Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
How could I not read this book? William Gibson called it a "...deeply amusing, dirty-ass masterpiece." The bits I read promised a hard-boiled, noirish novel about a living human who escapes from Hell and returns to Los Angeles to kill the men who not only sent him there but murdered his girlfriend. The bastards. Jack Stark, the narrator, is a magician, as are all those he is sworn to kill. There are also angels, alchemists, a vampire-like creature who's trying to reform, men from the Department of Homeland Security, and some particularly unpleasant demons called Kissi.
I really loved this book for the first fifty pages or so, then I thought, "So what?" If everything is supernatural, nothing really matters. The pleasure in noir fiction and film lies in experiencing the lives of desperate people, on both sides of the law, trapped by the systems that will crush them. In Sandman Slim the fate of the world hangs in the balance, but big deal. The novel is a very clever, carnival spook house. But maybe that's what Gibson meant when he called is a "..deeply amusing, dirty-ass masterpiece."
Kadrey is very funny and he keeps the pace swift. Catching all his pop culture references will make you feel in with the in crowd. I was batting a hundred until I was wrong about Lawrence Tierney. Kadrey does fall prey in the extended denouement to the common fault of superhero movies -- he spends twenty pages setting up the basis for a franchise. The second book is already available.
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