I just finished reading Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey on my commute home (woot public trans). It was interesting enough that I’d be willing to read a sequel if he wrote one. But I’ll be honest, it took me a while to finish this one. I picked it up after I read the third Sandman Slim book (love those books!). I felt that Butcher Bird was slower to start than Sandman Slim. I stopped after a few chapters and went off to read a few (okay, a lot) more books. I recently came back to it and I must have been in the mood for his dark and snarky style of writing because I ploughed through what I had left.
Butcher Bird features a tattoo artist by the name of Spyder. It starts out with him and his lesbian best friend called Lulu trading worst way to die suggestions at their favorite dive bar in San Fran. Sometime during the drinking, he meets a blind lady by the name of Shrike. Not long after, he gets beat to shit by a demon while taking a piss in the alley next to the bar. Shrike saves his as with some cool swordsmanship (you heard me, the blind chick is a sword master. Pretty sweet). But this incident leaves Spyder with something he never wanted. The truth. Or the sight. Or whatever term you want to use for suddenly “seeing the world the way it really is”.
Spyder takes this suddenly seeing demons thing pretty cool. I’d probably be freaking the fuck out but Spyder’s all like “huh…weird”. Wondering if he got hit just a little too hard by his demon mugger, he goes to find Lulu. Only to find that Lulu isn’t exactly Lulu any more. She’s been selling off pieces of herself to these weirdos called the Black Clerks to be able to keep doing smack and not look like it. I pictured the Black Clerks a bit like The Gentlemen from Buffy, only talkers.
Not long after this, Spyder finds Shrike again and gets pulled into this sort of supernatural intrigue with her. Her partner’s been murdered and she needs a man to stand with her and look tough and intimidating. Spyder apparently fits the bill, being tattooed from neck to feet. The pair of them get hired to go to Hell (literally, not figuratively) to retrieve a powerful book from a demon.
I won’t say too much more because spoilers. After this assignment is made though, the book really starts to pick up. I guess I felt the beginning as a bit too exposition-y. Richard Kadrey’s interpretation of Hell in this book is a bit different than the version in the Sandman Slim books. Sandman Slim is a much darker, much more chaotic place. I’m not quite sure how to describe his vision of Hell in this book. His characterization of Lucifer is quite interesting though. All in all, I’d say this is a solid B, maybe leaning just a hair to B- because it took so long for me to finish.