Pros: Original, interesting, and darkly humorous
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Stark was a curiosity–a living man trapped in Hell with all of the fallen angels and dead people. He started out as a novelty gladiator, but he turned out to be remarkably difficult to kill. After a while Lucifer’s generals started using him as an assassin. Now Stark has crawled his way back out into the world of the living. He’s in possession of an extremely powerful key, and he has plans to get revenge on the people who sent him into Hell. Mostly because they’re also responsible for the death of Alice, the love of his life. Unfortunately, you don’t get to be that scary without attracting a lot of attention, and soon Stark finds himself caught up in some pretty big and confusing mind-games and physical battles. Everyone seems to hate him, but he doesn’t really care. Once he has dealt with Alice’s killer, then they can screw with him all they want to.
I have no idea why I’ve never heard of Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim novels before. I’m glad our library’s online collection has several of the installments, because I must read more of Stark’s adventures.
One of the things I love best is Stark himself. He was sent to Hell when he was just 19. He’s been gone long enough to get confused by details of mobile phones and the internet, but not so long that he ever really got over thinking of himself as being 19 years old. He’s snarky, but not overly glib. He’s implacable in his mission to avenge Alice. Sometimes he gets in over his head, but he doesn’t care as long as he makes progress on avenging her. People of all types think they have his number, but they tend to miss one or another tidbit of his personality when making assumptions about how he’ll behave. I like that Stark isn’t hugely moralistic, and often doesn’t care about doing the ‘right thing’. But at the same time, he tries to limit his car-stealing to cars that he can convince himself probably belong to rich assholes. He has his own bizarre sort of code that he only really indulges in when it doesn’t interfere with his revenge mission. It’s great watching him stumble through half-hearted attempts to seem ‘normal’. His strong yet damaged personality is deftly woven together.
The world is interesting–paranormal, but not yet another cookie-cutter supernaturally-enhanced world. It has its own personalities and quirks. Its own secrets and agendas. I look forward to seeing where Stark goes from here, since the world clearly has plans for him.