21. Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
Publication: HarperCollins e-books; Reprint edition (January 26, 2010), ebook, 400pp / ISBN 0061714305 (print)
Genre: Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Rating: Borrow it
Read: February 12-14, 2011
Source: Downloaded (when it was free)
Summary from Amazon:
Life sucks, and then you die. Or, if you’re James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth that is Los Angeles.
Now Stark’s back, and ready for revenge. And absolution, and maybe even love. But when his first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than you’d expect, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future.
Resurrection sucks. Saving the world is worse.
I’ve heard a lot of good things about Sandman Slim, namely that it was awesome. And that’s correct! It is awesome, if by awesome you mean “slightly less entertaining than the Dresden Files.”
Yes, friends, I wasn’t overly wowed with Sandman Slim. I wasn’t bored, and I don’t dislike it, but the entire time I was reading it I couldn’t help but wish I was reading a Dresden Files book instead.
And can you blame me for comparing the two? Sandman Slim‘s an urban fantasy action book with a snarky, woobie-ish protagonist, beautiful women who don’t have a lot to say, close ties to its setting, demons, people wandering around way older than they need to be, and some interesting magic. To be fair, it’s not directly COPYING the Dresden Files. It’s more like the structure’s the same, and the bits filling in that structure are made of tin instead of bricks.
I do like the world set-up in Sandman Slim, and I like how Stark is all fucked up and ugly instead of the more usual ruggedly handsome. I like how there wasn’t really any romance, and how Stark wasn’t pretending to be anything but an anti-hero out for revenge. It’s got a really good plot– something that no doubt could be turned into an action movie pretty easily– and decent enough characters. I really liked the end, and I’ll probably read the sequel. But there were parts where it fell down from the Dresden Files standard (which isn’t even that high), namely in the bantering area. The banter? Sucked. At one point Stark says he’s the gingerbread man and he’s going to run as fast as he can. Really? That’s supposed to be clever?
One of the key points of a good urban fantasy action novel is in its banter, and Sandman Slim let me down big-time there. Not that I expected it to be over-the-top funny, or for there to even any laughs whatsoever. But banter isn’t about the funny, it’s about the clever. And bad banter? Just makes everyone disappointed.
But, like I said: it’s not a bad book. If you ignore the subpar banter, the useless female characters (when they even appear at all), and the fact that Kadrey considers cosplay to be fetish wear, it’s pretty good, even! If you like books like the Dresden Files but want more gore/horror/guts exploding everywhere, you might like Sandman Slim.