SANDMAN SLIM by Richard Kadrey
I picked up the Sandman Slim debut novel because I thought it had an interesting title. The cover wasn’t really outstanding, and the premise sounded so-so. After one of my students brought it up, I thought I’d ferret the book out and give it another chance.
I breezed right through the book and had a blast. Granted, James Stark (Sandman Slim) isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. The guy is too raucous, too hard-edged, too vulgar, and too angry to cuddle up with a lot of readers. I loved him even more for that. He’s different, wild and hurt and willing to be violent.
I read a lot of urban fantasies because I love the whole idea of magic and otherworldliness. I enjoy a lot of them. However, I have to admit that I get irritated with all the sexual tension that threads through many of those books. I’m a guy. I carry the Y chromosome. There’s a time for love and romance, but not in the middle of my vengeance novel!
I mean, come on. Stark was used as a plaything in Hell for eleven years. Tortured and nearly killed by demons, he has learned to be the ultimate survivor. That, honestly, was a stretch for me. I don’t see how anyone could go through that, but physically Stark was unkillable in Hell. Emotionally, though, he would have been shattered. Especially after he discovered the love of his life had been snuffed out.
But with Stark’s honey already dead and gone, he’s out to make the people who killed her pay for their crimes. That’s the kind of love I want to see in some of the books I read. I’m all for happy everafter, but I love the stripped down, angry prose of someone who’s out for some payback as well. Richard Kadrey provides that in spades in this novel, and that has prompted me to pick up the next book in the series as well.
Kadrey’s writing and plotting are good, solid, but he misses some things too. I didn’t feel as though I got to know the villains in this book as well as I should have. I understood that he hated them, but they never stepped onto the stage long enough to become a true presence. Of course, that’s difficult when the book is a first-person story. Dangle the hero in front of the villain too long and the end battle gets to be too anti-climactic.
But this is a fantasy novel. Maybe our baddies are coming back?
The world Stark is in is well rendered. There are a lot of possibilities, and I enjoyed cruising through Stark’s slayground, seeing the sights and meeting the other characters. Kadrey has done a good job of setting himself up in this novel to write more adventures and I’m looking forward to them.