Review: “Aloha from Hell,” Richard Kadrey

Pros: Stark is such an unusual and interesting character
Cons: Occasional confusion as to why things were happening in a certain way
Rating: 4 out of 5

 

Aloha from Hell is the third installment in Richard Kadrey’s “Sandman Slim” novels. Stark, or Sandman Slim, has become known as “the monster who kills monsters.” Somehow he spent time in Hell as a living man. He fought in the arena, and proved impossible to kill. Various Hellions started using him as an assassin, and eventually he broke out in order to return to the world and avenge the death of his girlfriend, Alice. He’s on the verge of having a real life, almost. He’s kinda-sorta seeing Candy, who’s her own kind of hungry monster. He’s processing the fact that he’s a nephilim, a half-angel, which doesn’t seem to mesh well with his violent, profanity-laden image, but he has work to do. Lucifer has returned to Heaven, leaving a vacancy behind that gets neatly filled by Mason, Stark’s enemy. Stark has to stop his nemesis before Mason leads his demonic troops against Heaven. At the same time, he can save Alice’s soul, which has been dragged from Heaven to Hell in order to manipulate him.

 

Stark is an anti-hero in all the best possible ways. He’s capable of caring about or looking after others in his own odd way, but when people call him a monster, they aren’t exaggerating. Everyone seems to have plans for him, but his own actions tend to be extreme enough to throw most people off. If he needs to go back to Hell to accomplish his goals, then by God he’ll find a way in. He has a highly distinct voice and style.

Karma is just loaded dice on a crooked table.

I love Kadrey’s characters. They’re irreverent. They’re insane. They have ambitious plans that threaten to re-write the universe. They have a ton of personality. They’re larger than life, and yet at the same time grounded just enough in reality to give them that lived-in feel. They make plans both large and small, and betray anyone they feel like betraying.

Some of the events and machinations toward the end lost me a bit. I had some difficulty following how one thing led to another in some cases. That said, the plot was still fascinating, and I love watching Stark go big while retaining his rough-hewn style. It took me a while to stumble onto this series, but now that I have, I look forward to continuing it. I don’t want to give any major plot points away, but I will say that I’m terribly impatient to see how Kadrey handles the situation Stark finds himself in now!

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