Miriam Black has struggled with her psychological damage, her psychic abilities and the ghost demon that haunts her, known as The Trespasser, through six books. Miriam has tried to save lives, fighting against fate to do so, hated herself when she failed and tried to heal herself and her relationships as the consequences snowball. At the end of the last book, we are stranded with Miriam's long time lover, Louis, dead, Miriam pregnant with his child and Wren, the rescued victim of Mockingbirds serial killer, the Trespasser possessed murderer of Louis. We open with Miriam grieving for Louis and haunted by the vision that her child will die soon after birth. Worse, The Trespasser's powers seem to be expanding and there is another serial killer on the loose.
Miriam Black has been often described as an anti-heroine, but I've disagreed with that assessment in my reviews of the series. Setting aside valid criticisms of how a waif sized Miriam handily manages attacks from bigger, stronger men, (why is it that male writers refuse, refuse absolutely to ever examine the physical threats that dictate a lot of women's experience in this world?) Miriam's emotional and psychological motivations are sound. Miriam, like so many of us is trying to understand and recover from trauma, trauma that has changed and dictated the course of her life, while coping with the continuing consequences of that trauma, including on her own behavior and choices and most importantly the main consequence of that trauma which is the opened channel in Miriam's mind for her psychic abilities. Throughout the series, Wendig has introduced other traumatized characters whose trauma has left them with similar gifts but in Vultures he makes the metaphor explicit by introducing two sometime allies, FBI agents Guererro and Anaya. It is these characters that Wendig uses to make his metaphor between trauma and being an Empath explicit and it works brilliantly and ties the entire series together. This theme also raises the series above the pulp urban fantasy genre that makes it so readable.
For those who haven't heard, or read, Empaths are people who feel the feelings of others in a variety of different ways. This kind of empathy is increased by life trauma in ways that aren't yet fully understood, even by those with the trauma and the capital letter Empathy, as opposed to empathy which is the ability to feel compassion and sympathy and understand the feelings and motives of another person. Empaths literally feel the other person's feelings and motives, in ways that can make sorting out the emotions of the Empath and the emotions of other difficult. Miriam's gift of seeing the death of anyone she touches is a metaphor for the Empath's gifts. Guererro can sense the location of any psychically gifted person he's met and Anaya just has feelings, hunches and intuitions about people and situations, intuitions that usually turn out to be right on the money. These experiences are a pretty accurate description of the experiences of Empaths in the real world. Both Anaya's and Guererro's gifts were brought out by trauma. There is also a character with classic medium gifts in the mix.
Miriam's journey becomes the journey of all traumatized people and that is the heart and the brilliance of these books. How will Miriam beat the demon and her own self hatred to live her life and protect the innocent and those she loves? Is she fated to pass on all of her trauma to her child? Questions that haunt all traumatized people. Wendig answers these questions in ways both realistic and hopeful while telling a page turning tale. I've always said that Miriam Black was a heroine rather than an anti-heroine, not because she is perfect, but because she is on the hero/heroine's journey that we are all on: to understand our lives and ourselves and others and to grow our characters by trying to atone for our mistakes and do better and vanquish the demons of self-hatred. These are the ultimate themes of Vultures and the entire series presented in dark, urban fantasy packaging.
I've been a fan of Miriam Black since Blackbirds was published by fledgling press Angry Robot and have pre-ordered all five subsequent volumes. I admire Wendig's work ethic as a writer. Like the pulp writers of yore, he made his bones doing commercial work, writing video games and Star Wars novels to keep the pot boiling and make space for the work he wanted to do. Not only do I love Miriam Black, but I love that kind of resourceful determination and I'm now wondering if Wendig, like his heroine, might be a bit of a traumatized Empath. I'll be pre-ordering Wendig's big new stand alone novel due this summer. You should too because with Vultures Wendig shows that he is growing his craft and his themes.
- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Gallery / Saga Press (1 February 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1481448773
- ISBN-13: 978-1481448772
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.3 x 21 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 490 g
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