Last week I blogged about all the lovely new books I got as presents over the holiday, and I promised to post reviews of each as I finished reading them. So, without further ado, here’s the first review.
Sandman Slim, by Richard Kadrey (388 pages, Urban Fantasy)
This book is written in the first person, which normally turns me off. But here it really works. In fact, after the first paragraph, I neither noticed the first person any longer nor could imagine the story being told any other way. In fact, a lot of what works about the book (and the few things that don’t) are linked directly to the main character’s feeling of rage and alienation, as well as his penchant for self-destructive thoughts and behavior. All of these smack you with much greater impact when delivered hot and steaming from his screwed-up head.
The protagonist’s voice is probably the most unique thing about Sandman Slim. He’s ugly, mean, and morally ambiguous. Kadrey does not hold back in showing us all of Sandman’s neuroses and relating his view of the world as stinking and dark. There are plenty of times in the story when you don’t like him, when you feel a sort of cruel satisfaction seeing him fail, one that makes you realize you’re actually starting to think just like him. So, I take my hat off to Kadrey for creating someone so persuasive, who feels so real and so absurdly unreal at the same time.
That said, the story itself didn’t strike me as especially distinctive – a war between Heaven and Hell, a world of magic just outside what mortals acknowledge, fallen angels, evil magicians, and plenty of violence. But it was strung together well enough, providing enough reason to keep hanging out with the compellingly horrible and delicious Sandman Slim. That was good enough for me.
My few nits include occasionally cheesy dialogue, Kadrey’s jarring tendency to sometimes forget he’s writing an anti-hero rather than a hero, and the stutter-stop ending. The big climax comes too soon (or, alternatively, the denouement is overly drawn out). Further, some of the punch is taken out of the plot in an apparent effort to set things up for the next novel. But, by-and-large, this book was fun to read (for large chunks at a time, I literally couldn’t put it down). There’s a sequel out in hardcover now. As soon as the paperback edition is on the shelves, I’ll definitely pick it up.
In short, if you like gritty urban fantasy that eschews all sugar-coating, you’ll probably enjoy Sandman Slim.