Sandman Slim--Richard Kadrey

Genre: Dark Fantasy/Noir
1st in series

Eleven years ago, James Stark was lured to the basement of a dark house and sent to Hell, literally.  While still alive, he engaged in arena battles in Hell and gradually became one of Hells greatest champions, sending even major devils to the Hell within the Hell for vanquished spirits and the already dead.

Now he's come back to avenge the death of his girlfriend and he's spent some time out of touch so iPhones, and other commonplace items of the present are arcane oddities.  But having trained in Hell, he's ready to fight.

The prose is tight, the story well plotted and idea-rich.  James Stark is completely believable as a character and what drives him makes him more sympathetic than one would otherwise be inclined to.

The story arc traces a traditional noir thriller, while the window dressing is anything but noir.  We've got hell, heaven, and other realms all packed into a story that is a compelling roller coaster ride.

Be warned--this is only for true fans of dark fantasy and for the more violent side of dark fantasy at that.  Take fighting on a supernatural realm, add a dash of Mickey Spillane, and you have a sense of what is going on in the book.

A fun, toss-off read.  While I might not agree with most aspects of Kadrey cosmology, I could certainly enjoy his story and his characters.  And it's nice to see some new bad guys in the celestial war.

Oh yes, and some may be amused by James Stark's ruminations of the Glock and "daddy issues."

I've got the second in the series (Kill the Dead) to read as well, but it may take me a while to get around to it. A little candy is a fine accent to one's ordinary intake, but a steady diet of it palls quickly.

Highly recommended for a restricted audience.  ****

Interview with the Author


  1. Steven,

    I read this work some time ago when it was selected by the SF group I belong to. I've decided I'm not a part of that restricted audience you referred to.

    Technically it's very decent book, as you pointed out. However, I did not find the characters, including Stark, to be of any interest. I thought the environment to be evil, rather than dark.

  2. Dear Fred,

    An interesting reaction--I'm curious as to why you would say "evil" rather than "dark."

    The cosmology/cosmogony is, as I pointed out, warped, but evil--hmmm. Perhaps. I don't know. It didn't strike me so. And I'm usually highly sensitive to such things. So, as I said, if you'd care to share more I would be interested in understanding your reaction.



  3. Steven,

    I fear my reaction is idiosyncratic for no one else in the group saw it that way.

    The overall sense I get is that all the characters are really in hell. The Earth that Stark inhabits is an evil place, and the characters are a part of it.

    Sorry I can't be more specific about it, but it's an overall impression, conveyed by the story as a whole and I can't point to any specific incidents. Part of the problem is that I got the book from the library and I no longer have it available to refer to. However, I wasn't able during the discussion when I had the book to be any more specific then.

    Perhaps it may have to do with my feeling that there is no moral core to the work. Stark's driving impulse is revenge.


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