In the fourth installment of the Miriam Black series, Miriam heads to the southwest in search of another psychic who may be able to help her understand her curse, but instead finds a cult of domestic terrorists and the worst vision of death she’s had yet.
Miriam is becoming addicted to seeing her death visions, but she is also trying out something new: Hope. She is in search of another psychic who can help her with her curse, but instead finds a group of domestic terrorists in her deadliest vision to date.
About the Author
Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. He’s the author of many published novels, including but not limited to: Blackbirds, The Blue Blazes, the YA Heartland series, and the New York Times bestselling series Star Wars: Aftermath. He is cowriter of the short film Pandemic and the Emmy Award–nominated digital narrative Collapsus. Wendig has contributed over two million words to the game industry. He is also well known for his profane-yet-practical advice to writers, which he dispenses at his blog, TerribleMinds.com, and through several popular ebooks, including The Kick-Ass Writer, published by Writers Digest. He currently lives in the forests of Pennsyltucky with wife, tiny human, and dog.
Read an Excerpt
Her feet pound asphalt. Ahead, Old Highway 60 cuts a knife line through red rock and broken earth, the highway shot through with hairline fractures. Big clouds scattered across the sky like the stuffing from a gutted teddy bear. The side of the highway is lined with gnarly green scrub brush, plants like hands reaching for the road, hands looking to rend and tear. Beyond, it’s just the wide-open nowhere of Arizona: electric fences that don’t contain anything, craggy rocks and distant peaks like so many broken teeth.
Run, she thinks. Sweat is coming off her hair, into her eyes. Fucking hair dye. Fucking spray gel hair bullshit. Fucking suntan lotion. She blinks back sweat carrying all those chemicals, sweat that burns her eyes. Don’t pay attention to that. Just run. Eyes forward. Clarity of thought and vision. Or something.
Then her foot catches something— a rock, a lip of cratered asphalt, she doesn’t know, and it doesn’t matter, because suddenly she pitches forward. Hands out. Palms catching the macadam, bracing herself so her head doesn’t snap forward and crack in half like a tossed brick. A hard pain jars up her arms, through her elbows like a flicker of lightning. Her hands sting and throb.
She gets up on her knees and then starts coughing.
The coughing jag isn’t brief. She plants her hands on her knees and hacks hard, and between hacks she wheezes, and between wheezes she just hacks harder. It’s a dry cough of broken sticks and dead leaves until it’s not— then it’s wet, rheumy, and angry, like her lungs have gone liquid and have decided to disperse themselves up and out of her mouth.
That mouth that wants a cigarette right now. Lips that would plant around the filter and suck smoke deep. Her whole body wants a cigarette, and the nic fit tears over her and through her like a plague of starving locusts. She shudders and bleats and laughs and cries and, once again, coughs.
Her palms pulse with her hummingbird heartbeat. The skin abraded.
Footsteps behind her.
Heavy. Boots hitting hard.
Sweat pours off her now— spattering on the road.
“It’s hot,” she gasps. “It’s fucking hot. It’s Hell-hot. It’s wearing-the-Devil’s-humid-scrotum-as-a-hat hot.”
“They say it’s a dry heat.”
Louis clomps up alongside her like a Clydesdale.
She looks up at him. The sun hangs behind him, so he’s just a shape, a shadow, a black monolith speaking to her. Oh, Louis, she thinks, and then he turns just so and her eyes adjust. And she can see the black electrical tape crisscrossing his eyes. She can see his pale face, his wormy lips, a tongue that traipses over broken teeth. And when he moves, she hears the rustle of feathers, the clacking of beaks.
Not-Louis. The Trespasser. Her companion that only she can see— a hallucination, a ghost, a fellow traveler to wherever it is she’s going.
“You know what else is a dry heat?” she asks. “Fire.”
“It’s only April.”
“It’s, like, almost ninety degrees. I should’ve come in December.”
The Trespasser stands over her. Like an executioner ready to drop the head-chopper axe down on the kneeling sinner.
“Why are we out here, Miriam?”
She rocks back on her knees, cranes her head back, eyes closed. She paws at the water bottle hanging at her hip. With her teeth she uncaps it (and even there she thinks: my teeth want a cigarette too, want to bite into the nicotine like it’s a cancerous Slim Jim god I want it so bad I’d kick a baby seal just to get one taste), then drinks deeply, drinks sloppily. Water over her lips, down her chin.
Up in the sky, vultures spin on an invisible axis.
“We are not out here,” she says, wiping her wet mouth with the back of her hand. “I am out here alone. You are— well, we still don’t know what you are, do we? Let’s go with demon. Invisible, asshole demon. You’re not here. You’re here.” She taps her temple, then drinks more water.
“If I’m up there, then I’m with you, and we are still we,” he says. A loose, muddy chuckle in the well of his chest. “Why are you jogging, Miriam?”
“It’s not jogging. It’s jogging when rich, limp-noodle assholes do it. When I do it, it’s called running, motherfucker.” She sniffs. Coughs again. “I do it because I need to get better. Get stronger. Faster. All that.”
“What are you running from?”
You, she thinks. But instead she says, “It’s funny; anyone who sees me running asks me that. Hur hur, is something chasing you? Yeah. Death. Death is chasing me, and chasing everyone else, too. That’s what I’m running from. My own clock spinning down. The sweep of the Reaper’s scythe.”
“Not like you to run from death.”
“Things have changed.”
Another damp, diseased chuckle. “Oh, we know. You’re trying to get away from us. From you. From the gift you have been given.”
“It’s no gift,” she says, finally starting to stand. The sun is punishing. It feels like a fist trying to punch her back down to the ground. “But you know that. And you don’t care.” She thinks, but does not say: As soon as I find the woman I’m looking for, you’re outta here, pal. No more trespassing for you. Miriam has a name: Mary Stitch. AKA, Mary Scissors. A woman who can, if the story is true, help Miriam get shut of this so-called “gift.” She wants it gone. She needs it gone before it swallows her whole.
“You’re not done yet,” the Trespasser says. As she stands, she sees Not-Louis’s eyes have become black, glossy circles— crow eyes, rimmed with puckered gray skin and the start of oily feathers that thread underneath the skin like stitches. “Not by a country mile, little girl.”
She sucks in a bit of sweat from above her lip and spits back at him. The Trespasser doesn’t even flinch. Instead, he just points.
Miriam follows the crooked finger.
There, way down the highway, she sees the glint of light off a vehicle. Her vehicle— it’s where she parked it. A rust-red, rat-trap pickup truck. A literal rat trap, actually— when she bought it, rats had made a nest in the engine, chewed up the belts and wires pretty good.
This one, coming from the opposite direction. Hard to make out what it is— the sun catches on it like in a pool of liquid magma. Despite that, Miriam can see the back of the car fart out a noxious black cloud. She can hear the bang of the engine, and she can see something roll across the road— a hubcap?— that hits the tire of her Ford truck and drops. The car stops across from her truck.
Then all is still.
“What is that?” she asks. “Who is that?”
She turns to the Trespasser but he’s gone.
And yet his voice reaches her:
“Go and see.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Thunderbird, the fourth novel of Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds series, follows anti-hero Miriam Black as she barrels haphazardly down another path of personal growth and destruction. We’ve followed Miriam down these paths before – in Blackbirds Miriam discovered herself as a person with agency rather than purely a victim of fate; in Mockingbird Miriam began to learn the value of caring for others unconditionally; and in Cormorant Miriam began to understand forgiveness. Now, in Thunderbird, Miriam must wrestle with self-acceptance and commitment to others. The results, as always, are painful; but following Miriam along the journey is always rewarding. Thunderbird does depart from the themes of the prior Miriam Black novels in few ways which may be of interest to readers. First, and perhaps most important, is that this is the first novel driven entirely by Miriam herself. While fate still plays a hand, the conflicts Miriam is embedded in are those that she has chosen – not that she has been guided to by friend, lovers, or past ghosts. The result is a story that feels more linear than previous books. There are still unexpected plot twists, and Miriam’s newfound autonomy makes these disruptions feel more forceful. The second is a shift in the character of Miriam’s powers. The new active powers we witness in Cormorant continue to develop in this novel, resulting in Miriam becoming a very literal force of nature. This growth results in the book’s most powerful images, but makes me question what could possibly oppose her in book five. Chuck Wendig’s writing continues to delight. His gift for capturing the vivid sensory experiences of the world around his characters, of playing with perspective and perception to tell dramatic moments in surreal ways, and kinetic writing style are all on display and masterfully used. Readers will feel the weight of each punch, the taste of dry sand in Miriam’s mouth, and the sensory horror of death itself. The new, almost universal lens of Miriam’s life in birds adds an unexpected dimension to all of this. As always, Wendig peppers humor and attitude throughout the book to excellent effect. I was worried in how Miriam’s interpersonal relationships would be handled in this novel; while Wendig writes relationship anxieties well he’s been able to dodge sustained relationships due to Miriam’s unstable nature. However, I think he ultimately did well on this, bringing Miriam to place that feels both like a somewhat healthy dynamic that’s still grounded in her feelings of distrust and guilt. We see compelling embers of commitment that I hope will continue to develop. In the past I have criticized the Miriam Black novels for being a bit unrealistic in the level of injury Miriam sustains; there’s no way she should have survived book one in a world of realistic medicine. Thunderbird addresses those issues head on, with Miriam sustaining major injuries that require both medical and supernatural intervention. These solutions don’t feel forced, and provide some of the more moving moments. My only complaint about this book is that there are so many characters I wish we’d have seen more of. We are treated to a veritable buffet of troubled people with unique powers, but we only get a small sample of each. I do appreciate the continuity that’s brought about by appearances from Miriam’s past acquaintances. It's incredible to think on how far this character has come. I look forward t the series conclusion in book 5!
Another fantastic book in the Miriam Black series. Author Wendig keeps this character moving forward and changing while keeping the fun and the dark humor we all know and love. Highly recommended!
Thunderbird is book four in the Miriam Black series. I've been dying to get my hands on this book for awhile now and I was so happy to see it come out. I've read the other books in this series in the ebook format but I thought I'd try the audiobook for this installment. It was a bit odd switching it up mid series but it wound up working really well once I adjusted. A refresher in case you don't remember or haven't started this series is that Miriam Black is a foul-mouthed lady that can touch someone and see how/when they die. She also recently figured out she can enter the minds of different birds and control them. Her powers are pretty interesting but with all the events that have happened throughout the series, she's tired of it all. So this installment Miriam is seeking a lady named Mary that is rumored to be able to remove her powers. After striking out several times Miriam finally catches up with Mary only to find a group of domestic terrorists that are interested in what she can do. Miriam has to figure out how to stop the group before it's too late while also finding out how to remove her powers. Thunderbird is a bit different from the other books in this series. We've had this foul-mouthed lady throughout the other books that really didn't care about anything or anyone. In this book we see Miriam wanting to change, she's trying to stop smoking, taking up running and trying to remove her powers. It's an interesting change of pace and had me wondering if she's be able to change herself so thoroughly. All in all, this was a solid installment and has me intrigued on where the series will go. If you're a fan of darker type Urban Fantasies you might enjoy this series.