Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey is a dark, gritty, balls-to-the-wall, unrelenting festival of action and plot twists wrapped up in a package of incredible punk descriptions.
Jim Stark got sent to Hell while still alive. Eleven years later, he got out. Of course he wants revenge. Revenge on the bastards who sent him to Hell and revenge for his murdered girl-friend, Alice. On his way there, he meets up with old friends, makes some new ones, generally pisses off Heaven, Hell, and everyone in between. And for a self-described monster, I don’t think I could like him more.
I’d heard about Sandman Slim before I picked up Butcher Bird. Unlike BB, with Sandman there was no awkward “I’ll give it one more chapter” moments. It started fast and kept going.
It’s not a pretty story. It’s not a fairy-tale with nymphs and pixies. It’s a Noir-Urban-Fantasy with magic, blood, guts, bullets and knives. There are angels and demons and monsters of all stripes in between populating a very familiar L.A.
Stark has free-will to burn, even if he doesn’t always engage his brain before he gets started. Once he commits to an action, he sees it through. He’s a refreshingly blunt character who got used to Hell, doesn’t particularly care to visit Heaven, but is still human enough to care about his friends. He doesn’t care about saving the world, but he will save a friend.
Kadrey’s view of Hell is fascinating and both Sandman Slim and Butcher Bird are worth it for those glimpses into that glittering abyss.
If I were pressed, I’d put him on the shelf with Simon R. Green’s Nightside Series and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.