Aloha From Hell: Sandman Slim goes back to Hell and kicks more ass

Aloha From Hell is the long-awaited third volume in Richard Kadrey's hard-boiled, kick-ass supernatural horror series Sandman Slim (the other two being the Satanic revenge novel Sandman Slim and the hard-boiled zombie thriller Kill the Dead). The series' hero, Stark (AKA "Sandman Slim"), was a wild-talent magician whose jealous coven sent him from LA to Hell, where he spent 20 years fighting hellions in a gladiator pit by day and assassinating the princes of Hell by night. When he escaped to Earth and discovered that his nemesis Mason had killed his beloved Alice, he exacted slow and brutal revenge on the whole magic circle — except Mason, whose power had grown and who had seemingly disappeared from the universe and zipped it up behind him.

In Aloha, Stark has finally started to recover from his time in Hell, to become something better than "the monster who kills monsters" — in other words, he's losing his edge. He's falling in love (with another monster, of course), and has taken up hobbies (like cat burglaring with the immortal alchemist Vidocq, who invented forensic science 150 years ago, just before he figured out how to infinitely extend his life and switched to thieving).

But Stark isn't compatible with peace (even relative peace), and it's not long before Stark finds himself embroiled in a new adventure: an exorcism of a rich kid in Studio City, assisted by a defrocked priest who dabbles in Cthulhuism. And as has been the pattern in the other two books, every complication reveals itself to be the work of Mason, Stark's old archnemesis, who has been bottled up in Hell, but hasn't let that get him down — he's made lemonade out of his lemons and is organizing the legions of Hell under his banner in a plot to storm Heaven and destroy the universe. The usual Sandman Slim stakes, in other words.

I've been reading Kadrey since his days as one of the original, Mirrorshades-era cyberpunks, and this bad-ass supernatural horror stuff is clearly the material he was born to write. Kadrey has an ungodly (literally) amount of fun with Stark's wryer-than-wry and violenter-than-violent observations and dialog (as Stark is pushed into the bottomless, boiling blood of the River Styx, he quips, "As a great man once said, 'I never should have switched from Scotch to martinis'").

And don't let the "supernatural" label throw you off: Kadrey isn't reboiling the thrice-brewed tea of Stoker or Rami or Crowley in these books. He goes back to the old grimoires and the Ur legends and plunders them for monsters, demons and metaphysics that are so ancient they're fresh.

Aloha From Hell