But a scorned woman's fury has nothing on that of a man avenging the death of his murdered girlfriend.
Sandman Slim, also known as James Stark (but if you value your innards you'd be better off just calling him Stark) has had one hell of a life the past eleven years... literally. He found himself stuck in the bottomless pits of hell right after his fellow magician buddy, Mason, decided he would make a great human sacrifice in his quest to become a God on Earth.
Just to rub salt in Stark's wounds, Mason kills Alice, Stark's one true love.
Stark finally manages to escape Hell, but finds himself stuck in a different type of hell--present day Los Angeles. Now Stark's back and with a vengeance as he hunts down his ex-buddies who helped Mason banish him to hell and kill his girlfriend. And he's doing it like only a man possessed knows how.
Being that this is the first book of the Sandman Slim series, I had average expectations for this book. You know what I mean; "average expectations" seems to be a trend with the first book in any series. Interesting enough to make you want to follow the series, but sort of subpar in the way that all first novels. You're struggling to make sense of the story, learn about the characters, master the world building...
What I didn't expect was for this book to draw me in as early as it did.
You still get a little bit of that in Sandman Slim but what author, Richard Kadrey, does early on is give the audience a good sense of Stark's personality... and personality Stark has.
Each fight scene is amped up with Stark's dark, biting wit. Not that the fight scenes wouldn't be awesome without the running dialogue; but I'm pretty sure that an evil Nazi Kissi demon getting the crap kicked out of it wouldn't normally garnish a snicker, but it does when coupled with Stark's comical and snide comments.
I appreciate how Stark isn't the good guy or the bad guy. He's just the guy avenging his girlfriend's dead. God help you if you are the unlucky bastard who gets in his way.
The world building was also quite enjoyable in this novel. In Stark's world, angels aren't good just for the sake of being good, they're good for the sake of having an ulterior motive, and the demons aren't as bad as you'd think. But one thing's for sure, everyone--angels, demons and even Mason seem to be intent on making Stark's life a living hell on earth.
Stark is a magician and not the type that does kids shows. He's the type of magician that can transcend realms and shoot flaming balls of energy during a high powered chase scene that destroys cars, buildings and the occasional mailbox. I honestly wasn't quite sure how the magic element would pan out. Like I said before, I tend to shy away from books with strictly magic themes but I think that Kadrey incorporates the magic element well without it seeming unrealistic or hokey. Not everyone knows magic or knows about it, and those that do are part of some secret underground cult of magicians. While Stark is often arrogant and cocky he has his limits and he isn't absolutely invincible by any means.
Kasabian, one of the guys who helped Mason sacrifice Stark to hell, also provided some comic relief in the story. There's true chemistry between him and Stark, no matter how much they curse at each other or argue like an old married couple. I have a feeling that these two will quickly become friends.
This is definitely a guy's novel, meaning that there's heavy emphasis on the violence, "adult" themes (i.e.-Kasabian owns a video store that sells porn), and magic that makes things explode. There's less emphasis on the romantic angles in the story and Stark's interactions with the female characters. Despite Stark's initial thoughts of "Candy is hot," there's really little interaction that even suggests that Stark and Candy might feel something for each other until the end of the novel.
Allegra, who I initially thought would have a much bigger role in the novel is more of an afterthought, from time to time; but I'm betting that both she and Candy will get their time to shine in the next book.
All in all a fun and dark read, while it's definitely not the most original plot, it makes up for it in wit and humor.