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Day 03 – Your favorite recent book (Yes, I skipped a weekend there. Live with it. 🙂 )

…Which would be easier if I hadn’t gotten a gigantic pile of BN gift certificates for my birthday. I’ve read a lot of books recently. And they were all really good.

But what the hell. A girl can hardly complain about having too many books to pick from.

So I’m going for SANDMAN SLIM, Richard Kadrey’s brilliant, dark, and fabulously dirty supernatural revenge story. The main character, James Stark, was thrown into Hell eleven years ago by his own magician friends in a bid for power, and spent that time fighting demons, mysteriously healing from what should have killed him, and eventually becoming Hell’s own hitman. Then his girlfriend from back home is murdered, and he finds a way to come back to kill off every one of the “friends” that put him where he was. In the process he stumbles into a war brewing against both Heaven and Hell.

This doesn’t sound, at first glance, like much more than a probably-pretty-decent-but-maybe-not-that-special urban fantasy. But it’s way more: Stark is bitter, hopeless, single-minded, angry, and darkly hilarious, with just enough self-consciousness to make him completely likable in spite of the fact that he spends 95% of the book hurting, killing, or at minimum seriously pissing people off. Kadrey’s intense, metaphor-strewn prose and dark wit had me laughing out loud or thinking damn-I-wish-I’d-thought-of-that most of the time.

Every character is screwed up, everyone has an agenda, and the only person we’re allowed to think of as wholly good is dead before the story even starts. There’s violence in pretty much every scene. There’s no room for forgiveness here, and what redemption exists is costly, painful, and flatly undramatic. Kadrey makes no apologies for the ugliness, the blood, and the gallows humor, and that’s really what makes this story work: nothing about it is halfway.