Richard Kadrey — a charter member of cyberpunk's original vanguard, author of the wonderful Metrophage — has a new novel out at long last, and it was worth the wait.
Butcher Bird is Kadrey's extended, mythological celebration of all things deviant, transgressive, queer, perverse and broken. Spyder Lee, a San Francisco tattoo artist, is mugged by a demon who was summoned by the "tribal" art on his skin, the meaning of which Spyder has never been clear on.
Thus begins Spyder's journey into the half-world, the hallucinogenic freakshow that lurks just below the surface of the real world, where beasts and men of all description cavort, just out of our site. Spyder finds himself on a quest with a host of strange companions — Lulu, his piercing-artist business partner; Blind Shrike, a lost princess ninja who fights though she has no vision, and many others. It is with these people that Spyder must venture into hell and steal the lynchpin of the universes, to redeem himself, his world, and his friends.
This is a Dante book, a tour through the author's bent and ferocious imagination. Kadrey is a connoisseur of transgression, an ardent admirer of counter culture, burnouts, and glorious losers. In Butcher Bird, he marshals his prodigious knowledge of the freakish and odd in a series of exciting set-pieces that make up a gallumphing action-adventure novel. This is like being in a Breugel painting, or a Jim Woodring painting, or maybe both at the same time.
Kadrey is a multi-talented man: photographer, novelist, video producer, comics writer. But no matter what medium he works in, you always know that it's his stuff — his signature is his romantic obsession with the steamy underbelly. In Butcher Bird, he consummates it.
Update: Thanks to everyone who reminded me that a version of Butcher Bird was originally published as a Creative Commons licensed ebook, under the title Blind Shrike.