Written by: Richard Kadry
Hardcover: 400 pages
July 2009, $22.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Book One of Sandman Slim
Life sucks, and then you die. Or, if you're James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth that is Los Angeles.
Now Stark's back, and ready for revenge. And absolution, and maybe even love. But when his first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than you'd expect, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future.
Resurrection sucks. Saving the world is worse.
A couple of years ago I picked up Butcher Bird, also by Kadrey and loved it. It was snarky, it was fun and I really enjoyed it. So when Sandman Slim came out I thought I would give it a go. It looked like it would be similar and we all know how much I love the snark.
I will say one thing. Richard Kadrey has a voice all his own. While there can be comparisons to John Constantine, my favorite Mr. Taylor from Simon R Green’s Nightside series or others, Stark holds his own. As does Kadrey. Sandman Slim is gritty and dirty like a pulp fiction novel, but fun and imaginative as well. While I didn’t love it as much as Butcher Bird (for reasons I am still trying to figure out, maybe I will get to it by the end of the review), it was still a nice change of pace than what I usually read of late.
James Stark was a bad ass before he went to hell by his best buddies who really didn’t like the fact that he was the better magician. For eleven years he has been in hell becoming cozy with Azazeal, being his slave, his whipping boy, his personal gladiator and then an assassin. Fun times. But who wants to be in hell forever? Stark didn’t and so he escaped to find those old best buds and let them know that revenge is indeed sweet.
Things I loved: You don’t exactly like James Stark, but you cannot help but kind of root for him to win. He’s angry. He’s damaged. He’s not the man you want to bring home to meet the family and he is full of razor edged wit. In one way he kind of reminds me of Avery Cates from Electric Church. There is no hope in Starks world, not really. He knows that eventually Hell will catch up to him and he will go back, but until then he hopes to wreak as much havoc as he can on those who wronged him and took away the woman he loved. He’s out for revenge and completely unapologetic about it. I mean how would you feel if you had been sent to hell just for shits and giggles and because your mates were jealous. That’s not saying that Stark was a boy scout before he got cozy with Satan and his minions. Because he really wasn’t. But he wasn’t exactly a bad guy either. More of a gray sort.
He’s an antihero. He has a soft spot for things and kind of hates himself for it. He doesn’t want to be the one that saves the world, but inadvertently does it. He’s the type that hates the heroes in the stories, who convinces himself that the only reason he is doing a good deed is because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time…that he had no choice. It’s how he deals with secretly being one of those white hat types. Okay so more of a dark grey sort of hat.
The action is fairly fast paced, but it is very scattered. There are a lot of puns, over the top quotes almost like watching an action film. But it works with everything. There are no apologies, not from the characters, not from the story or from the prose. It is what it is. You either like it or you don’t. In a way that is refreshing. In another frustrating because I wanted more from this book.
I loved the stealing of various cars through out the book, the abundance of Tom Waits references as well as old horror flicks. I quite enjoyed the doctor (who isn't all what he seems), other characters both good and bad (who doesn't love a decapitated head that loves porn, which by the way reminds me of Bob from the Dresden series), that both heaven and hell are full of pompous bastards and that Sandman Slim didn’t give a frak. The fact that Lucifer remains as awesome as he did in Butcher Bird is a plus. Having keys in your heart, knowing that there are doors that will take you anywhere and that you are really hard to kill…also cool. Ooh and you got to love Veritas for answering questions truthfully albeit with a heavy dose of snark and you all know how much I love the snark.
Things I didn't love so much: Sometimes the rules of magic and the rules for the various monsters and oogie boogie can be a bit…well wonky. It stays consistent for the most part and makes sense and then other times it feels like it mutates to serve the story’s purpose at that moment alone. It certainly changes the rules at the end to set up for the sequel. Now this isn’t necessarily a really bad thing, but just an annoying one because I know Kadrey can do better.
The same can be said for Kadrey’s treatment of the female characters in the book. They are not ideal. Candy, well I mean her name is Candy and she is just eye candy, a fanboys little wet dream. I also really like Allegra but she turned into a little girl halfway through the book instead of a woman who at first seems to hold her own. I enjoyed Shrike far more from Butcher Bird. But maybe that’s just me and all of my wicked girl power sensibilities.
Buy or Borrow: Buy or at least Borrow. While I did not enjoy it as much as I did Butcher Bird, I know that I will pick up the next in the series, because lets face it you knew there would be others, Kill The Dead. Give it a go.
Part of: a Series. Sandman Slim novels
Sandman Slim (Book One)
Kill The Dead (Book Two)
Also Recommended: Simon R Green’s Tales from the Nightside, or the two novel versions John Shirley did of my favorite frak you brit, Hellblazer.
3.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks
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