Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Butcher Bird - It's sort of like Perry, but without the downfall.

Songs of the post Sponge - Plowed and Klepacki - Fantasy

No alternative titles today. This one's a reference to the Piers Anthony series about the various incarnations. Evil's office was held by a guy named Perry and his book focused a lot on his motives and reasoning. It also reminds me of the webcomics Skin Deep and Supernormal Step, but that's something else.

Today on the chopping block is Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey. Another book Amazon suggested to me on my tablet because of my habit of reading Glen Cook, Jim Butcher and George R.R. Martin. I'm a little confused why my Sherlock Holmes hasn't skewed a few things, but oh well. The story this time around is that a tattoo artist suddenly finds himself seeing creatures. Demons, monsters, mythological beasts, tolerable hippies and so on. Okay, maybe not so much on the last one. Covered in tattoos, Spyder Lee is sitting at a bar having an asinine conversation with a friend. Yes I hated his name with a passion, though at least even the strange critters tended to notice it as a strange name too, commonly asking if he belonged to the spider clan, hinting at a larger story. He's broken up with his girlfriend who studied religion and the sort and as such he does have some knowledge of a few of the beasties and demons at least so he's useful to the plot for being largely useless for a lot of the plot.

I'll be damned if I can remember his friend's name, but she's a druggie and more than a little messed up in the head. She stays fairly consistently messed up in the head, even trying to commit suicide and failing in a fairly macabre way. Our third mainstay is the titular character, Shrike or the Butcher bird. I really hope that's her name because as usual, I can't remember our Princess of the plot's name. Finally we have the Duke? I think. I remember him more for his spoileriffic revelation later on. Why no, Perry has nothing to do with it. No really. Right then...

So the plot. He's drunk, drinking with the friend and decides he's got to take a leak. Wandering into the alleyway like a good drunk, he's attacked by an insect-headed demon and saved by the blind chick he had been semi-hitting on or chatting with or something... Here's our main trio! I might be remembering wrong, but I believe they called the demon Nebiros, which bugs me since he's supposed to be a Crane, honorable and willing to teach, but again that's not really the point. Shrike guts the demon and they escape. Spyder wakes up confused, walks outside and thinks he's got some sort of head trauma going on. The telephone pole has various heads and fetishes attached to it, there are burning people, demons and monster and so on and they seem perfectly normal. He does take a moment to specifically notice what he thinks are lawyer sorts with black suits and ill-fitted skin suits. They smell funny too by descriptions later.

He hops in a cab to get to work, not wanting to ride his bike while obviously out of his mind and ends up scaring the cabbie so much he gets a free ride about halfway there. It's here that he notices his lifelong lesbian whackjob of a friend isn't completely human either. She looks like a corpse, dessicated and missing eyes, replaced instead with paper over the sockets and a skull's grin. She explains the men in black he saw earlier made a deal with her to help her clear her mind in exchange for her eyes. And when that wore off, another organ. And another and so on, until finally they take the victim to be a sacrifice in the name of 'balance'. Spyder, upset that she's probably going to be dead quite soon, offers himself up to help save her, setting some things in motion. He runs into Shrike again, begging her to undo whatever she did to him to let him see the freaks and geeks of the second and third worlds, though she explains it's not possible. Spyder goes home, has some problems thanks to another demon and through some events, ends up acting as a stand-in for Shrike's former partner while she reports for a job. They're ambushed on the way, hinting at more going on than they're aware of.

The woman for the job has been cursed, wasting away quite literally. With an oppressive stench, a penchant for surrounding herself with carnivorous plants and an obviously malevolent attitude, she drafts them to work. To ensure speedy work, she forces the key into Shrike where it will burrow towards her heart unless she nears the door it's enchanted to open. They're given a horn from a demon that slices and dices better than the average mail order knife and they're on the way. It's here that Spyder proves he has some useable knowledge and ends up sticking with her in the long run, especially since the demon's spread rumors that he's some kind of molester or somesuch. They begin the flight towards the gates to hell where they're attacked by a third party and watched by Angels. They're saved by the Duke or.. guy person. He teaches Spyder and Living-Dead Girl how to protect themselves, giving Spyder a Painkiller... erh a weedwhacker. (The Painkiller is the titular weapon from Painkiller. It's a blender on a stick with a laser attachment in a nutshell.). I don't remember what it's really called, but you get it spinning and smack things with it. A bit of padding later and they find the City of Lost things. Memories, objects, whatever. Spyder runs into his younger, dumber self and ends up beating the hell out of him before fleeing. They leave, get ambushed again and determine that one of them is offering a view of their surroundings. They assume it's Living-Dead Girl. They get to the mountain where the pit of hell resides, get ambushed again and realize it was Spyder. The munchkin demon thing that didn't talk much dies and then the Duke dies before they go to hell. Inside, Spyder's wearing a blindfold because otherwise he'd not be able to leave hell. Shrike's already blind so that's moot too. Living-Dead Girl's told her weird way of seeing doesn't count so she's their eyes. They encounter oddities, then a small demon with a giant wang. He convinces them eventually they need his help and he leads them right where they need to go.

Sort of. They fight some demons again, finding out hell's been divided. And they're building something. The big badguy of hell is the badguy that screwed Shrike over so she wants revenge and blah blah blah. The guy messes with her again, undoing the curse that blinds her so she's stuck in hell while Spyder's blindfold is yanked off. The little demon then leads Spyder to the city under the guise of helping before he's stopped by the big man himself, Lucifer. Lucifer turns out to be the Duke. Person guy. Which is honestly why I don't remember his original name. He's not presented as evil, but more opposed. It's an interesting view similar to Perry from "For Love of Evil" with... less finesse. He's still enjoyable enough though. They talk, get ambushed again, Spyder does something phenomenally stupid that works and they open a pit to earth from Hell. The evil mostly-dead old woman in the Burqa is defeated. Most importantly, sort of is that Spyder's name is cleared, he harasses the demon and then they talk after ordering drinks.

I cut a lot out, some of it because it's basically filler, some of it because I don't think you guys want to know about all the groping and sex. It was awkward to read in book and it would be awkward to paraphrase creatively each time. The dialogue was a bit awkward at times and Living-Dead Girl got on my nerves as well. The setting is reminiscent of some of Gaiman's worlds, the webcomics Supernatural Step and Skin Deep, Anthony's Incarnations books and a few I'm probably missing. This isn't necessarily bad and with some work I could see the book being a lot better. While trying vainly to find the names for characters I discovered this book was actually written before the Sandman Slim books which I've also picked up to read later. Guessing by the impressions I got from this book, I'll probably quite enjoy the Sandman Slim stuff. Overall, not a bad book. Not a good book, not a shallow book, but definitely not a deep book. The characters ranged from likeable, underutilized, aggravating and underdeveloped, but there's a lot of hints at a creative mind that could do better with work. Hopefully that's all true and Amazon won't piss me off by trying to suggest things similar to Cook and Butcher.

Depending on the mood, I'd give this 2.5-3.5 out of 5 depending.

Editor's note: I'm reading Sandman Slim right now and it's definitely leaps and bounds ahead of Butcher Bird.

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