The Perdition Score

Courtesy of goodreads.comIt’s been awhile since I had a Sandman Slim novel to chew on. And they do tend to be chewy. Kadrey is never an easy read. It took me ages to get through the one non-Sandman Slim he’s written that I’ve read. Still, I like James Stark. He’s my kind of asshole. And since I don’t know when this book was released (sometime this year I think?), SPOILERS be here.

Richard Kadrey’s latest Sandman Slim novel is The Perdition Score. Stark is legit now and doesn’t like it, can’t handle it really. He’s got a job working for the newest Augur, Thomas Abbott. He’s got a place to live and Candy (now called Chihiro) is alive and well and also with a job (one that used to be Stark’s). Most people would be happy that things were quieter.

Stark is not most people. He’s suffering from raging headaches and suffering from acute boredom. The only way he relieves both of those things is via an underground fight club. It’s very…Fight Club. I’m a little mad that Kadrey never really gets to whether these headaches were because of something physical or if it was psychosomatic. He did mention a few times that when the action started, the headaches went away, but that could be adrenaline.

In this book, Stark has two problems: A missing kid and Wormwood. Turns out that these two things are, of course, linked. It takes Stark a while to put it together because he gets side-tracked by a new and poisonous substance called black milk. It’s given to him by a dying angel and it gets him into trouble almost immediately. Naturally.

There’s a good chunk of the middle of the book where Stark is pretty convinced that Wormwood is targeting him by setting up terrible things at places he knows and people he’s met. And he’s right. Eventually, they go after his friend Vidocq directly and almost get him too. It’s this that triggers Stark going back into hell for the millionth time.

And hell is where Wormwood is now headquartered in a way. Norris Quay, whom he killed in the last book (if I remember correctly), is running the black milk scheme from the Griffith Park part of hell. Oh yeah, apparently hell is a copy of LA. Makes sense to me.

At any rate, black milk, once refined, makes berserkers out of angels. Stark finds this out first hand earlier in the book. Samael (now angel of death rather than Lucifer) sends a trustworthy angel down to assist Stark in hell and when she finds out what black milk is, she destroys the stock of it using her own blood. Stark is more messed up by this death than pretty much any other death in the series, which I find a little odd but maybe we’ll find out more in the next book.

This is the second book I’ve read recently that’s finished on a cliff hanger. ARGH! So irritating but at the same time, I know that another book is coming. As for this one, I don’t think it was the best Sandman Slim I’ve read but it was a decent read. I think that whenever the next book comes out, you could probably skip between the one before this and whatever comes after and not really miss much. This whole book was just an engine for James Stark to die. Like really die this time and not just seemingly die. It was good enough for me to devour in two days but I also couldn’t settle on reading anything else, so…I’d say overall it’s a good filler between books that you really, really want to read. Rating: B-.

Killing Pretty

Courtesy of goodreads.comI love the Sandman Slim novels. Richard Kadrey’s writing reminds me of a mix of Simon R. Green’s evocative descriptions and Jim Butcher’s snark peppered with a hint of the dystopian. A hint is all I need really, I’m not generally a person who reads full on dystopian books.

The latest Sandman Slim is Killing Pretty. This book picks up where the last one left off, pretty directly. Stark is resented by a lot of angels, his girlfriend Candy is ‘dead’ (she was ‘killed’ pretty spectacularly in front of a lot of cops but it was a fake out. A glamour making her a Japanese woman is all that keeps her safe these days) and he no longer has access to the room of 13 doors. This is the major bummer as that was his big trick, the one he relied on more than anything to help him figure out what was going on.

But the big thing is that someone has killed Death. Or rather, they managed to stuff the Angel of Death into a body and then kill that body. It didn’t take, so Death crawled out of where the body was and went to Stark for help. Because he’s working as a PI for a woman who used to be a marshal, she ends up working the case.

This is the big case, the name maker that will make sure that she and Stark remain in business. Because while Death is stuck in the body of a mortal, people aren’t dying. It’s a little Torchwood Children of Earth, honestly, but the mechanics of what’s going on at least make a little sense in this universe.

I highly recommend this whole series, and this is a pretty good one. You don’t need to read the whole series for this to make sense but there are a number of callbacks to prior novels that make more sense if you’ve read them. I do know that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea so be warned there is a lot of cussing and graphic violence, as one would expect with Sandman Slim. Rating: A

Kill City Blues

I believe Kill City Blues by Richard Kadrey has been out for several months already but I will put up a big SPOILERS alert just in case. So Kill City Blues is the latest in Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series. Sandman Slim, aka-James Stark, aka-Lucifer is the asshole that everyone loves to hate. He is the quintessential anti-hero. He is not a good guy and don’t think for a moment that he is, even if he does occasionally do good.

Stark is not Lucifer anymore, but he is pretending at the hotel Chateau Marmont. Free luxury digs, food and booze? Can’t pass that up. Stark passed the Lucifer mantel (really a title rather than a name) on to Mr. Munnin, one of five fragments of god. Unfortunately, in the course of doing so, he lost his most powerful weapon the Qomrama Om Ya (which Stark calls the Magic 8 ball. Much easier to say and type) to renegade angel Aelita who really hates his ass. She used it, quite accidentally, to kill one of the other five pieces of god. And then there were four. The one still in heaven is apparently paranoid schizophrenic and driving angels out of heaven (not like during the fall more of a “he’s wacko, let’s get out of here” sort of way).

Stark and girlfriend Candy nearly get whacked by someone looking for the Magic 8 ball so Stark decides enough is enough. He needs to find that thing and fast. So he starts beating on people, sending messages into the criminal underground of L.A. Someone had better spill before things get really messy. Eventually he gets picked up by a guy named Norris Quay, supposedly the richest man in California.

Quay wants the Magic 8 ball for his collection. He is purely selfish but he is not above killing to get what he wants. Quay eventually slips a spy (a younger, tick-tock homunculus of himself) into Stark’s group via a bunch of vampires along with some information. The Magic 8 ball can be found in a place called Kill City.

Kill City is just about as bad if not worse than it sounds. Kill City was a mega mall. Or it would have been if something hadn’t happened. Hundreds were killed in a building accident. People were trapped and died or went cuckoo. It is a bad place with a capital BAD. But the Magic 8 ball is down there, guarded by an old Roman ghost. What a Roman ghost is doing in L.A. is beyond me but plot!

Stark bring Candy, Brigitte the zombie killer, Vidocq the thief and Father Traven down to Kill City with him. He’s smart enough to know not to go in there alone. Quay’s spy goes with because he’s their map through Kill City (naturally). They fight and struggle through the levels of Kill City until they reach the old Roman ghost who turns out (surprise, surprise) to be piece 3 of 5 (or rather 4) of god. After some banter and a little bit of bargaining, he agrees to tell Stark and his troupe where the Magic 8 ball is. Turns out…it’s in the lobby area of Kill City, which they passed through to start their journey. Ain’t life a bitch.

So they retrieve the Magic 8 ball, but it costs. More than Stark is willing to pay. Granted, Aelita buys it (always nice when your mortal enemy kicks it I guess) but so does Traven. Traven was easily the most innocent person that Stark knows. Stark decides that is way too high a price for having his ultimate weapon because Traven was excommunicated by the Catholic church before Stark met him. It wasn’t anything bad that he did, he translated a book that the Church felt shouldn’t be translated.  But excommunication is a one way ticket to hell, regardless of the severity of your breach.

So Stark decides fuck this, I’m getting Traven’s soul out of hell. And boy howdy does he. It was a like the great escape if Steve McQueen had to break into the concentration camp first. It was awesome. Of course, that pisses off the current Lucifer, who kicks Stark and company out of the Chateau Marmont.

These books are great. There hasn’t been one that I’ve had to struggle to finish. I cannot wait until the next one comes out, whenever that may be (soon I hope). While you don’t necessarily need to read the other books to read this one, it does help because Kadrey does reference past events. I recommend this whole series but this book in particular is darn good. Rating: A.

Devil in the Dollhouse

Oh Richard Kadrey. Please keep writing Sandman Slim stories. I do adore them. 🙂 The Devil in the Dollhouse is a Sandman Slim short story. It focuses on Stark’s first few interactions in Hell as the new Lucifer. He’s trying to play all factions against the middle so that no one remembers that Stark was just a plain old human rather than a fallen angel like the rest of them.

One of his advisors (name is eluding me at the moment but I’m sure if you looked up demonology on the web, you’d come across it), convinces him that something needs to be done about what is essentially Hell’s out-house. And not in a bathroom sort of way. Well actually, it is that too come to think…Anyway, this area is supposed to hold demons and souls so bad they give other demons the heebie-jeebies.

Stark is good at kicking ass but he’s not very good at politicking or out thinking his opponents so he’s basically talked into this trek.  There are three rings of challenges to get through, each hard than the last but they weren’t really physical challenges so much as mental/emotional ones.

Turns out these challenges weren’t so much keeping demons out as keeping the uber-scary demons in. And rather than demons it is demon, singular. He claims to be the original Lucifer, the one who was the original cast out. Well, considering that there is a Sandman Slim full sized novel due out in a couple weeks, you can hazard a guess as to who wins this showdown.  😀 Anyway, loved the story because it whetted my appetite for more Sandman Slim. Read it. A

Butcher Bird

I just finished reading Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey on my commute home (woot public trans). It was interesting enough that I’d be willing to read a sequel if he wrote one. But I’ll be honest, it took me a while to finish this one. I picked it up after I read the third Sandman Slim book (love those books!). I felt that Butcher Bird was slower to start than Sandman Slim. I stopped after a few chapters and went off to read a few (okay, a lot) more books. I recently came back to it and I must have been in the mood for his dark and snarky style of writing because I ploughed through what I had left.

Butcher Bird features a tattoo artist by the name of Spyder. It starts out with him and his lesbian best friend called Lulu trading worst way to die suggestions at their favorite dive bar in San Fran. Sometime during the drinking, he meets a blind lady by the name of Shrike. Not long after, he gets beat to shit by a demon while taking a piss in the alley next to the bar. Shrike saves his as with some cool swordsmanship (you heard me, the blind chick is a sword master. Pretty sweet). But this incident leaves Spyder with something he never wanted. The truth. Or the sight. Or whatever term you want to use for suddenly “seeing the world the way it really is”.

Spyder takes this suddenly seeing demons thing pretty cool. I’d probably be freaking the fuck out but Spyder’s all like “huh…weird”. Wondering if he got hit just a little too hard by his demon mugger, he goes to find Lulu. Only to find that Lulu isn’t exactly Lulu any more. She’s been selling off pieces of herself to these weirdos called the Black Clerks to be able to keep doing smack and not look like it. I pictured the Black Clerks a bit like The Gentlemen from Buffy, only talkers.

Not long after this, Spyder finds Shrike again and gets pulled into this sort of supernatural intrigue with her. Her partner’s been murdered and she needs a man to stand with her and look tough and intimidating. Spyder apparently fits the bill, being tattooed from neck to feet. The pair of them get hired to go to Hell (literally, not figuratively) to retrieve a powerful book from a demon.

I won’t say too much more because spoilers. 🙂 After this assignment is made though, the book really starts to pick up. I guess I felt the beginning as a bit too exposition-y. Richard Kadrey’s interpretation of Hell in this book is a bit different than the version in the Sandman Slim books. Sandman Slim is a much darker, much more chaotic place. I’m not quite sure how to describe his vision of Hell in this book. His characterization of Lucifer is quite interesting though. All in all, I’d say this is a solid B, maybe leaning just a hair to B- because it took so long for me to finish.