Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
My Rating: 3-1/2 Stars of 5…(I think)
Well. Sandman Slim is one of those books that makes me crazy. I love it. I hate it. It’s hilarious. It’s disgusting. It’s dark and disturbing. It’s so over the top, it’s silly. It’s all of the above, and probably a whole lot more I haven’t even thought of yet. And I thought every one of of these things while reading it, from one page to the next. I would decide to just scrap it because it was annoying me half to death, and then I’d decide it was really fascinating–in the same way watching a spider eat a fly is–so I’d read a little more. Somehow it kept me moving forward through the whole story, so it had something going for it, even if I don’t know what it was.
Kadrey’s writing can be quite strong at times, and I love some of his turns of phrase. The world building was pretty interesting, too. Those are some very important factors for sure. But–you knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you?–I really did not like the main character. (That would be Sandman Slim, himself). It is hard for me to truly enjoy a book when I am not invested in the lead characters, and try as I might, Sandman, or Stark, as he is first introduced to us, is one of the most unlikeable lead characters I’ve ever read about. To be fair, he’s had lots of things happen to him to make him the way he is, which is to say, an arrogant, smart-assed, foul-mouthed punk, with seemingly no sense of concern for anyone other than himself. But that’s just the kind of guy I tend to feel sorry for, especially after learning his back story, which in this case involves eleven years in Hell, being beaten by demons, tortured by Hellions, and thrown into an arena to battle horrible creatures for his life, over and over again. And yet, I really felt very little compassion for him, because, folks… he ain’t nice.
And there is one thing that truly puzzled me. Our anti-hero introduces himself as “Stark.” Just “Stark.” No first name. No middle initial. Then all of a sudden, well into the book, various beings from here and there are telling him he is Sandman Slim, with no explanation of where the nickname came from or what it means. It’s never addressed at all. I have to wonder why?
I admit, like him or not, I’m full of questions as to what will become of Stark a/k/a Sandman Slim, and whether or not he will ever find redemption. (Perhaps making me wonder about this is the whole point of the story?) I’m thinking about reading at least one more book, which could indicate I’ve got some kind of sick, masochistic self-punishment thing going on here, my own self. Hmm…maybe I’ll take a break first, with some friendlier creatures of the night, or possibly even a regular work of fiction with normal human beings in it. Then I’ll decide whether or not to step back into this very dark, very creepy world.
If any of what I just said stirs yer grits, Sandman Slim might be right up your alley. If not, run far, run fast!
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