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[personal profile] reenka
Ahh, some days randomly reading the newest interesting-looking books at B&N pays off BIG TIME. Thank you, many-eyed and deviant B&N gods, for introducing me to Richard Kadrey, and allowing me the pleasure of reading his latest book, 'Butcher Bird'.

I don't even know where to start talking about how cool this book is. It's pretty much got all my favorite things in it, from top to bottom:

- widely-flung mythological underpinnings mixed with modern counterculture trappings
- a cynical (yet sekritly romantic) loser protagonist, literally a Fool
- Lucifer being dry and brilliant and self-aware and prideful and enraged, super-badass but also kinda pitiful, too (cooler that way!)
- a badass gun-totin' lesbian
- a pretty ninja princess
- a goodly number of surprises right up till the end
- an open ending
- action sequences to keep things jumpin'
- a unique interpretation of Hell and Christian mythology in general
- amazingly huge ideas that never overshadow the focus on characters and the protagonist in particular
- people with awesome powers worked out and thought through
- unique mixtures of high magic & technology
- punkish/anarchist ideals and attitudes softened by maturity of vision
- really awesome stage settings, from the completely surreal to the super-hardcore urban (yeay San Fran!!)
- a tattoo artist as the main character. DUDE.
- ALL THAT AND A BUCKET OF PICKLES!! not to mention all the awesome sarcastic one-liners and movie references and emotional depth and general insightfulness and DUDE. Dude. This guy can write, too.
- oh yeah, stylistically awesome without being overpowering or too stylized to lose the edge of believable dialogue & descriptive power.

What can I say?? He's my new hero. *____*
    Anyone who doubts that I do love stuff that's not love-stories or yaoi or whatever (...that's me, a lot of times) can suck it. Ha. :P In the end, I love this stuff way more-- heroic Fool's Journey stories done right. Nothing beats 'em for me. NOTHING. <3<3<3 So awesome. So verrrry awesome. You can tell this guy is a cyberpunk writer in retrospect, 'cause there's actually a lot of cyberpunkish tech elements in between all the horror/dark fantasy/gore/demonology aspects, but it just -works- and works so well. It fits to the point where you wonder where the tech is in all those other fantasy books, hahahaha. Um.

And while I'm on the subject of Christian mythology-based books worth reading, I'll mention the comic, 'Lucifer'-- it basically is about Lucifer, but it totally sets the bar. Anyone remotely interested in this stuff or into this book should read 'Lucifer'. I know the characterization was initially Neil Gaiman's in 'The Sandman', but Mike Carey just took it and ran so far that I seriously think of Lucy as his. Oh Lucy. <3. It's totally cool that I can sort of see Carey's Lucifer & Kadrey's Lucifer as the same person, even though they've got obvious differences. Ahh.

Anyway, I remember I already made a post about another book with similar mythological background, 'The Music of Razors' by Cameron Rogers. The other awesome one on this theme, but with more detail/scope is 'Ink' (and its sequel 'Vellum') by Hal Duncan. That's probably the most deeply inventive and revolutionary of any of these books, in terms of breadth of ideas and maturity/complexity of characterization and uniqueness of vision, but it's also the most slow reading.

    I'll admit I'm sorta shallow & enjoy how 'Butcher Bird' zipped along. It didn't challenge me particularly, though there were a number of pleasant surprises and interesting thoughts-- they were just the sort of thoughts I'm already receptive and halfway prone to. 'Ink' stakes out whole new territory. In fact, in terms of territory, it stakes out whole new universes & dimensions in space-time, okay. 'Lucifer' (the comic) sorta does that, but being a comic it's a lot more zippy and fresh. Or something. Though I think 'Ink' + 'Vellum' is as important and huge an achievement as the Dune series or Michael Moorcock's Multiverse, whereas 'Butcher Bird' is hellish fun... there's room for all kinds. And I'll admit I never personally connected to the characters in Hal Duncan's novel, though they too are anarchic outsider wounded deviant types (also with lots of cyber/counterculture elements scattered everywhere and lots of historic references and some cultural quips, etc)... perhaps more cerebral rather than likable and snarky. I should make clear that Hal Duncan's characters are definitely real, though, and affecting, and it's not like the writing's dry or humorless or anything-- not at all. Just somewhat more removed, for me, because of the multiple protagonists and ever-changing focus/setting. Plus, I mean, I think that Duncan's romantic subplot is both more mature and more interesting (being gay gay gay! hee!) but. I have a weakness for the straightforward romance stuff, okay. Shut up.

    Still, the authors definitely share an aesthetic. Something a bit like if Michael Moorcock had more punkish edge and rhythm and a lot of computing geekery behind him. :D

I think of authors like Duncan and Kadrey as culture scavengers, able to write on the egde of now while still definitely writing purely speculative fiction. There's a lot of stuff purportedly set in the modern day-- that's supposed to feel like it's grounded in a specific location-- most urban noir-type fantasy thrillers shoot for that feel-- but they never quite get there because the writers know how to describe scenery but they don't have their fingers on the pulse of the current culture where they live. They know the streets and basic surroundings, but they don't know all the stuff that -happens- to kids and the young, stupid and the lost in alleyways and dingy bars and raves and shows. They skim the surface of things too much.

Another author I've always loved for being in touch with the edge of current reality while writing fantasy is Nina Kiriki Hoffman. Her writing's a lot softer and more... well, feminine, and her focus is different, but I can really tell her stories are set in the present and in Oregon, something I value a lot. It makes sense it'd be hard to world-build in a traditional epic fantasy, but I think it's just differently hard to transmit a sense of our current life; people would be making a mistake to think that job/mortgage/office/commute/college finals/dating/etc is the type of stuff that's enough to identify something as 'true to life'. Whereas there's always the bland everyday underpinnings having their uses to ground one in dependable detail, that's not what makes a story really take flight for me. I always want the detail to be both recognizable and a little bit weird and alien, y'know. This is why I'm reading fantasy. And I don't want the weird to just be 'oh wait, this is a normal girl but she has funky powers she likes to use for rent-paying and job security purposes', blah blah. Meh.

The reason I love urban fantasy so much is this possibility of making the everyday feel weird on several different levels, bringing the weirdness home, so to speak. And, y'know, giving your PI secret powers that they deal with in a nice believable fashion just like they might a leaky roof just doesn't cut it for me anymore, man. :>
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