WHAT’S PLAYING: The Artist Formerly Known as Prince “P Control”
The first book for this week is Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey.
Spyder Lee is a tattoo artist living the good life in San Francisco until one night a pissed-off demon tries to bite off his head, and he’s saved by a mysterious, blind swordswoman calling herself Shrike. The next day, Spyder discovers that he can see the world as it really is: full of angels, demons, monsters and monster-hunters; a world full of black magic and mysteries. He soon runs afoul of the Black Clerks—infinitely old and powerful beings tasked with keeping the worlds in balance—who seem to have their own agenda and plans for Spyder. Caught in the conflict between the Clerks and other forces he doesn’t fully understand, Spyder tags along with Shrike on a quest to find a magical book that he hopes will restore his ignorance. Their journey will take them from deserts to lush palaces, and even to the heart of Hell itself.
When I first picked up this book, I was struck by how similar it was to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere: a regular guy gets tangled up with a mysterious girl and winds up going on a quest to some far off land full of magic and wonder.
That’s where the similarities end. While Gaiman’s book had a gothic, almost dreamy feel, Butcher Bird is all in your face with sharp details and wicked imagery. It’s Neverwhere on crank, played out on the streets of San Francisco and the bowels of Hell. None of your polite English refinement here. This is bold, brash, and profane as hell.
With its high body count, pervasive profanity and…unorthodox religious views, this is not a book for those with fine sensibilities or weak stomachs.
Favorite Line/Image/Character: I never thought I’d say this, but Lucifer is awesome! Kadrey did an excellent job of portraying him as a flawed, but ultimately sympathetic character, which is no mean feat when it comes to the Prince of Darkness. Noble, wise, and loyal, he’s very different from the stories I learned in Bible study. Though the pride that ultimately resulted in his downfall is still there, front and center.
That pretty much sums him up.
What I Learned: Make every story your own. As I said before, this isn’t the most original premise for a novel. In fact, it’s probably one of the oldest and most used concepts in the history of story telling. But somehow, Kadrey managed to take a tired, old idea and breathe exciting new life into it. I literally couldn’t put this book down until it was finished.
Bottom Line: Highly recommended. To quote William Gibson: “The man is mad, in every best way.”