Richard Kadrey

Books: Fantasy | Horror

Butcher Bird (2007)

Sandman Slim: Sandman Slim (2009), Kill the Dead (2010), Aloha from Hell (2011) 

Butcher Bird (2007)

Spyder lives just on the edge of being a deviant. He's a tattoo artist and owns a shop with his childhood best friend, Lulu, who does piercings and body mods. He drinks and smokes and enjoys the company of women of questionable morals, but underneath that he's actually not a bad guy.

Then he learns about the world parallel and overlapping out world.

He also gets suckered into a trip to hell, but that comes later.

The initial feel of the book is similar to Simon R. Green's Nightside series: gritty, dark, full of nasty things, and the protagonist wise-cracks his way through the horrors. However, it's darker than the Nightside books, and Hell feels more like Steven Brust's To Reign in Hell.

Initially, I had a hard time getting into the story, the world building was a little confusing to me at first, but I think that was due to the pain killers I was taking more than anything to do with the story.

The characters are all interesting and individuals, although occasionally I did think Spyder was a hair over the top with his wise-cracking. Yes, John Taylor is far mouthier and obnoxious in the Nightside books, but those books are a take on hard boiled detective novels and the dialog feels right. A couple times I thought the dialog here was a bit forced–no one is that witty all the time.

But that's the only real fault I came across. The characters were good, the story was solid, and it kept me interested despite the pain medicine. All in all, I recommend it.

Rating: 8/10

Sandman Slim

Sandman Slim (2009)

Stark has just gotten out of Hell. His former friends sent him there, but somehow he managed to survive, and now he has escaped and is looking for revenge.

That simple summation tells you about the story, but it is so much more than that simple synopsis. If you read Butcher Bird (and you really should) you're familiar with Kadrey's writing style–a cross between Simon R Green and Mike Carey with London replaced by LA.

Now that I think about, do you need more of a recommendation than that?

I wake up on a pile of smoldering garbage and leaves in the old Hollywood Forever cemetery behind the Paramount Studio lot on Melrose, though these last details don't come to me until later. Right now all I know is that I'm back and the world and I'm on fire. My mind hasn't quite kicked in yet, but my body knows enough to roll off the burning trash and to keep rolling until I can't feel the heat anymore.

When I'm sure I'm out, I struggle back to my feet and shrug off my leather jacket. I run my hands over my lower back and legs, There's no real pain and all I feel are a couple of blisters behind my knee and right calf. My jeans are a little crispy, but the heavy leather of my jacket protected my back. I'm not really burned, just singed and in shock. I probably haven't been on the fire too long. But I'm lucky that way. Always have been. Otherwise, I might have crawled back into this world and ended up a charcoal briquette in my first five minutes home. And wouldn't those black-hearted bastards down under have laughed when I ended up right back in Hell after slipping so sweetly out the back door?

Rating: 9/10

Kill the Dead (2010)

If you read Sandman Slim, you're familiar with James Stark, who escaped from Hell to seek revenge for his imprisonment there and the murder of his girlfriend. Now he's at loose ends, drinking himself into oblivion, living with a disembodied head for a roommate, and trying to make ends meet while he figures out how to pay Lucifer back the money he owes him.

Got all that?

If you have not read Sandman Slim, you should stop reading this right now and pick it up. And grab Butcher Bird while you're at it. Richard Kadrey's writing continues to remind me of Simon Green‘s Nightside and Mike Carey‘s Felix Castor, except American.

If you have read Sandman Slim, then you've probably already read Kill the Dead since it came out first in hardback. But if you haven't, here's the synopsis.

Lucifer has decided to spend some time on earth while they are filming a movie of his life, and requested that James act as his bodyguard when he goes out and about. Meanwhile, he's still taking business from Golden Vigil. Nothing like working for people who don't respect, kinda fear you, and would prefer to see you dead.

Now, the one caveat about this story is that pretty quickly in Stark is dealing the undead. Yes, zombies. And I hate zombies.

So I tried not to think to much about the zombies, and enjoyed the rest of the story for what it was.

The other thing to note is that although the story arc is completed, there are several rather unimportant threads left hanging. But it wasn't enough to piss me off, so I can live with it.

Rating: 8/10

Aloha from Hell (2011)

James Stark–better known in Hell as Sandman Slim–enjoys not being in Hell. He enjoys not having to fight for his life, or assassinate other Hellions on the orders of the Hellion who owned him.

He's gotten revenge on most of the people who sent him to Hell and murdered his girlfriend. He worked things out with Lucifer. He's dealt with the magical Inquisition (mostly). He's mostly quit trying to drink himself insensible.

He also remains a complete bastard.

A snarky bastard.

"Hi. I'm a young college student trying to earn extra money selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door. Would you be interested in a ten- to twenty-year subscription to Possession with Intent to Sell and its sister publication, I'm going to Burn Your House Down While You're Asleep in Bed Tonight?"

Which is why I enjoy reading about him.

(Yes, Hell has stores and bars. It might be Hell, but it's better than a dry county in Mississippi.)

The story arc in this book is complete. There is a sequel, but I'm not sure I'm in any hurry to read it.

Published by Harper Collins

Rating: 8/10