Friday, May 4, 2012

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey brings the over the top action and grit to the urban fantasy stage, with a healthy dollop of noir right on top. James Stark has spent a decade in hell fighting in the gladiator pits after being betrayed by those he thought of as his friends, taking on whatever demon or monstrosity that they could throw at him, and coming out stronger for it. Now he's back, with a key that opens any door and a knife stolen from a Prince of hell, and he's ready to take revenge on the people who sent him there. Now he has a new name, Sandman Slim, the Monster who kills Monsters.

So, we would be remiss if we didn't compare our anti-hero to his peers in the genre. Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden, and Simon R. Green's John Taylor are the ones that come to the forefront. Well, here's what you do, kill their loves ones, send them to hell for 11 years, and release them when they're good and angry and just don't have any more fucks to give. Sandman Slim is the over the top, bloody adventure that reads as if Hunter S. Thompson and Robert E. Howard got together to write the most badass urban fantasy hero they could imagine.

While I try not to spoil much, it's pretty indicative that some of the first actions our protagonist takes on his return include mugging a druggie and cutting the head off one of his old friends. The drugged up streets of LA make for a fitting background for this revenge romp, and Sandman Slim does not disappoint. Our protagonist does not hesitate to brawl with angels and demons, all the while tearing up the streets and giving the finger to the magical oversight committee. 

On the other hand, it's certainly not a perfect novel, or anywhere near that. It feels a more than a bit unpolished, perhaps a result of the book seeming partly written in the middle of a drugged up rage. And although the side characters are interesting, they sometimes only get a little bit of the reflected limelight. We end up with barely sketched caricatures, when we really are rooting for these characters to step out and become three dimensional. Because the premise for so many of these are so promising, angels and devils and monsters all. There are loose ends galore and it almost feels as if we miss out of parts of the story that should be there. For example where the name Sandman Slim actually came from. The other issue is that for some, James Stark may simply not be a likeable protagonist. He does some pretty crummy things while learning to be a hero.

In the end, the best way that I can describe Sandman Slim is a gritty romp. As long as you don't expect a masterpiece, or a very original plot, then dive on in and enjoy this vulgar, bloody tale of revenge and ass kicking.

1 comment:

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