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Aloha From Hell
Richard Kadrey
Harper Voyager, 438 pages

Aloha From Hell
Richard Kadrey
Richard Kadrey is a writer living in San Francisco. He is the author of dozens of stories, plus five novels, including Metrophage and Butcher Bird. His Wired magazine cover story, "Carbon Copy," was made into one of the worst movies of 2001. Kadrey created and wrote the Vertigo comics miniseries Accelerate, which was illustrated by the Pander Brothers. He is also a fetish photographer. He has no qualifications for anything he does.

Richard Kadrey Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Sandman Slim

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'Mason talked to me once. He possessed other people's bodies and talked to me through them. He's getting stronger and he's working on a key. He's rallying troops. I should be Downtown murdering him and giving fallen angels new nightmares.'
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Aloha From Hell is book number three in the author's Sandman Slim series, and while it is possible read the novel as a stand-alone, that is clearly not the author's intention. The premise is enticing; God is apparently missing from the City of Angels, Lucifer resides in Heaven, and a psychopath is at war with both Heaven and Hell. The central character, James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, is required to leave his home in LA, and head "downtown" which is an alternate name for Hell. His mission, to rescue his lost love, scupper the plans of an insane serial killer, and while he's not otherwise occupied, stop the forces of Good and Evil from completely annihilating each other. Hardly the average day out, and filled with bloody promise. But does it deliver something as juicy as a cut of prime sirloin, or is this just a load of old scrag end?

Sandman Slim, for newcomers, is a half-angel half-man Nephilim, who in the previous two novels of this series, has been dragged into Hell. There he spent over a decade fighting for Satan's amusement. Once free and back in our world, specifically Los Angeles, he set about killing demons and vampires, and thwarting an invasion by zombies. As astute readers will have already worked out, this isn't the kind of novel where there's a lot of introspective shoe-gazing. In fact there is barely time to draw breath. Therein lies the problem, for those readers who want a more rounded, perhaps more complex type of characterisation. Not that Sandman Slim is without character, indeed he is a fine action lead, it's more a case of the character being exactly as outlined, and no more. Fine, for readers going in with their eyes open, who are looking for blood drenched urban fantasy involving magic, demonology, a literal talking head, and a gritty modern noir feel. Perhaps less of a thrill for those hoping for more glimpses behind the scenes. The story is presented first person style, through Sandman Slim's eyes, and so by the nature of the character and the helter skelter events in which he is involved, there's not always sufficient room for in-depth detail. As a nod to new readers, the author does include a brief summing up of events detailed in Sandman Slim's previous two adventures, but it's pretty basic stuff.

These small grumbles aside, Richard Kadrey does a decent job of imagineering man as Nephilim with a memorable supporting cast. At turns twisted, crude, individualistic, and exhilarating, Aloha From Hell extends the Sandman Slim franchise with more of the same. The novel will work best for those who like ass kicking anti-heroes, without the kind of complications that might slow things down. Kadrey's best triumph, perhaps, is that his work shares one distinctive quality with the Sopranos; characters that should be thoroughly detestable are written in a way that makes readers like them.

Copyright © 2013 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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