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Monday, December 28, 2009

Sandman Slim, by Richard Kadrey (Reviewed by Fabio Fernandes)

Dammit. I wish I could write like Richard Kadrey.

The first time I read something by him was in the late eighties, in the now deceased Brazilian edition of Isaac Asimov Magazine. (Can´t remember the story, sorry - my collection is at my parents´s home in Rio, and there´s no record of those stories on the web as far as I can tell.)

But of one thing I´m sure - it was Kadrey, more than Gibson (and I am a HUGE fan of Gibson - I even wrote a book on his work), that made me want to be a cyberpunk writer. Gibson had the style and sensibility; Sterling had the political eye; but Richard Kadrey had the true grit. The balls. And the guns. Damn, Kadrey was the psychokiller of the cyberpunks.

I took my time reading Sandman Slim. It was completely worth it. How couldn´t it be? Imagine an American John Constantine (forget Keanu Reaves in the movie version) - a top-notch magician who really, TRULY fucked up and REALLY ended up (or down) in Hell, ALIVE, for eleven years. And, then, by a miracle, gets out - with the sole purpose to take revenge upon his former group of magicians, who literally sold him to the devil.

All his years struggling to stay alive - first as a slave and then as a warrior in the arena to please the Hellions, denizens of the underworld, among them the generals of Lucifer - made him something more than human, something even he, Stark, can´t quite understand. Even so, he will use whatever powers he have to survive on Earth and kill his sworn enemies. Piece of cake, right?

Not exactly - but we all knew that. Stark must face the real world, meet old friends, like the immortal French inspector/alchemist Vidocq, and new enemies, like a bunch of neo-Nazi guys who may not be exactly who they claim...

With his magic powers, almost inhuman strength, one or two really cool supernatural weapons (among them a key to the Room of Thirteen Doors, which is simply the center of the universe, a point to and from where he can teleport at will, and that he used to escape from Hell) - and a silver tongue that can only be found in the likes of Philip Marlowe, Stark quickly becomes a valued prize in the upcoming war between angels, demons, and another, hidden faction who can upset the already much disturbed balance between chaos and order and ravage Earth, Hell, and Heaven alike.

He couldn´t care less, naturally; all he wants is his vengeance. But the events will lead him in an unexpected way, through dark caves, dealings with strange beings, meetings and alliances (and dates?!!?) with monsters, and insane bloodbaths all over L.A. and other dimensions too.

Sandman Slim is the return to a whole punk lifestyle - to read the exploits of Stark and characters like Candy is to go down Memory Lane, in more than one way: metaphorically and almost as if I was reading Neuromancer for the first time, in 1989 (my first time, that is - approximately the same time when I was first introduced to that now lost Mr. Kadrey story). It´s a bittersweet memory. Maybe it´s not a coincidence that I finished reading this novel in the week that the album London Calling completed its 30th year. Punk is calling, people. Punk, cyberpunk, doesn´t matter: none of them are dead.

(Published originally in Post-Weird Thoughts)


James said...

I read this earlier this year. My first experience with Kadrey, but I quickly became a fan. It is a great book, one of the better ones I read this year, and I look forward to reading more in the series. I also read his novel from Night Shade Books, BUTCHER BIRD, which had similar elements. It was a good book, with some fantastic imagery, but, unfortunately, not as good as SANDMAN SLIM. I am looking forward to possibly reading some of his older works.

Also, could the short story you speak of be Kill Fix?

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