Richard Kadrey,
Sandman Slim
(Eos, 2010)

Jim Stark was just a young magician having a little fun in the world (picture a young John Constantine) when some pals craving power summon enough demons to pull him down to Hell. There, where he is the first living human among the damned, Stark stays alive by fighting gladiator-style in Hell's arena, fighting and killing an endless array of demonic warriors.

Turns out, he's pretty good at it. And when the only think keeping him in line -- a promise of his girlfriend's safety in the world above -- becomes moot, Stark escapes Hell with a few powerful weapons and tools at his disposal. He returns to Earth -- Los Angeles, specifically -- older and much, much stronger, with only one thought: revenge against the people who sent him there.

OK, two thoughts: a new wardrobe would be nice.

Stark has a few allies, but it's hard to be sure of everyone as the action unfolds like a shotgun blast through paneling. Stark is tough, man, and he doesn't take guff from anyone any more. Consequently, Sandman Slim is gritty, fast-paced and very, very violent. Stark has a endless supply of demons, evil magicians, a headless porn-store owner, unfriendly angels and a gang of neo-Nazis to contend with -- to say nothing of a Frenchman cursed with immortality, a secretive doctor, the doctor's spidery assistant and Homeland Security.

And it all takes place over Christmas vacation. How sweet!

Chances are fair you won't like Stark all that much. He's an abrasive fellow, snarky and unhelpful, and he's not here to be liked. But Sandman Slim -- daft title notwithstanding -- is a Hell of a book.

book review by
Tom Knapp

4 December 2010

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new