Kit Solent was an archaeologist in London, with a particular interest in Scriven artefacts. He met and fell in love with Katie Unthank, whose father had worked with Auric Godshawk. They had two children, Ruan and Fern, but Katie died of the blue flu soon after Fern's birth.
Some years later, Kit requested Fever Crumb to help him open a high-tech door he had discovered under the city. When Fever was being chased by Bagman Creech in the marshes because she was a suspected Scriven, he shot and killed Bagman with his handgun. In the ensuing riots, Kit was shot but managed to help Fever back to the Godshawk's Head where the two of them escape in a Hot Air Balloon. Kit's wound proved to be fatal and he died before the balloon landed. The Nomads subsequently took his body to be processed into a Stalker.
Kit Solent's corpse was augmented with technology the Movement had procured from the Remembering Machines to create one of their many resurrected soldiers; it was at this time that he was given the name Shrike. He destroyed two of his fellow Stalkers upon being resurrected but afterward proved an obedient member of the Lazarus Brigade for some time, fighting in major battles of the escalating Nomad Wars, including the long-running Battle of Hill 60. He abandoned the Movement army after recovering a degree of self-awareness but continued fighting on all sides as a mercenary for the rest of the conflict.
In the final battle of the Nomad Wars Shrike led a legion of Stalkers against his former masters but they, like the rest of the Nomad armies, were destroyed when Traction London entered the battle, though Shrike himself survived. His subsequent whereabouts and deeds during the Wheeled War and the Zagwan Deluge are unknown, though it might be assumed that he fought in these conflicts given his prior behaviour and martial prowess.
After Fever Crumb
Shrike continued to wander the earth during the age of the Traction Cities, as there were many who sought the services of such a proficient killer. At one time he worked as an executioner in Paris, where he was greatly feared by criminals, who still thought him as a sort of dark god long after his departure. Later he served as an assassin in the service of the government of Kutsoi, but this ended when he turned on and killed the mayor who had sent him after the young children of a political opponent. Shrike then fled into the out-country and made a living as a bounty hunter, further developing his fearsome reputation.
The traveller Chung-Mai Spofforth interviewed Shrike in 923TE when writing her book In Search Of The Stalkers.
Eventually, Shrike came across a disfigured young girl named Hester Shaw, whom he adopted. They lived together first aboard the scavenger-platform of Strole and later the town of Twyne. At some point in this period he began collecting mechanical devices and tools.
Shrike was hired by the government of Twyne to hunt an escaping bank robber. After killing his target, Shrike returned to Twyne along with Hester to collect their bounty, finding the town celebrating the Midwinter festival. Mayor Pilbeam and a pair of Shkin Corporation slavers ambushed Shrike and trapped him in a net, but Hester crushed them under a fallen tree before they could attack him further.
Shrike freed himself, and he and Hester went to the Town Hall. They found a warm fireplace and food, and Shrike attempted to tell a Midwinter story about a girl with a dog. Noticing his difficulty, Hester reminisced on the events of the past day instead.
Shrike and Hester were separated sometime in 1005-1006TE when Hester set off to assassinate Thaddeus Valentine, but the Stalker pursued her, selling his mechanical collection to fund a journey to London. There he struck a deal with Lord Mayor Magnus Crome and London's Guild of Engineers: he would let them study him so they could manufacture their own Stalkers and in return Shrike would be allowed to kill Hester upon her arrival and have her turned into a Stalker. Eighteen months later, Hester arrived but was not captured, instead falling out of the city with Tom Natsworthy. Crome, concerned that they might have survived and possessed knowledge of MEDUSA, sent Shrike to kill the pair.
Shrike was flown to Airhaven, where he found his targets in a café with Anna Fang and Yasmina Rashid. He fought the Aviators who defended let Tom and Hester before continuing to chase his targets by airship. When Tom and Hester leapt out of their balloon as a diversion, Shrike pretended to fall for it, allowing them a head start before resuming his pursuit.
Shrike closed in on the duo not far from the Rustwater Marshes soon afterward, only to get run over by by two Traction towns in quick succession just as he was about to catch them. He survived and followed the second town's trail until he found it sunken in the sea of Khazak, and, from there, tracked Hester's scent to the Black Island.
On the island, he intervened in Tom and Hester's impending execution, killing Mungo, Janny Mags and Mr. Ames before they could harm the pair, but immediately afterward confronted them with his intentions to kill them and return Hester's body to London to become a Stalker. Hester accepted this fate but asked that Tom be spared; Shrike agreed to feed London a false story of his death. Just as he was going to kill Hester, Tom stabbed him with a sword. Shrike fell back into the mud, and for a brief moment he remembered his past identity as Kit Solent before dying.
Eighteen years after his second death, Shrike's remains were discovered by the Green Storm and he was rebuilt by Oenone Zero, who gave him to the Stalker Fang as a bodyguard. When Shrike overheard Oenone praying for the downfall of the Stalker Fang he wished to inform other Green Storm agents of her possible betrayal, but found she had reprogrammed him to be unable to harm or otherwise act against her.
Shrike was still Fang's bodyguard when the Green Storm attacked Brighton. During the battle Oenone activated another program she had slipped into him, compelling him to attack the Stalker Fang. Being stronger than his previous self, he seemingly destroyed Fang as well as several other Green Storm Stalkers. He discovered at this point that he was now incapable of harming humans, and remembered all of the people that he had killed in the past. He disappeared into the bushes when General Naga arrived on Cloud 9, later meeting Hester as the floating platform crashed down, and prepared to enter the desert with her.
Hester and Shrike then traveled the desert as bounty hunters. When they stopped at Cutler's Gulp for fuel, they rescued Theo Ngoni and escaped in a sand-ship. When a group of sand-ships attacked them, Shrike attempted to fight the soldiers, but again found he was unable to harm them. After the sand-ship was destroyed, Shrike, Hester and Theo then traveled to Airhaven to rescue Oenone Zero, now known as Lady Naga. While Lady Naga escaped, Hester was injured; Shrike took her to a Green Storm command base so her wounds could be treated.
Shrike accompanied Tom and Hester to Erdene Tezh in the Jenny Haniver. During the journey, Shrike realized that Tom would not live much longer due to his weak heart. When the Jenny crashed after being attacked by Stalker-birds Shrike fell out of the gondola, landing on the ground about ten miles away from Erdene Tezh, and began seeking Hester's scent again.
However, he arrived at Erdene Tezh too late, finding Tom, Hester, and the Stalker Fang dead. Shrike went to pick up Hester's body, intending to have her resurrected by Oenone, but noticed that she was holding Tom's hand very tightly before she killed herself. Sadly realizing that this was the right end for her, he decided to lay Tom and Hester to rest. Shrike then sat nearby in a cave, and shut down all of his systems except for his mind and eyes, watching Tom and Hester's bodies decay over the years and an oak tree growing out of the latter, gradually falling into a slumber.
Shrike was inactive for an unspecified but considerable length of time, likely several centuries or more; those who encountered him in this state thought he was just an old statue. The people of a town established near his resting place started hanging flowers around his neck each year, believing it would bring them good luck.
When he eventually awoke he surprised a young boy and girl who still thought he was a statue until he greeted them. These children took Shrike to the nearby town, whose walls and watchtowers he recognized as being made of old city tracks. His initial expectation that there was no advanced technology left in the world was dispelled when he witnessed magnetically levitated airships still in use, but he realized that the Traction Era was long since over when he asked the townspeople about moving cities and they responded that such things only exist in fairy tales.
At the town hall, the townspeople inquired as to Shrike's purpose, and he stated that he is a Remembering Machine. He began narrating to them his memories from the age of the Traction Cities.
Shrike is single-minded to the point of ruthlessness and displays a penchant for violence, befitting his military origins. Once fixed upon his goal of turning Hester into a Stalker he pursues her by land and air for days or even weeks across great distances, fighting his way through anyone who obstructs him in this quest, killing aviatrices and pirates alike, refusing to stop regardless until he is fatally damaged. After Oenone resurrects him he persists in following Hester once again, right up until she dies.
Despite this behaviour (and his inhuman longevity) Shrike still has some human decency in him. He doesn't like to harm children and prefers to help them, such as adopting the half-dead young Hester, even going so far as to turn against and kill an employer who ordered him to murder children. In his interview with Spofforth he said that he remembered several occasions when he had spared or protected children for reasons that he could not explain; he doesn't know why he is so fond of children until in A Darkling Plain he remembers having children of his own in his past life.
After his second resurrection his compassion and humanity seems stronger; though he has no qualms about destroying other Stalkers he finds himself compelled to hold back from hurting living humans, and he eventually allows Hester to rest in peace with Tom after seeing how tightly she held onto him even in death.
Portrayal in adaptations
In the 2018 film, Shrike is portrayed by Stephen Lang (though the actor is unrecognizable under many layers of costume, makeup and visual effects). The live-action Shrike is notable as one of the most faithfully adapted elements in a film whose script otherwise takes numerous narrative and aesthetic liberties with the original novel.
However, his narrative does see a few changes: due to Hester's sadness, he offers to make her into a Stalker like him to be free of her emotions and memories, which she promises to let him do. After Hester runs away to kill Valentine, he goes into a rage-like state and his eyes glow brightly, becoming madly obsessed with making Hester follow through on her promise. At an unknown time, he was captured and imprisoned in the offshore Sharkmoor Prison instead of London. Rather than him making a deal with Crome to track Hester down in exchange for allowing study of him, due to the former's fear of her knowing about MEDUSA, instead Valentine deliberately sets him loose knowing he will find and kill Hester.
He then directly pursues Hester to the Rustwater slave market, and they narrowly manage to escape on the Jenny Haniver. Stealing an airship nearby, from there he infiltrates Airhaven, where a vicious fight ensues attempting to stop him.
A major difference is how and where he dies: Hester begs him to not kill Tom, at which point Shrike's rage subsides, his eyes stop glowing, and his damage becomes apparent. Rather than being killed by Tom with a sword, he then succumbs to damage from a previous cannon hit, an explosive stuck to his leg, and a knife stabbed into the wound on his chest. Seeing Hester's tears and realizing that Hester's love for Tom gives her a reason to live as a human now, he gives her a necklace he found on Hester as a child, and releases her from her promise with a soft smile on his face, her name being his last words. He then dies after reliving memories of his time with Hester and his past life. This takes place on Airhaven during its destruction rather than the Black Island. With little likelihood of a sequel, it is unknown if he would or even could be resurrected later on.
In the film, he displays a number of abilities as a Stalker: his feet can clamp, either mechanically or magnetically, onto surfaces. With this, combined with incredible strength, he not only completely anchors the Jenny Haniver in place by grabbing a rope secured to it, but was able to reel it in despite its engines being on full blast. His strength is so overpowering that, In Sharkmoor, he visibly warps the reinforced box made to hold him by punching the walls. He also displays similar durability as in the book: bullets bounce harmlessly off of him, even the "skin" on his head, melee weapons spark off his armor, and after taking a cannon blast to the chest which knocks him off his feet and leaves significant damage he gets right back up again undeterred. He does succumb to his damage once his rage wears off, meaning that it allows him to ignore injuries. Despite his abilities, he kills far fewer people onscreen than in the book.
He also is shown to have knowledge of how to make Stalkers himself, rather than letting London study him so they could replicate Stalker technology and thus make Hester into a Stalker for him.
- A "shrike" is a type of bird which impales its prey.
- "Shrike" appears as "Grike" in the North American editions to avoid copyright claims with another author who used the name "Shrike" for their character.
- "Kit" is a moniker for someone with the name "Christopher". "Solent" refers to the Solent, a strait between the Isle of Wight and Great Britain.