Sandman Slim: A Novel by Richard Kadrey
|Book Name:||Sandman Slim: A Novel|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audio Book / eBook|
|Genre(s):||Urban Fantasy / Dark Fantasy|
|Release Date:||July 21, 2009|
Vacation season is coming and it’s time to give yourself a break, stretch out by the pool or on the beach, and distract yourself with a relaxing summertime read about…demons, black magic, and killer hit men from hell?!
Well, maybe. Sandman Slim (2009) by Richard Kadrey may have a touch more nihilism in its outlook than your average beach paperback, but that doesn’t prevent it from being an enjoyable, wryly funny, fast-paced story. It has enough complexity to keep the action diverting and the main character sympathetic despite (or perhaps because of) his manifest flaws, but not enough to make it a story that really sticks with the reader. You may want to keep lying on the towel until it is finished, but thinking about the problems it poses probably won’t keep you up at night.
If you are sensitive to violence, however, the gore level might. The story’s style is a bit like what you might get if Quentin Tarantino was inspired to make a movie based on a third-hand description of a Joss Whedon show—supernatural adventures of lost souls, with a large side of hack-and-slash action. It walks the line between disturbing and cartoonish.
The story’s premise is a simple quest for revenge: when we meet the main character, James Stark, he has just escaped from Hell, where he spent 11 years (Earth-time) surviving as the only living man in Inferno after a group of his erstwhile friends sold him down the river in a bid for power. Further, the leader of the group had the only person he ever loved murdered while he was below decks. Now that he’s back he has nothing left to lose and nothing but payback on his mind.
Of course, things don’t stay that simple, and the fate of the universe/the free world/life as we know it is quickly pulled into the mix. There is more going on than meets the eye, and not everything is as it seems…this is pretty standard fare for a mystery/thriller, but Kadrey handles the plot well, and generally strikes a balance between original conception and following the conventions of the genre. There were a couple moments where I wished he had given more thought, or at least explained a little better, the parameters of the world he has created. Also, he could have given Stark a little more interest as a protagonist by making more out of the alienation between the 19-year-old self he was when he got sent to Hell and the 30-year-old self he is when he comes back. (It’s never clear if Stark experienced 11 years-worth of time in hell, although he certainly was there long enough to run the gamut of infernal torments and come out the other side.)
Stark is also limited as a hero because of his lack of personal connections. There are other people (and non-people), that he meets or goes back to, but he is for the most part devoid of relationships with the living. It is hard to care about someone who doesn’t really care about anyone, and while that’s not really true for Stark, he’d like it to be and that makes his character less interesting. He needs to grow a bit more, and although the story points him in that direction, it doesn’t quite deliver.
On the plus side, Stark is an INCREDIBLE BADASS. He spent his time in Hell learning to survive and in the process becoming a demon-killing machine, “a monster that kills monsters.” A lot of the fun of Sandman Slim is watching him tear the landscape apart; especially since his voice, as he describes these escapades in first-person narrative, is irreverent, sarcastic, and funny. You don’t want to give up on him as a hero so long as he makes you laugh.
In the end, of course, everything gets sorted out, with just enough questions remaining that a series is all but promised (in fact a sequel, Kill the Dead, is already out). In tone and depth, Sandman Slim feels a lot like a superhero comic, and it fact, I would probably buy a graphic novel adaptation of the book. Heck, I’ll probably read Kill the Dead, even if I only do it while I’m lying on my beach towel.