knocked it” I mean cracked skulls clean off with severed limbs, all the while snarking about it with artful dialog. Get yourself some Miriam Black. You won’t be disappointed.


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About Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He is the author of the dark urban fantasy trilogy, Bound, Obsidian and Abduction (The Alex Caine Series) published by HarperVoyager Australia, and the dark urban fantasy duology, RealmShift and MageSign (The Balance 1 and 2) from Gryphonwood Press. He co-authored the short horror novel, Dark Rite, with David Wood. Alan also writes short fiction with more than 50 stories published in a variety of journals and anthologies in Australia, the US, the UK and France. His short fiction has appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction (forthcoming), Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Postscripts, and Midnight Echo, among many others, and more than twenty anthologies, including the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror (2010 and 2012). Alan also writes narrative arcs and dialogue for videogames and wrote the popular writer’s resource, Write The Fight Right, a short ebook about writing convincing fight scenes. He has twice been a finalist in the Ditmar Awards.

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