Every time I imagine that Richard Kadrey has run out of ends-of-all-creation to torture his long-running, hard-boiled supernatural antihero Sandman Slim with, he surprises me with a bigger, badder, meaner, scarier end-of-days than the last, and with the eighth volume in the series, The Kill Society, Kadrey pulls out all the stops.
Sandman Slim — born James Stark — is a hoodoo-slinging badass who was sent to hell while still living by a rival magician, only to fight his way through the daemonic gladiator pits and return to earth to seek his revenge.
For the better part of a decade now, Kadrey has combined eschatology with hard-boiled, wise-cracking, tightly plotted adventure tales in a series of Sandman Slim adventures that have wagered the earth, the heavens, the hells, and all of creation in a series of battles that has brought Sandman Slim to the heights of his power, and to the depths of his miseries.
The Kill Society opens with Stark dead on a mountainface in Hell, freshly murdered and damned, and before he can get his bearings, he is taken prisoner by a end-times crusade of lost souls and demons who are led by a charismatic preacher who drives them across the endless deserts of the afterlife in search of a holy weapon to help turn the balance in heaven's terrible civil war.
The crusade are a brutal militia, driving infernal, souped up vehicles — everything from converted, armored ice-cream trucks to demon-powered Harleys — sporting an array of improvised weapons, barely held in check by the cult of personality around the Magistrate, their wild-eyed preacher/leader, who blackmails Stark into joining their crusade.
Kadrey is a master of the three-chords-and-an-attitude punk rock school of plotting, verse-verse-chorus like the Ramones on a tear, and with Kill Society, he's free to populate his story with the kind of set-dressing, furniture and costuming that no big-budget post-apocalyptic epic movie could ever afford — Burning Man meets ISIS, by way of the Monster Manual and Deities and Demigods.
To call it rollicking is to do it a disservice: it's cool and scary as hell, and it grabs you by the nipples and twists until you finish it. A fine addition to an outstanding series.
The Kill Society [Richard Kadrey/Harper]