Benjamin Thomas's Reviews > Sandman Slim

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
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's review
Sep 02, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: horror, advanced-reading-copy
Read in June, 2009

"Sandman Slim" drew me in like a moth to flame, so much so that I found myself sneaking time to read it. That's mostly due to the vivid language the author uses, both in terms of dialog as well as the descriptive passages.

The novel is told from the first person point of view and is largely a revenge story told in the form of a supernatural fantasy. It begins with our anti-hero, James Stark, a "magician" (as in real magic, not David Copperfield) who has just broken out of Hell by defeating one of Lucifer's main generals. After 11 years in Hell, fighting/winning brutal arena battles, he is out and looking for revenge against those who killed his girlfriend and sent him to Hell in the first place.

As we progress through the story it becomes evident that Stark is just a pawn in a much bigger game and he is being used by others. The author brings a lot of different facets to the story that makes this novel unique. Several times, Stark is referred to as a "monster who kills monsters." He is truly violent and has no moral rules that he lets stand in the way of getting his revenge. He kills without remorse. He has incredible powers from his stint in Hell including the ability to bounce back from terrible injury, such as a knife to his heart, and the next time he is knifed, he recuperates quicker and pretty much becomes invulnerable to the same type of damage. That leads him to a sort of recklessness that serves to drive the action at a rapid pace.

Despite his violent nature, Stark is oddly enduring. He may cut off an opponent's head and then keep that same head alive through his magic to further torment it but at the same time he is sympathetic to the less fortunate of the regular people he encounters. We readers actually like him in the same way the audience likes the character of "Dexter," the serial killer protagonist in the TV show of the same name. The action is almost non-stop but it is the dialog that drives the plot. Virtually everything Stark says is cynical, sarcastic, or profane. This book is not for the cozy mystery crowd nor for those who are offended by the very nature of Heaven or Hell, God, or the Devil. It often reads like a well-done comic book except here the words have to paint the ink pictures.

The only concern I had about this novel is the ending where too much is revealed all at once. There are several mysteries as to what is actually happening throughout the first 300 pages and Stark figures most of them out. But the end seemed rushed and includes a scene where Stark is told everything that is really going on. The author seems to be setting up this book as a first of a series along the lines of Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris' "Sookie Stackhouse," or 50 or so other supernatural/vampire/witch series that are so popular these days. I will say that if, indeed, this is the first of a series, I was quite intrigued and will definitely be reading more of James Stark's adventures.
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