Monday, September 6, 2010

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey is a thrilling and fun book that will appeal to fans of Vertigo comics such as Hellblazer and writers like Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis.  At first glance, Sandman Slim fits into the Urban Dark Fantasy genre slot, but I also see it fitting in a genre that I define as LA Dark Humor.  Put the Showtime series Californification in this category and maybe the film Laurel Canyon, too.  Twisted people running around Los Angeles screwing up their lives and everyone else's life, except this time, it involves magic, Heaven, Hell, fallen angels, and other weird supernatural entities that live in tinsel town.
The title character and wise-cracking narrator is James Stark, who has just arrived back from 11 years in Hell as the book opens.  Stark isn't dead--he was sent straight to Hell by his former magician friends--and now he's back on Earth looking for some cold blooded revenge.  Besides sending him to fight in Lucifer's arenas, the cult also killed Stark's girlfriend, Alice.  But Stark's been away for a long time and many things have changed, including his enemies.

Stark doesn't spend a lot of time waving around mystical spells like Harry Dresden.  His supernatural powers are more physical.  Stark is super strong and able to heal quickly.  Whenever he's injured once, he can't be injured the same way again.  Eleven years in hell made Stark pretty durable, but he still has plenty of vulnerabilities and gets the shit kicked out of him by guns, knives, and Angelic swords.  Stark does carry around a number of mystic objects, like a Veritas coin that he flips (a la Two Face) to give him some guidance.  Other weapons are improvised, such as a sawed-off shotgun loaded with bullets sprinkled with a potion deadly to magicians.

Sandman Slim is packed with action, humor, and great characters.  One of my favorites is the angel Aelita, who heads the government backed secret spy organization, The Golden Vigil.  Stark says that "Sounds like a community-college Goth band."  Doc Kinski is a medical practitioner who patches up supernatural creatures between chain smoking sessions.  Even Lucifer proves to be an entertaining guy.  There is also lots of pop culture references, from superheroes to film cult classics like the Bamboo House of Dolls, which is the name of the bar that Stark adopts as a second home.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish.  There is lots more to explore in the Sandman Slim world for several books.  The second book, Kill the Dead, will be published this October.  Nuff Said!

Link: Sandman Slim: A Novel
Link: Kill the Dead: A Sandman Slim Novel

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