Sandman Slim: A Novel by Richard Kadrey

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“’I guess I’d be bitter, too, if I saw all my friends turn into gods while I was still the bum on the corner, hoping they’d throw me a nickel.’

‘See? It’s that asshole thing that’s going to get you killed soon.’

‘Did I hurt your feelings again? Sorry. When this is over, I’ll send some flowers to your inner child.’”

Put simply, this was a fun read. I haven’t enjoyed reading a book like this in a while, at least four months.

Sandman Slim is one of those books that would meld right into one of the hardboiled books in the 30s and 40s. I wouldn’t be surprised if people starting labeling Kadrey the next Raymond Chandler. His writing style is superb. I could listen to Stark’s voice all day, something I’ve only experienced with Daniel Polansky’s protagonist, the Warden.

“One rule of thumb in fighting is that crazy can often overcome skill and numbers, because, while a trained fighter might actually enjoy going up against another trained fighter, no one really wants to wrestle with crazy. Crazy doesn’t know when it’s winning. And crazy doesn’t know when to stop. If you can’t pull off crazy, if, for instance, you’re handcuffed in a small van with six armed assailants, stupid is a decent substitute for crazy.”

But where the prose takes all the glory, similes and metaphors galore, the plot fails.

This novel is like a summer blockbuster; there’s plenty of violence, action, and profanity to keep you at the edge of your seat. But if you dig a little deeper, under the charred skin, (explosions and all) you see that the plot is basically points. Yes, Stark is out for revenge, but the way he progresses there, barely killing any of the Circle, is a letdown. And the resolution to this revenge story left me wanting more, namely because it fit Stark’s personality.

The MC is an impulsive, stupid bastard. He’s just lucky enough to scrape out of these situations, not the least because he’s practically invincible. I don’t like those hot-heads. They’re reckless, which shows. The character development, on the other hand, was great. Stark has to come to terms that he is a monster, is only good at killing. This set an inner turmoil that most writers shy away from, especially in heroic fantasy. The hero must kill, but there is no inner conflict, no thought that killing is wrong on his part, because the Big Bad does it. Revenge is the solution.

Plot points were pushed at the writer’s convenience, which means that he made stuff up as he went along, trying his best to tie them in together at the end. I don’t think it worked that well. If he had only set down and plotted out the majority of the book, I think we would be looking at a freshman book that could rival most other writer’s senior ones. But he didn’t. I blame Stark, the reckless arrogant ass.

Rating: 6.5/10

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4 thoughts on “Sandman Slim: A Novel by Richard Kadrey

  1. Forgive me if I sound like a post-Victorian prude, but exactly what purpose does excessive profanity serve in modern literature? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying an ax-murderer should go around saying “Please,” and “Thank you” but I’m just honestly asking – “Does it further the aesthetic quality of a novel for the author to litter his book – in both the dialogue and narrative – with such vulgarity?” I say if it wasn’t necessary for Poe, it shouldn’t be necessary today, either.

  2. I believe it only adds to the tone of a novel. If you’re going for something darker and gritter, today’s norm is to add profanity at every turn. I would prefer writers to tone it down, but they don’t listen to me.

  3. Good review. I agree about the plot part, and it was a nice change for me when I read a protagonist that wasn’t so… Hm. Dresden-y. Dresden was always way too calm and quiet for my liking.

    And I only use profanity if it cannot be avoided. There’s a scene in my book where the strongest and most respected mercenaries of a group come together. Profanity is a requisite, not an option. xD

    In my experience, though, the F word can be used to great effect if used sparingly. I wonder if I’ll ever see a 4/5 star review come from this blog. 😀

  4. Pingback: Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey | Acerbic Writing

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