Friday, October 15, 2010

Review: Sandman Slim

James Stark is a man who has been to hell and back. Literally. Eleven years ago his only friends in life betrayed him and banished him to hell. Lots changed during that eleven years, both here, and downtown in Hell. While Stark was fighting demons in the arenas and assassinating Lucifer's generals in his spare time, his old pal turned worst enemy, Mason killed his girlfriend. Finally, Stark is back, armed with the key to the room of thirteen doors, a demon knife, and one hell of a grudge.

Once he's back topside, Stark doesn't waste any time getting down to business. Before the first day is out he manages to steal a car, piss off some neo-nazis and behead one of the bastards who helped send him to hell. From there, Sandman Slim is off to the races with a pace that seems determined to tear down the gates of hell.

To say that Sandman Slim hard-boiled is like saying Michael Jordan was pretty good at basketball. It's a bit of an understatement. Stark's answer to pretty much everything is quick, dirty, ultra-violence. Stark sure knows how to stack bodies, but he needs to be smart enough to outsmart the world's craftiest magician. The odds certainly are not in Stark's favor, but then again, he did survive as a living mortal for eleven years in Hell.

Sandman Slim has a lot of good going for it. For starters I really enjoyed the snappy, witty narrative voice of James Stark. It was a constant joy to see L.A. through his eyes. There were many times when I chuckled or laughed out loud at one of the many clever turns of phrase.

The author, Richard Kadrey definitely has a knack for pacing. It isn't much of a stretch to say that Sandman Slim is non-stop action. Yeah, there are a few short gaps, but Kadrey more or less keeps the action scenes coming like they are rolling off an assembly line.

Not only does Kadrey have a knack for pacing, but his character building is quite strong as well. The smart-mouthed, violent, James Stark is the ultimate anti-hero. Not to mention the other freaks, demons, angels, creeps and lowlifes that populate this book...all of which are written just well enough so that they come to life, but don't steal the thunder from Stark who is clearly the main attraction.

On top of the solid character building, is Kadrey's depiction of L.A. and more specifically, Hollywood. He breathes new, demon possessed life into one of pop culture's most beloved settings. When he's through, Hollywood seems like the perfect place for all the crazy, over the top shit that goes down, and the perfect place for his cast of characters to take residence.

Reader be warned, Sandman Slim is sort of the novel version of a Hollywood blockbuster. It lacks the depth and scope that many fantasy readers have come to love, and expect from modern writers of the genre. This may turn some potential readers off, but on the other hand, if you are sick of dull, drawn out epics, then this might be just the thing for you. Clocking in at just about 390 pages, you get a great self-contained book that can be read as a stand-alone. There is a sequel that has just hit shelves, but the conflicts presented in this book are resolved by the end.

Sandman Slim turned out to be a pretty great October read. It has a nice blend of fantasy, and horror, and since it is an pretty easy read, it fit nicely into my busy schedule of school and work. Check it out.

Grade: B

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