Monday, June 29, 2009

Sandman Slim

I had a busy weekend at my house, mostly involving trying to hook up our new washer and dryer that we were forced to purchase due to our old washing machine going kaput. I was, however, able to get a lot of reading time in while my wife went back and forth to Lowe's and Home Depot trying to get the right parts we needed for the gas line. Yes, I have a wonderful wife who actually enjoys projects around the house leaving me time to read, play computer games, watch DvDs, and generally goof off.

So I completed Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey as part of Amazon's "Vine Voice" program. I think I am going to like this program because so far, both books I've tried are ones I probably never would have picked out at the bookstore and yet have been great reads. I admit I've never heard of Richard Kadrey but some quick research revealed he has written 4-5 other books, edited both print and on-line magazines and seems to be well plugged into the "cyberpunk" world.

Sandman Slim was a fun book to read and I found myself sneaking time to read it. That's probably because of the vivid language the author uses, both in terms of dialog as well as the descriptive passages. The novel is told from the first person point of view and is largely a revenge story told in the form of a supernatural fantasy. It begins with our anti-hero, James Stark, a "magician" (as in real magic not David Copperfield) who has just broken out of Hell by defeating one of Lucifer's main generals. After 11 years in Hell, fighting arena battles, he is out and looking for revenge against those who killed his girlfriend and sent him to Hell in the first place.

As we progress through the story it becomes evident that Stark is just a pawn in a much bigger game and he is being used by others. The author brings a lot of different facets to the story that makes this novel unique. Several times, Stark is referred to as a "monster who kills monsters." He is truly violent and has no moral rules that he lets stand in the way of getting his revenge. He kills without remorse. He has incredible powers from his stint in Hell including the ability to bounce back from terrible injury, such as a knife to his heart, and the next time he is knifed, he recuperates quicker and pretty much become invulnerable to the same type of damage. That leads him to a sort of recklessness that serves to drive the action at a rapid pace.

Despite his violent nature, Stark is oddly enduring. He may cut off an opponent's head and then keep that same head alive through his magic to further torment it but at the same time he is sympathetic to the less fortunate of the regular people he encounters. We readers actually like him in the same way the audience likes the character of "Dexter," the serial killer in the TV show of the same name. The action is almost non-stop but it is the dialog that drives the plot. Virtually everything Stark says is cynical, sarcastic, or profane. This book is not for the cozy mystery crowd nor for those who are offended by the very nature of Heaven or Hell, God, or the Devil. It often reads like a well-done comic book where the words have to paint the ink pictures.

The only concern I had about this novel is the ending where too much is revealed all at once. There are several mysteries as to what is actually happening throughout the first 300 pages and Stark figures most of them out. But the end seemed rushed and includes a scene where Stark is told everything that is really going on here. The author seems to be setting up this book as a first of a series along the lines of Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris' "Sookie Stackhouse," or 50 or so other supernatural/vampire/witch series that are so popular these days. I will say that if, indeed, this is the first of a series, I was quite intrigued and will definitely be reading more of James Stark's adventures.

I also finished up a very nice short story in Stephen King's Skeleton Crew collection. "Word Processor of the Gods" is an awesome story, a take off on the magic lamp story with three wishes. First published in 1983, the technology is definitely dated (word processors, floppy disks). The protagonist is able to type in a fact and hit the delete key to make it as if it never happened. The only downside is the word processer only has so many actions before it overloads so he must think wisely. His choices are interesting but it does have a happy ending. Another very enjoyable read.

Next up: Warlock, by Wilbur Smith...should be good!

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire