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Sandman Slim
Richard Kadrey
HarperCollins Eos, 384 pages

Sandman Slim
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

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

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Richard Kadrey is not the most prolific novelist in the world. Still, every five, six years or so out comes another book like Metrophage, or Kamikaze L'Amour, dark, violent, intense works mostly set in and around Los Angeles with characters straight out of a good punk rock song. Sandman Slim fits right into this tendency with one major qualification. It's his best work yet.

Eleven years before the novel begins, James Stark was a young magician learning to control and use the power and talent so evident within him. Then another magician and his followers ganged up to send James, still alive, to Hell, where he was forced to fight demons and other creatures hand to hand for the amusement of Lucifer and his minions. They also killed his girlfriend Alice, and it's that action that fuels his desire to survive and escape from Hell. Now he's in Los Angeles, determined to track down and have his revenge on those who ruined his life.

Needless to say, James did not survive his time in Hell by being a nice guy. Indeed, by his actions and attitude he has become barely distinguishable from the demons he once fought. Yet as he steals, kills, maims, and destroys his way through the streets of LA, it slowly becomes evident that there is much more at stake here than his own desire for vengeance. A war is looming that will pit Heaven and Hell against forces determined to overthrow both Satan and God, and James's experience inevitably draws him into the conflict. The only question is which side, if any, he's on. The answer to that requires Stark to learn some uncomfortable facts about his own past.

Kadrey tells his story in a swirl of tight, darkly intense prose. This is a world where even angels have hidden agendas and are ruthless in carrying them out. The few likeable characters are almost all swept up into Stark's vortex of violence and retribution, and they suffer for it. The one exception is the owner of a bar, whose establishment provides a place of refuge and recovery for Stark in between his conflicts with various thugs, gangsters, federal agents, supernatural beings, and, of course, the magicians who changed his life. There is a final resolution of sorts, one that allows several of the characters to at least live, if not happily ever after. But then, this is not that kind of book. Instead, it's the kind of book where suffering and slim hopes are the reality for almost all the characters, and where goals are not achieved without the kind of sacrifice and revelation that change people's lives forever. And by the standards of that kind of book, Sandman Slim is very, very good indeed.

Copyright © 2009 by Greg L. Johnson

The one thing reviewer Greg L Johnson felt he had in common with Sandman Slim is the feeling of being haunted by the lyrics of a Tom Waits song. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction. And, for something different, Greg blogs about news and politics relating to outdoors issues and the environment at Thinking Outside.


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