Overview; After eleven years in Hell James Stark has escaped. He has only one mission now. To kill the men who sent him downtown and then killed his girlfriend Alice.
“There are people walking the earth that the moment you meet them, you want to punch them and keep punching them.” James Stark
Review; If James O’ Barr turned Eric Draven over to Raymond Chandler it would have probably played out a great deal like Sandman Slim. I came to this book while reading a review of my book by Verushka at the Open Book Society, comparing a similar flair for action sequences between myself and Mr. Kadrey. I am flattered. Kadrey’s creative action pieces convey a sense of the moments, allowing the reader to follow each blow. The violence has great physical repercussions, not only in body damage, but Stark keeps needing new clothes from all the fight he ends up in. It always bugged me that Superman’s suit never had a bullet hole in it, he was bullet proof not his clothing.
Kadrey’s greatest strength in Sandman Slim is of tone and world building. His writing crackles, it is quick and sharp as the reader moves with Stark on his quest for vengeance. The dialogue is reminiscent of the clever and hostile exchanges from old pulp masters such as Chandler and Hammett. Stark never goes soft either, in a time of watered down anti-heroes it is refreshing to have an unflinching bad ass wiping out the nasties without pause or hesitation. A plethora of villains populate the world of James Stark, a personal favorite was when Stark beat the shit very thoroughly out of a collection of Neo-Nazis.
The supporting cast rounds out the noir feel to the book. Mysterious women, a sympatric bar tender, shady doctors, and men with odd talents and convoluted backgrounds abound throughout. The distrust Stark has of authority also fits well within the pulp motif.
Kadrey keeps the mood dark and enigmatic throughout. Details about Stark’s life come forth slowly, creating greater empathy for this incredibly well realized hero. Reoccurring Tom Waits lyrics move with Stark, creating a fitting somber soundtrack to the work. Kadrey has three other novels in this series, and I could not be more glad of this. I rarely like series following a clear single protagonist. Personally it often takes an element of suspense from me, Kadrey has crushed my prejudice in this department. I look forward to spending more time with James Parker.
In the End; James Stark is my new favorite character. With the mouth of Sam Spade, and the unflinching single mindedness of Eric Draven, the dark minded have a new anti-hero. Richard Kadrey’s fast sharp novel propels you into a dark world, reminiscent of what many of us see in our own. Highly recommended.