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Book Review: Sandman Slim: A Novel

by VM Brasseur on September 2nd, 2009

I’ll try desperately to avoid spoilers in this review. My advance apologies should that attempt fail.

While on my camping trip to Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park I read Sandman Slim: A Novel by Richard Kadrey.

I’ve never read any of Kadrey’s other works. My attention was drawn to this book by reviews of it on BoingBoing and io9. Both of these reviews were very positive so I thought, “Heck, if I’m going to be trapped in the woods with only one book to read this sounds like as good candidate as any.”

The premise: Our protagonist, Stark, is a magician in Los Angeles. His jealous magician buddies conspire to get him dragged—alive—down to Hell. Eleven years of torture and hilarity ensues. Stark escapes and, curiously enough, is pissed and out for blood.

Let’s cut to the chase: I did not enjoy this book. I didn’t hate it, but it certainly wasn’t a page-turner for me. The primary reason I finished it may be that I was in the woods with only non-fiction as my other reading options and that smacked too much of work.

That said, I don’t think my opinion of the book is due to any inherent qualities or lack thereof in the work. Yes, I found the character development lacking and the plot tenuous at best, but that’s hardly a problem for me when I’m looking for a little mind candy to help me unwind. Also? For a book described as filled with “…gritty, whiskey-fuelled Tom Waits kind of wit…” and being “…frequently side-splittingly funny…?” Not a chuckle in sight. That was disappointing.

No, instead I think I didn’t like the book because it’s just not my thing. I like noir and fantasy stories and the like but the union of the two just didn’t work for me in this case. I did not care either about this antihero or his quest. Stark spent eleven years in Hell and it hardly registered with me. The supporting characters fell flat. The setting felt tired and cliché. In summary: I didn’t feel it. Whomever Kadrey selected as his audience I certainly wasn’t in it.

I’ll be interested in hearing any reviews from those of you who have read this book. My suspicion is that—as with many movies—I’ll be the only one of the group not to enjoy it.

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