Bane of Kings reviews the first Sandman Slim novel by Richard Kadrey, entitled Sandman Slim.
“A fun, fast paced urban fantasy book, a great read for fans of the genre.” ~The Founding Fields
Sandman Slim was an awesome book. It had slighty strange formatting on my kindle with a lack of chapters, but this only worked in the book’s favour, and I spent longer periods reading it than I would have done a book with chapters and was really blown away by this book. I’m a fan of urban fantasy and I love to see that not every novel in this genre has gone down the paranormal romance route – Sandman Slim still proves that male-written urban fantasy can be enjoyable and awesome, standing alongside my favourites like Chris F. Holm’s The Collector series, of which the first two books are awesome and the third is yet to be released, and The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, the long running Harry Dresden-focused book series which are arguably the best urban fantasy books on the market today.
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.
The book sounded awesome and after hearing praise about it from Civilian Reader, my regular go-to site for book reviews, I decided to pick it up especially as it was just under a fiver on the Kindle Fire. And I really enjoyed it. Sandman Slim is a great urban fantasy novel, a spectacular debut and a series that I will be returning to as soon as I can. It’s awesome, and I loved every second of this book – even if the lack of chapter breaks made it seem like it would never end at times.
Although I’ve mentioned The Dresden Files and The Collector above, Sandman Slim has differences with both those series. It’s similar to The Collector than The Dresden Files, but Sandman Slim is still an entertaining read that will keep the reader turning the page and coming back for more. Like Chris F. Holm’s series, Sandman Slim mainly sticks to magic and demons rather than including a whole boatload of supernatural creatures like werewolves and vampires. (Although vampires do make an apperance) This is good as some books that I’ve read often try to cram many supernatural creatures into one novel as possible – and I’m even guilty of this flaw, my first draft of my WIP London’s Burning urban fantasy novel (which I still haven’t got round to making improvements on), suffered from including everything from vampires to mermaids and everything in between. I’ve found that the focus on the monsters doesn’t leave time for character devlopment and other cool stuff, which is why I’m relieved to say that Sandman Slim doesn’t fall into this trap. It’s a great read, and not only has Kadrey mastered the character, but he’s also mastered the pacing as well.
I couldn’t put Sandman Slim down. Kadrey’s prose is tight and streamlined, and it reads very much like a thriller with supernatural elements – just how I like my urban fantasy. The book itself also allows time for some great character development, and Kadrey re-introduces James Stark into the world with storm, having spent eleven years in hell, as expected – the man is out of touch with modern day setting and is not going to be making comparisons to recent phenomenons like Twilight or anything else. This is similar to the TV show that I’ve been following regularly as well, Arrow – except that Oliver Queen has been stranded on an Island for five years rather than having spent eleven years in hell. I think I’d know which one I’d pick given the choice – but it’s nice to see an urban fantasy novel that doesn’t make references to similiar books – like Ben Aaronovitch and his references to Harry Potter, and Benedict Jacka’s reference to The Dresden Files.
Whilst the novel may not be the most original urban fantasy book out there, the book itself is full of dark and intense prose. As you turn the pages you can’t help but be drawn into Stark’s world, and it’s harsh and unforgiving. It’s a very dark and atmospheric novel, and a welcome change from the slightly ‘lighter’ Dresden Files. - I know the Dresden Files has its dark moments as well, but Sandman Slim is probably the darkest urban fantasy novel that I’ve read.
The book itself avoids likeable characters – and the few that are there don’t get to hang around long. After all, James Stark didn’t survive eleven years of hell by playing nice, and what we’re presented with is a very entertaining novel with revenge at the core of its plotline, but of course – Stark has to save the world as well. The book itself is a very entertaining read and although the characters aren’t all as memorable as Stark, you’ll still be swept along in a thrilling ride that introduces a great new anti-hero to an urban fantasy world, and the book itself is a welcome break from all the Boy-Scout urban fantasy heroes like Harry Potter out there on the market today.
If you’re looking for something dark and gloomy, action packed and fast paced, then you can’t go wrong with Sandman Slim. Don’t expect likeable characters though, but enjoy a great read.
The Sandman Slim Series: Sandman Slim, Kill the Dead, Aloha From Hell, Devil in the Dollhouse, Devil Said Bang, Kill City Blues (2013)