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Monday, December 20, 2010

Sandman Slim - A Review

It seems that in the rebalancing of having a part time job, this blog is sort of slipping the way of reviewy things.  That'll get remedied soon.  After jumping back in the saddle with my first complete novel, The Rider, to try and finish a second draft, the whole being a writer thing is starting to move again, and the ideas are starting to flow.  I'll post about that process here soon.  Until then, here's the book I just finished:

Sandman Slim - Richard Kadrey

Let me paint for you a picture.  Imagine Raymond Chandler, you know, the legendary pulp noir author who brought us Philip Marlowe, in such classics as The Long Goodbye, and The Big Sleep.  Imagine if you will that Raymond Chandler had been raised by an abusive (both physically as well as psychologically) father who was also the preacher of a fire and brimstone Southern Baptist church, who every Sunday would stand at the pulpit and call down the righteous judgment of God, and invoke the horrendous forthcoming days of judgment, complete with multiheaded dragons, and burning mountains, and Abaddon rising from the abyss to punish the nonbelievers.  And every Saturday night that same father would flagellate our poor Raymond with words of his inadequacy for the kingdom of God, with fear of witchery, and lust, and sin.  Then one day, when Raymond is 18, maybe 16 he gets up and walks out of that place.  He hits the road, and finds himself where the sun sets, the mythical, magical city of Angels.  Los Angeles.  And from the moment he sets foot in it, its seedy underbelly, its dark bars, and drug deals, its pimps and pushers, and deadbeats, Raymond sees it all, and it's love.  He takes to drinking a fifth of Jack Daniels every day, and smoking Lucky Strikes, like each pack is his last.  And he starts writing.  Detective novels.  Mysteries.  What is escapism for the midwest, is a quiet night at the local bar for Raymond.  But at night, when he's home, he still hears the voice of his father.  The bellowing of his sermons.  And when he dreams, Raymond sees the devils who see us as playthings, and the angels who just don't give a shit.  And he must admit, though he hates it, the fantasy of it intrigues him.  And he starts writing about it.

That's Richard Kadrey.  That's Sandman Slim.  It's Philip Marlowe and the Book of Revelations.  It's hard boiled old testament.  It's a lot of pent up anger.  It's bristling with excitement.  It's every snappy one-liner and wry aside you wish you could've had in the moment, but you can't.  It's pulp, and it's a helluva good ride.

Eleven years ago Stark was thrown in hell by some friends of his, magicians (not wizards, we're not fucking Harry Potter).  He's back.  He's pulled himself up from the pit, and all he wants is a little revenge.  He wants to put a boot through the face of all the guys who fucked him over, and he's willing to steal, and cheat, and con everyone who will get in his way of achieving that goal.  And when he shows up, the ball gets rolling.  Right from the very first page.  Kadrey wastes no time with long explanations, or drawn out world-building asides.  "It's like it was designed and built specifically for vampires.  For all I know, it was.  Yes, there are vampires.  Try to keep up."

That the book moves with the brisk pace of its hero is both a blessing and a curse.  I tore through the book.  It was one of the fastest reads I've done in a while.  The problem inherent with it is that sometimes its too fast.  A whole heist scene, which could've lasted the better portion of another book breezes by in a way that almost makes it seem like an unnecessary scene other than to push the plot on by.  But it's ok, because a couple pages later, I'm back in the story, running to stay shoulder to shoulder with Stark, wondering what he's going to do next, how he's going to hurt someone else.  It's great fun.

This is the book I wish I could write.  This is the kind of tantalizing story that makes people want more.  Its irreverent, and its "fuck you" attitude means it doesn't care if you don't like it, and it doesn't care if you do like it, it just wants to do its thing.  And the thing it does is exciting.

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