Tag Archive: Neverwhere

Mar 18

Book a Week Challenge (Double Edition) – Book 10

WHAT’S PLAYING: The Artist Formerly Known as Prince “P Control”

The first book for this week is Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey.

Butcher Bird

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.

But, to quote another favorite character, Lulu: “Steve McQueen fucked Superman and they had a baby.”

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.”

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2012/03/book-a-week-challenge-double-edition-book-10/

Feb 17

My Book a Week Challenge – Week 7

WHAT’S PLAYING: Dashboard ConfessionalVindicated

This week’s book is “Everything is Broken” by John Shirley.

When twenty-year-old Russ arrives in the northern California town of Freedom to visit his dad, he finds a town cut off from state and federal government. Thanks to the local mayor’s ideas of “decentralization,” Freedom enjoys minimal public services including medical care and law enforcement. Before Russ can get to know much about the town and its people – including an interesting young woman named Pendra – a massive tsunami strikes the West Coast, killing most of the town’s inhabitants and leaving Freedom helpless to combat the wave of human brutality that soon follows. A local gangster, Dickie Rockwell, has plans for Freedom and they include the town’s increasingly unhinged mayor and a lot of killing. Now, it’s up to Russ, his father, Pendra, and the other townsfolk to find the strength to survive and find real freedom.

On his website, John Shirley describes this book as a “thriller and political allegory,” but it’s so much more than that. In just a few hundred pages, this book manages to shock, frighten, and enrage, all while making the reader think. What struck me most about this book was Shirley’s powerful use of imagery, both during the tsunami and in the aftermath. He has this unique ability to observe people, places, and events and then distill them down to their purest, most basic forms.

Word of caution: packed with action, violence, and depravity in its purest form, this book is not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach. Seriously, after I finished reading it, my first instinct was to go out and buy a whole bunch of guns. Then, I remembered how clumsy and absent-minded I am and decided against it. (But I still sleep with a switchblade under my pillow…just in case.)

Bottom line: A different kind of disaster novel. One well worth reading.

Favorite Line/Image (WARNING – disturbing imagery): “A little later: A gasping, semiconscious young woman trapped in her slime-swamped Audi, mud up to her neck. People digging her out. Finding that her belly was sheared open by a big shard of metal from the car door, mud crammed up inside her, she hadn’t lived long after they’d dug her out. Russ had made the mistake of letting her get a grip on his hand as she lay dying. Just couldn’t bring himself to break the grip. Had to watch her die.”

What I learned: Details matter. The line above isn’t really my favorite, but it’s one of the many images that kept repeating in my head long after I’d put the book down. I think what makes this book so compelling is Shirley’s exquisite attention to detail, even in the midst of huge events like the tsunami. He knows which details to include and which to leave out. This makes for a realistic experience without overwhelming the reader with information.

Coming up next week: “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2012/02/my-book-a-week-challenge-week-7/