Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey – review (spoilers)

The first time I tried reading this, I couldn’t get into it. I don’t know why, but something just turned me off. Strangely, I was able to get into the follow up novel, Kill the Dead. Maybe it has been his Twitter feed, but something made me go back and give Sandman Slim a second look. There’s really very little to add to the blurbs on the cover. William Gibson describing it as the best b-movie he’s read in a long time fits perfectly.

It makes me think of a Clint Eastwood western. James Stark, aka: Sandman Slim, carries himself like William Munny, killer of women and children, except he’s the killer of demons, hellions and everyone who betrayed him 14 years before and got him sent down to Hell.

Now, beneath the pulpy wonder of it, there is a religious bent to the work that goes beyond the obvious set dressings. To be up front, I’m not a religious person, I don’t know the Bible, a lot of things that may have stood out to other people I likely missed entirely. There is also the chance that I am entirely off on this. But I think James Stark is a modern re-creation of Christ. This is something that gets lost insanely easily in Kadrey’s rough and tumble epic. The only thing that stuck out to me and which I could never let go was that Stark was closing in on his 33 birthday when he finds his way out of Hell and begins his quest for vengeance. Looking back on it now, I have to wonder how many stories of Jesus find their way into Sandman Slim that I was, frankly, too ignorant to pick up on while reading it.

there are some more basic connections to be made, though. One is the basic timeline of Stark. I don’t recall ever hearing of Jesus in his twenties, working a waiter job, living off his tips, and trying to figure out if the little booth where the money lenders set up shop is a vestibule or an atrium. Stark’s twenties are erased by spending those years in Hell.  Also, we find out that Stark is somewhat divine, he confronts false gods, in like seventy different forms, and he begins assembling a group of followers.

 

I wish I had more to say about Sandman Slim. It’s a ridiculously fun read, that pulled me up way past my bed time and was entirely worth it. Beyond reading anything into the text, Kadrey’s writing is fast paced and fun. Once you get into it, you want to stick with it, you want to finish it, you want to know what happens because you give a damn about the characters. Kadrey. Is. Fun.

Maybe the Jesus thing is way way off, but if it is there, I enjoyed Kadrey’s Jesus parallels far more than Faulkner’s.  If you’re curious and have some extra funds to throw around, here is the Barnes and Noble link. If you’re curious and don’t have the extra funds, head to your library. I also read Aloha from Hell, so expect another review up soon, and the fourth Sandman Slim novel, Devil said Bang, is nearing publication. I know Aloha is just as enjoyable as its predecessors and I’m looking forward to DSB.

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