Kemper's Reviews > Sandman Slim

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
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Aug 25, 2009

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bookshelves: horror, magic

Ever read a book and find yourself thinking, "This is pretty good, but it could have been face-melting awesome."? This is one of those books for me. I really liked it, but found myself picking some serious nits while reading it.

Stark was a magician (a real magician, not a sawing-a-woman-in-half kind) who was madly in love with his girlfriend Alice when he was betrayed by another magician named Mason and some others. Mason managed to send Stark to hell, but as a living person, not a dead soul.

11 years later, Stark learns that Alice has been murdered on Earth by Mason and his pals. Determined to get revenge, Stark breaks out of hell with a magical key that allows him to access almost any point in any dimension. His stay in hell has made him supernaturally tough with an extremely bad attitude, but he soon runs across various angels, demons, monsters, alchemists, magicians, Nazi skin-heads and porn shop owners that he has to deal with as he learns that there may be something much bigger than his revenge at stake.

This had a great concept with a lot of original ideas and some terrific action. Mixing magic with various weapons, including shotguns, makes for some awesome carnage when thing really get rolling.

However, for the first 250 pages or so, Stark just comes across as an unlikeable asshole who blunders about warning his enemies he's back and generally getting his ass kicked. (I've noticed a common factor among supernatural characters like Harry Dresden or Joe Pitt that three-quarters of the books seem to consist of them getting beaten to a pulp by various beasties and this book continues that trend.) The first half of this book consists mainly of Stark complaining about all the clothes he's ruined by getting repeatedly abused.

The author has a bad habit of having Stark do stupid things, that he acknowledges as stupid, just to advance the plot and it's just chalked up to him being 'impulsive'. Plus, there are some serious logic gaps. Stark can access any point in any dimesion with his supernatural key. Yet, he seems to prefer stealing cars. And when he needs to dispose of a body, he steals yet another car and thinks about how many chances he's taking as he drops the body in the La Brea tar pits. Why wouldn't he just use the key and take the body to Antartica or the middle of the Amazon and just dump it? It doesn't help that he uses the key about 5 seconds after dumping the body.

However, the ending redeemed this book a lot. When the action finally starts, it gets massive in scale and imaginative in how weapons and magic could be blended. Stark become a bad-ass anti-hero instead of a whining jerk, and the ending sets up a lot of possibilities. I hope future ones are more like the second half of the book and less like the first half.

Oh, and for you Donald Westlake fans, the main character's name is Stark and one of the bad guys is named Parker. Get it?

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Comments (showing 1-16)




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message 16: by Dan (new)

Dan Schwent This sounds really good. So much for getting my to-read pile down to a manageable level.


Kemper Blame this one on my wife. She read this and demanded that I read it the second she was finished. She practically ripped the book I was reading out of my hand and put this one in it. But I can't say too much because she checks these comments. Hi, honey! (It has been pretty good so far. Kind of reminds me of Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt books.)



message 14: by Dan (new)

Dan Schwent It sounds like a good read. If you could focus your reading energies on this the next couple of days and then review it, that would be great.


Kemper I'll get right on that. You can write me a note for work, right?


message 12: by Dan (new)

Dan Schwent Kemper wrote: "I'll get right on that. You can write me a note for work, right? "

Of course.



message 11: by Dan (new)

Dan Schwent Was this good enough for you to read the upcoming sequel?


Kemper Dan wrote: "Was this good enough for you to read the upcoming sequel?"

I'd be interested. The second half of the book picked up enough that I'd want to see what happens next.


message 9: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim the logic gaps are addressed partially in the book, when asked "If you can go anywhere you want anytime you want, why are you always stealing cars?" Stark replies "Because ghosts walk through walls. People drive cars." (p 154)


message 8: by Kemper (last edited Jan 05, 2012 08:58AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kemper Jim wrote: "Stark replies "Because ghosts walk through walls. People drive cars."

People who don't have a magic key that allows them to teleport anywhere drive cars. People who do have magic keys that allow them to teleport anywhere and still steal cars even for activities like body disposal are just morons.

If I had a magic key that let me teleport, I'd never drive again. Hell, I wouldn't even walk to the bathroom..


Bethany I thought the same exact things, just in my own vernacular. I had no qualms with the plot line of him not being a soul while in hell, because it is a unique idea, so I enjoyed it. But I did think that the writing has a bit of maturing to do. He has great talent, he just needs to hone it. I just started book 2 and just in the first chapter his writing has gotten better.


Kemper Bethany wrote: "I thought the same exact things, just in my own vernacular. I had no qualms with the plot line of him not being a soul while in hell, because it is a unique idea, so I enjoyed it. But I did think t..."

Second book devolved into near nonsense pretty quickly for me.


Troy Lefman I thought the naming was based out of Iron Man. James (Rhodes) (Tony) Stark


Kemper Troy wrote: "I thought the naming was based out of Iron Man. James (Rhodes) (Tony) Stark"

Per the author's blog, he named him for the Westlake/Richard Stark novels.

http://richardkadrey.blogspot.com/201...


message 3: by Trudi (new)

Trudi Kemper wrote: "His stay in hell has made him supernaturally tough with an extremely bad attitude..."

Sounds like Dean Winchester, minus the magic key of course.


message 2: by Salim (new)

Salim Garami I thought it was extremely obvious Stark was named after James Dean's character in Rebel Without a Cause. There are obviously numerous references to a lot of movies all through the series, but not as much as James Dean and Rebel Without a Cause references drown them.


message 1: by Kemper (last edited May 02, 2016 06:28AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kemper Salim wrote: "I thought it was extremely obvious Stark was named after James Dean's character in Rebel Without a Cause. There are obviously numerous references to a lot of movies all through the series, but not ..."

As I said in the previous comment #13, the author used to have a blog entry about the name being inspired by Richard Stark although it looks like the page for the link I posted there no longer exists.

He talks about it again in a guest post on John Scalzi's blog too:

"Stark (One of Donald Westlake’s pseudonyms) wrote a series of hardboiled novels about a professional thief named Parker. The books are terse and brutal. The bad guys are the stars. We watch them plot and carry out their crimes. What grabbed me about Richard Stark’s work was the tone and mood. I’d never read so much conveyed in so few words. I immediately wondered if you could write SF and fantasy the same way (A lot of other people must have wondered that too because these days we’re nipple-deep in books about vampire hunters, ghost whisperers, werewolf crossing guards and, for all I know, poltergeist gumshoes). When I wrote Sandman Slim I wanted to acknowledge the inspiration. That’s why my protagonist is named Stark. It’s also why one of the villains is named Parker."

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/10/05...


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