Thursday, October 14, 2010

Book Review - Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

From the publisher:
When he was 19, James Stark was considered to be one of the greatest natural magicians, a reputation that got him demon-snatched and sent downtown — to Hell — where he survived as a gladiator, a sideshow freak entertaining Satan's fallen angels. That was 11 years ago. Now, the hitman who goes only by Stark has escaped and is back in L.A. Armed with a fortune-telling coin, a black bone knife, and an infernal key, Stark is determined to destroy the magic circle — led by the conniving and powerful Mason Faim — that stole his life. Though nearly everything has changed, one constant remains: his friend Vidocq, a 200-year-old Frenchman who has been keeping vigil for the young magician's return. But when Stark's first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head that belongs to thefirst of the circle, a sleazy video store owner named Kasabian, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than he counted on, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future...
A pretty good first book in a new Urban Fantasy series. The wise-cracking, mystery solving protagonist dishes out his own form of justice against the people who did him wrong. James Stark is cast in the same mold as Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden (The Dresden Files) and Simon Green's John Taylor (Nightside). They are all inextricably tied to the supernatural forces that empower them to effect change (solve the mystery, right the wrong...) yet force them to live outside of normal society.

Stark, like Dresden and Taylor, strikes a balance between superhuman abilities and all-too-human frailties. Stark differs, however, in that he is a truly immoral anti-hero. We like our anti-heroes to play outside the rules, but we typically see them do so reluctantly in their pursuit of an ultimate "justice".

Stark truly enjoys breaking the law. In Sandman Slim he steals one car after another, often the most expensive he can find and, given his ability to slip through shadows and move instantly from place to place, he often steals for the flimsiest of reasons. When he beats up on a bunch of Nazi skinheads we cheer him on, yet feel a little uncomfortable with the pleasure he takes in planning and executing the battles.

The world Stark lives in is as dark and dangerous as Dresden and Taylor, but Kadrey is much more explicit in the expression of the evil that is barely hidden from the "normal" world.

The Big Idea: Richard Kadrey - Whatever: "The Sandman Slim books are in fact the best kind of trash — rough and dirty and full of surprising things — And Kadrey explains why that has value."
Yes, I wonder about the nature of our existence, but I don’t get all Tolstoy about it. If you like action, noise and think The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is a thousand times better than Forrest Gump you’re who I wrote the book for. Kill The Dead isn’t American Gods or Zero History. It’s Mickey Spillane with monsters.
I’m not an author. I’m a writer. That’s all I am.
If you like noir-esque urban fantasy with a hard edge then this is the book for you