Alan's Reviews > Kill the Dead

Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey
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's review
Jan 20, 2011

liked it
Recommended to Alan by: Slim's first outing
Recommended for: Angels and devils who like to hang out in seedy bars
Read in January, 2011

Explosive and profane like its predecessor, Kill the Dead is our second first-person glimpse into the absurdly-complicated second life of one James Stark, a wisecracking and dissolute demigod of sorts who was raised on Earth by his human mother, went to Hell and back again like some latter-day Orpheus, and lives again in Los Angeles, California (not so much of a step up as a lateral move, perhaps) where he... runs a video store?

Yeah, among other things, Stark manages a video store named Max Overload (not a James Patterson character, yet). Stark still keeps Kasabian, the former owner, around to do the books, though—Kasabian has a head for figures (heh).

However, the video store doesn't make much money. To make those pesky ends meet, Sandman Slim (though Stark's come to hate being called that, by the way—"Sandman Slim" is like his stripper name, especially since that damned Wikipedia entry) has become a freelance fixer, a hard-boiled supernatural private eye, tracking down various unsavory magical types and dispatching them without remorse, for whoever's paying the bills this week.

So far, Stark seems to be getting away with working both sides of the fence... in this case, he's been playing the Golden Vigil, officially on the side of the angels and the Department of Homeland Security (same thing, really), against Lucifer, uneasy head of the disloyal opposition, who's in L.A. himself because... well, why else? To get his movie made.

But both sides are unhappy with the way Stark's playing the game, and looming over all that infighting is what's starting to look like a zombie apocalypse that will get rid of those annoying warm bodies in the City of Angels for all eternity...

Both the features and the flaws I noticed with the first book appear with the second as well. The banter is always light and lively, somehow never overwhelming—Kadrey excels at snappy dialogue. Carlos is back, tending bar at the Bamboo House where all the cool kids go and keeping Stark well-lubricated. Near the beginning of the book, there's a fun chase scene set in downtown LA, with lots of local color I recognized myself from my five-year-long sentence in the city... although I never ran into any flamethrower-toting vampires at those colorful Grand Central Market stalls or in the Million-Dollar Theater nearby. And the situations just keep getting more and more absurdly violent.

I did miss Candy, from the first volume—she was around but offstage for most of this one—but we do get two strong female characters in her place: Allegra, now a budding alchemist and protégée of the unwilling immortal Eugène Vidocq, and Brigitte Bardo (really), a Czech porn star with a skill set that is not at all immediately obvious, who's been cast as Eve in "Light Bringer," Lucifer's blockbuster film-to-be.

Simon Ritchie is one of the producers whose soul is in Lucifer's hands already, so it seems pretty certain that "Light Bringer" will make it onto screens in time for Samhain. Simon Ritchie is Brigitte's boyfriend, but he's kind of an asshole. Brigitte's a Gypsy (Romany, technically, but in one of the few inconsistencies I noticed in this book, she only makes a point of the distinction once, before it's ignored for the rest of the book). She and Stark meet cute and—c'mon, you knew it was gonna happen—hook up later, and by the time it happens you're rooting for her and Slim all the way.

But then there are all these zombies...

Basically, this book's just one hell of a lot of fun. Just like the first. Not that Kadrey needs a boost from me—as of January 2011, not only has he already finished the third book (Aloha from Hell), he's just inked a new global deal for three more books, so it looks as if we'll have Sandman Slim to kick around for a long time to come...
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