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.
Published 5:27 am Tue, Oct 5, 2010