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AUTHOR: Richard Kadrey
PUBLISHER: Night Shade Books
This is my favorite fantasy novel of the year, and I hate fantasy*.
It’s an old and somewhat tired concept: Regular guy has his eyes opened to the weird wonders of the world and beyond and finds that he’s the better for it, but Richard Kadrey pulls it off wonderfully and makes it his own.
Spyder Lee is a guy happy with his life who lives in San Francisco and owns a tattoo shop. One night an angry demon tries to bite his head off before he’s saved by a blind female amazon, but not before the demon cuts him and somehow, his eyes are open to what lurks in the shadows.
Yes, there’s a quest, as his blind savior Shrike and he are drafted to retrieve a book that has the power to re-shape reality that’s in the possession of a big time demon in hell, but what’s great is that the mythology he uses is from real mythology or at least based on real legends.
Spyder is a great character. Richard Kadrey captures the world of young adults in the punk crowd in San Francisco without making it seem like he’s just an observer trying desperately to connect with the kids. It’s both sexy and human when the tone of his characters and their personalities seem so real. The humor is great and Spyder’s journey is rewarding as he progressively grows from the things he experiences. Kadrey doesn’t skip on the action either. It’s all wonderfully choreographed and the ideas he keeps he throwing at the reader, while sometimes not fully formed, are fantastically realized. I knew I was in love when they just started their journey using an airship when they’re attacked by a legion of angels and a giant celestial face in the clouds appears to be leading the attacks. I love that club scenes are described just as casually and in detail as kingdom-less princesses and old mad kings.
The stakes are high at all times and Spider’s own personal reasons to go are interesting, he wants to use the book to go back to being blissfully ignorant, while keeping the memories of things he likes, like Shrike. He learns, gradually, that when you’re eyes are open, its all or nothing in what you see. Sort of like life the first time you realize the world isn’t interested in being your pal.
Seek this novel out, it does new things with the fantasy genre and he never cheats or insults the intelligence of his readers. That’s rare in any genre, but especially fantasy. Highly recommended.
8.2 OUT OF 10
* I better not get any e-mails about George R. R. Martin and Harry Potter.