The first time Miriam Black touches you, she can see how/when/where you’re going to die. (The death scenes delivered to the reader usually have an ironic or morbidly slapstick component, kinda like the pre-credit sequences of Six Feet Under; seems Miriam rarely touches people who slip away uneventfully.) When we meet Miriam she’s given up trying to change the deaths she sees (after unsuccessful and traumatic attempts to buck fate) and she’s eking out a sort of living by recording death times and places in a book, and showing up to pick the pockets of the extremely recently deceased. The first novel gets cracking when she touches a guy who, in his death scene, looks over the shoulder of the death coming for him, and says Miriam’s name. And despite herself, Miriam finds herself trying to change the future one more time.
Wendig is tough on his characters, protagonists and antagonists alike, in a way that reminded me of how Charlie Huston is tough on his characters. I knew that there were multiple novels featuring Miriam Black, but I didn’t know that they weren’t prequels, or even novels featuring a posthumous/undead/whatever version of the character. There was definitely plenty of how/will she get out of this suspense.
The Big Bad of the first novel eventually resolved into something a little less interesting than I was hoping for but it didn’t stop me from reading them back-to-back, and the Big Bad of the second book was more satisfying than I expected at first. Now I’m eagerly looking forward to the imminent publication of the third.
Anyone who’s read Wendig’s Twitter or blog will know to expect rampant, exuberant swearing, and there’s also gore by the bucketful. But I wouldn’t call these novels splatterpunk: the vibe is of dark fantasy more than horror, and crucially, although Miriam is pretty nihilistic the novels themselves aren’t.