Posts Tagged ‘Richard Kadrey’

Dead Set by Richard Kadrey *spoilers*

January 17, 2014

I’m not sure there is a whole lot I can say about Dead Set that has not already been said by other reviewers or  Kadrey’s fans, but I’ll try to say something.  From a quick Google search to make sure I was not entirely delusional, there is a definite Alice in Wonderland feel to the piece. By feel, I mean it seems to follow large chunks of Carrol’s story as a map guide. There is the swallowing of a pill – a candy given to Zoe during a metaphysical trip to Iphigine (apologies for any spelling mistakes, as I’m going from memory on them). There is a travel down a rabbit’s hole, as Zoe physically wanders through the sewers to make a literal, physical trip to the land of the dead. There is bizarre, dream like landscapes, twisted and contorted, as well as human/animal hybrids, and strange malformations. There is angry queen who rules over the land, who Zoe must take on and defeat in a far more literal and violent fashion than Carrol provided us.

This is not a bad thing. I am not saying it is derivative, but Kadrey fits himself in nicely with the history of of stories of people journeying to distant, fantastic lands (think Gulliver. think road novels.) and coming back changed, grown, to see the world differently, usually for the better. The journey Zoe takes allows her to move past the death of her father, who she saves, along with pretty much everyone else, in Iphigine, and to connect again with her mother, to push past the barriers constructed by their grief and loss. She does not just view her mother differently, though. Returning from her trip to the dead, from defeating a queen, she approaches life more confidently. She has less fear. She sees people as people instead of as groups of definable types, as she was prone to do earlier in the novel when she began her first days at a new school.  For the first time since her father’s death, perhaps in her life (who knows – the novel doesn’t specify, though she at least had a couple of friends from her previous school), she is able to not just seemingly connect with a person or two at arm’s distance, but to welcome them into her life whatever the repercussions may be (even liking them).

where I think the novel succeeds most gloriously is its portrayal of Zoe’s mother. Here is not a willfully neglectful parent. The newly single mother concentrating solely on her new life, leaving her daughter to fend for herself.  No, the mother is portrayed as a mother, albeit one who is suddenly confronted with a myriad of difficult choices and conflicting priorities, who is doing the damned best she can. And her daughter is really not very helpful being so closed off. This provides one of the few tripping points I had with the novel, though. Instead of allowing the mother to just trust her daughter at the end, when she is given this spectacular story of why and where she’d been for a week, Zoe must have proof. And gets it with a polaroid of the vengeful son seeking retribution for Zoe having killed his mother, the queen. A final physical confrontation between the two? Fine, I guess. It’s needed. But it felt a bit tacked on, a bit unnecessary. And Zoe having to have proof to convince her mother she had t old the truth weakens the mother a bit, right at the end when it was most unnecessary. But then adults are supposed to be ineffective and somewhat impotent in these stories. If they were not, then there would be no coming of age, no growing up, for the main characters.

All in all, it’s a good read. It’s a bit of a departure from the hard, nasty fun of Kadrey’s Sandman novels, but clearly exists within the same universe, the same dimensional tear in the literary world. It would not have surprised me a bit to have had Sandman Slim appear from the broken mirror rather than the sun, and then the queen would have met a much different fate.

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Book Links 8-19-12 Early (?) Edition

August 19, 2012

Alright, I had these links to put up on the 18th, but I got sidetracked screwing around and being generally unproductive and didn’t get them posted before the clock turned over.  So I guess I’m just going to get a big jump on tomorrow (today’s) links.
First is this digital essay by Will Self called Kafka’s Wound. I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it, but I really appreciate the attempt. At the very least, it’s worth checking out.

Remember that bit about the government buying a crap ton (technical term) of Kindles from Amazon while simultaneously pressing a major lawsuit against their major competitors and publishers? Remember how that kinda sounded like a bullshit move? Well, apparently the government has agreed. Now, it seems the government is saying that they want to now explore other possibilities, but a few months back they seemed pretty positive that the Kindle was the best bet for whatever it is they wanted it to do (something I’m still highly doubtful of considering things like the iPad are out there that do everything the Kindle does and then some-oh, and Microsoft has Surface coming out that seems even further along the path of actually being more than a media box). I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple’s aggressively countering the DoJ’s attempts to hurriedly push through some sort of agreement about the whole ebook price fixing thing  didn’t play into this a bit. I hate to say it, but I’m hugely in Apple’s corner over this.

Because beer steins are awesome, and I’ve ended up being a fan of Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim novels, I love these Sandman themed steins.  If you’re not interested in looking at merchandise, don’t click the link, but it’s something I’ve really liked and considered throwing $20 down for. Not a huge fan of the shirts, though, which is a shame.

Don’t cry for me Argentina, just give me a decent pension plan. They are giving pensions to writers. It’s awesome. While I live in a nation where a presidential candidate is for cutting the meager funding for the NEA and the NEH (who, combined, are given less money than we give our military just to manage their bands), other countries who are far less economically robust are finding new ways to spend more money on the arts.  One of the few (many) places I don’t want to take this blog is into the world of politics and everything it entails, but lately I’ve realized how my stances are pretty much a polar opposite from what appears to be a pretty fair share of my country. They want to spend more money on making better guns to kill more Arabs, I want more money thrown at space exploration and artists.

Finally, because I’m horribly ignorant of massive exhibitions by national institutions, here’s a much belated link to the Library of Congress and their Books that shaped America. Like any list, it’ll probably generate more discussion for what’s not on it as much for what is. For some info on what went into slim pickings, here’s an interview with someone who was involved in the process.

Alright, that’s all for today, maybe more later today. 🙂

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey – review (spoilers)

May 22, 2012

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.

Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey

January 5, 2012

It’s not a pretty read, but it’s a damn fun one.  I stumbled across Richard Kadrey in Half Price Books, but they weren’t living up to their name with their price, so I held off and got a couple of  his books through the library. I couldn’t get into Sandman Slim. Every time I picked it up and tried to wade into it, the thing just wasn’t working. I tried from the beginning, I tried from some random page towards the middle, it didn’t matter.  No matter what I did, Sandman Slim just wasn’t clicking. I thought of cancelling the hold I had on Kill the Dead, but laziness got the better of me. I just didn’t get around to it. Instead, it was one of a handful of books I grabbed the other day. Figuring I would read a few lines, become bored, start flipping pages, and then quickly just toss the thing on the shelf, it was the library book I decided to give a twirl first.  This had everything to do with my taking far too many books out of the library right now and just wanting to winnow the stack down a bit, and get to the good stuff.

To my surprise, Kill the Dead turned out to be some good stuff.

The readiest comparison would be to Mario Acevedo, someone else who is doing the hardboiled, horror PI thing. Acevedo’s stuff is a fun read. I’ve bought some of Acevedo’s books, I’ve read them, I’ve enjoyed them, and if you like such things, I’d fully encourage you to buy them, too. That said, they’re also not the best written things in the world. I know that sounds rough, I don’t want it to, but there are times where his character will lean on a crutch, like his vampire hypnotic gaze, a bit too often. Kadrey has the same hardboiled, almost pulpishness, feel and pacing to it, but it’s polished.  Of Sandman Slim, William Gibson said it was the best B movie he’s read in 20 years, and I’m not sure I could find a better way of referring to Kill the Dead.    Going off two hours of sleep in the past 36 hours, coming up with comparisons is a bit difficult, but if you’ve seen a gangster movie with Edward G. Robinson and liked it, I think you’ll probably enjoy this. Or maybe a much harder Dresden Files (the show from scifi that was cancelled far far before it’s time, and not the books).

One area that I think is a particular strong suit is Kadrey’s refusing to linger over details that are largely unimportant. Hell is constantly in the background of the novel, and it stays there. we get the occasional detail, but we’re never over burdened with a lot of information we don’t need. Even when characters who have played significant roles in the main character’s past are brought up,  their appearances aren’t given an over abundance of weight. They are parceled out as necessary morsels we need to know to flesh out the story or our protagonist’s place in his world. With a hardboiled, horror PI  novel, Kadrey’s restraint is one of the most powerful forces in the shaping of the novel.

So, go out and read the thing, and I think I’ll give Sandman Slim another look, too.

By the way, if you want to read some of Kadrey’s short fiction, check out his homepage. He has linked a number of his shor