KILL THE DEAD: Kadrey's grisly, hard-boiled sequel to SANDMAN SLIM

By Cory Doctorow

Richard Kadrey's Kill the Dead is the sequel to his 2009 hard-boiled supernatural thriller Sandman Slim, and it's everything a sequel should be; that is, more.

Sandman Slim was one of the most hardboiled, hard-assed novels I'd ever read. James "Sandman Slim" Stark was banished to Hell by the betrayers in his magic circle. In Hell, Stark fought in the gladiator pits and was hired out as a contract killer by demons. Once he escapes hell and returns to LA, he wreaks absolutely terrible revenge on the members of the circle who betrayed him, beats the shit out of skinheads and minor demons, and generally is as badass as any three antiheroes combined.

Kill the Dead is more: more hardboiled, more badass. More bodies. More monsters. More drama. More sex. More porn stars. More universe at risk. In this book, Sandman Slim has settled into a post-universe-saving rut, living in a second-rate video-store on the Sunset Strip with a decapitated head (it rides around on an eight-legged steampunk skateboard and drinks beer and pisses it out its neck). But then Lucifer shows up and demands that Stark work for him as personal bodyguard while some studio exec who sold his soul to the Dark Prince produces a biopic of his life. Stark's not just working for Lucifer; he's also a contractor for the Department of Homeland Security's angelic justice squad, and they bring him in to work a gruesome killing (or possibly a suicide: the victim was an autophage pervert and it's possible he died by feeding his member too enthusiastically to a demon called an "eater").

So there's Stark, chilling at the Chateau Marmot (Lucifer stays there when he's in town), meeting the Czech Romany zombie-hunter porn-star who's been tapped to play Eve in the biopic, trying to solve the mystery of the dead autophage, when Armageddon strikes. Again.

This time it's zombies.

Kadrey plays it straight. The humor in the Sandman Slim books is strictly dark, sardonic and so wry you could curdle milk with it. Mostly what Kill the Dead is is hard: the zombies are goddamned scary and gruesome; the ancient magickal families that control them are terrifying, evil schemers; the peril that Stark faces is moral, physical and existential, and there's hardly a moment where you're not chewing your fingernails to the wrist wondering what happens next.

Kadrey is a hell of a writer, versatile and seasoned, and these pulpy, dark, ultraviolent novels are his best work yet.

Kill the Dead: A Sandman Slim Novel

Published 5:27 am Tue, Oct 5, 2010

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About the Author

I write books. My latest are: a YA graphic novel called In Real Life (with Jen Wang); a nonfiction book about the arts and the Internet called Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age (with introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer) and a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

21 Responses to “KILL THE DEAD: Kadrey's grisly, hard-boiled sequel to SANDMAN SLIM”

  1. jfrancis says:

    He does some interesting photography, too

  2. oohShiny says:

    And if you haven’t read Butcher Bird (which I believe is CC-licensed) you really should :)

  3. Takhys says:

    I bought the first book on the recommendation of this site, read it in one sitting, lent it out to a friend, reread it, and have been eagerly awaiting more.

  4. stinkywizzlteats says:

    Loved the first book, and ordering this one now.

  5. magneticwheels says:

    MORE ZOMBIES!

    Sheesh, enough already.

    • RedSun says:

      No kidding. You’d think these authors would be tired of skimming the fat from the latest fad but I guess not.
      Maybe his next novel will feature vampires.

      • Phyrkrakr says:

        It seems like every “urban fantasy” writer goes through these same stages – there’s only so many types of baddies for these guys to beat up. I like reading Kadrey’s work for stylistic reasons – the man is just a compelling writer. The subject matter is a lesser consideration.

        Oh, and it looks like I get to make the obligatory “He’s ripping off Jim Butcher” comment, too. So nyah. Although, I don’t think Kadrey has hit fairies yet.

  6. Anonymous says:

    “he escapes hell and returns to LA”

    …nah, too easy.

  7. AudioTherapist says:

    I’ve previously bought Cory’s recommendations and have to say he hasn’t failed me yet.

    Due to two small people and a tired partner I have to do almost all of my reading in the dark using my iPhone, but Sandman Slim is not available through either Kindle, iBooks or Stanza.

    I still find the whole ebook purchasing process a miserable one, particularly Stanza who will allow you to get all the way through the process to purchase and then tell you when you click to buy that it’s not available in the UK… Or worse refer you on to some random other page of another company to get another separate account just for one book. This pisses my off immensely as the Stanza reader is by far superior to the Kindle app or iBook on the iPhone

    I cannot imagine how this process is facilitating the sale of anyone’s product, video, music or literature. The whole purpose of digital media is surely ease of transmission and impulse purchases. By the time I’ve staggered through a Stanza purchase I’ve either given up hope or cry with relief if it works.

    I want to pay for my product, but I don’t want to spend 3/4hr fighting through nonsense to get it. All a pirate need do is click to DL. Surely the frustrations, inequities and petty annoyances caused by DRM are only raising pirate numbers, as they appear to receive a much higher standard of service than the paying public.

    Sigh, rant over – Winnie the Pooh and Confessions of an English Opium Eater here I come… (iBooks joke).

    • Donald Petersen says:

      but Sandman Slim is not available through either Kindle,

      Just bought both for my Kindle, seconds ago. Oh, but then… yeah, I’m in the U.S.

      Sorry ’bout that.

      • AudioTherapist says:

        Harsh, but then it is equally harsh to give an author a hard time for writing genre fiction.

        Getting published in today’s risk averse environment is increasingly a case of writing what the publishers think people want rather than what your muse whispers to you.

        My partners a writer and I can assure you that the choice of topic/direction is frequently a marketing rather than artistic one. If people are given the opportunity to enjoy his writerly chops in zombie fiction he may well gain the freedom to choose a different genre once audience has grown. Most authors are paid an absolute pittance so if he is able to ‘skim the fat’ from the latest fad more power to his elbow I say, you’re not forced to click the buy button ;-)

  8. Talia says:

    You people harshing on the subject matter, did you even bother reading the first book, or are you just complaining because of the subject?
    Regardless of a subject being “overdone” its still quite possible do to an excellent job writing about it. The first book was excellent and I expect this one to be as well.

    And he’s most certainly not ripping off Jim Butcher. The books have an entirely different feel. You would not confuse Stark with Dresden.

    *grumble, grumble*

    • magneticwheels says:

      so you concede that zombies are “overdone”.

      • Talia says:

        yeah, I suppose they are.

        Still, if each new use is original and interesting, I can’t find fault with it. Similarly I can’t find fault with vampires, despite the current popularity.

        I like zombie stories. I like vampire stories.

        that’s not likely to change. :)

        • Annibal says:

          I’m the same, Talia. Sure, there are a lot of them, but I like them. :) As long as they’re done, anyway. (Well done, but not over-cooked XD)

          Personally, I think all topics are pretty overdone. What matters is if the topic is handled well, imo.

  9. AudioTherapist says:

    Only if poorly cooked

  10. Eric the half a bee says:

    Wonder how it stacks up against Tanith Lee’s mind-bogglingly brilliant fantasy novel of the same name….

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’m so glad to see Richard get the publicity his work deserves. SANDMAN SLIM was easily the best book I read this year and I’m psyched to read the new one….

  12. The_Walt says:

    The hardcover edition of “Sandman Slim” I read was full of embarrassing typos and errors. It was like trying to listen to catchy tune on a beat-up record that skipped. I wanted to like the novel, but eech errror anoyed the hell out of mee.

  13. Hellblazer says:

    I picked up Sandman Slim a few weeks ago in B&N, read the first page, and put it down. I have a… thing where books written in the present tense tend to irritate the crap out of me. At the time, I thought it was a shame, because the premise sounded fun.

    I saw this post yesterday and thought “I wonder if this one is written in the present tense, too”. So I went to the Harper Collins website to check out the excerpt, and I read that first sentence. I loved it so much I decided I’d check out the excerpt of Sandman Slim and give it another shot. Within four pages I was on board with the present-tense narration just being the way
    Stark talked, and I was hooked. I spent my last hour at work reading the entire excerpt instead of working, and ordered both books in hardcover as soon as I was done.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like a cross between the movie version of Constantine / Hellblazer, a Wiccan’s secret revenge fantasy, and Southpark’s Butters when he plays dressup up as Professor Chaos.

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