Brought to you by OBS reviewer Verushka
*Beware of possible Spoilers*
If ever you wanted an antidote from the norm of paranormal, urban fantasies with over-powering romances, Kadrey’s Sandman Slim novels are definitely it. The first was filled with blood and gore, but this, the second in his series of 5, is filled with more blood and gore, a couple of different types of zombies, a zombie-slaying porn star and a power struggle going on, pretty much everywhere, including Hell. It is gritty noir, with fast, snappy quips and dialogue that can give you whiplash before you go back for another read of the line you’re sure you couldn’t have read properly the first time.
Well ok, maybe that’s just me.
Stark is back, as are all the beings we met in the first novel and a whole lot more. This time around, Stark is offered a gig as Lucifer’s bodyguard as he comes up top to LA to oversee a movie being made of his life, which stars said – former – porn star zombie killer, Brigitte. The history of the Sub Rosa, the society that underpins everything Stark did in the first book, comes to light, and we get a better sense of how things and families and power struggles work in the magical community of LA.
As a result, Kadrey’s talent as an exquisite and complicated world-builder come to light and it’s a joy to read – there are threads that tie everyone and the unexpected together, including everyone in Heaven and Hell.
I don’t mind the gore, I don’t mind the over-the-top-nature of the gore and, well pretty much everything, what I do mind is that the very thing that attracted me to this novel does a very good job of hiding the thin, very thin plot underneath, and the lack of character development – it’s all undone by the end of the book, in essence, or at least until I read the third book and see what Stark is like in it.
Take the story of Lucifer in LA, for instance – he asks Stark to be his bodyguard, and Stark does it admirably so by protecting Lucifer, and I applaud the restraint showed with Lucifer’s character. He could have so easily taken over the book, but he doesn’t – he is written as quick-witted and snappy and contemporary as Stark is, and it’s why the scenes with them are hysterically funny and a jaw-droppingly fabulous read. But, there is a train of thought in regards to Lucifer that Stark contemplates throughout the book, something that strikes at the heart of who he is (my apologies for the vagueness as I try to avoid spoilers) – that Kadrey spends time building on, and then simply undoes by the end of the book.
It wouldn’t have been an issue for me, because it meant Stark was wrong; it’s no biggie, I can understand that. Lucifer sets Stark on the right path to the right person he wants…who is promptly killed off.
What’s the point? This is a facet of Stark’s character Kadrey builds up and simply pulls the rug out from under the reader and leaves Stark exactly where he was at the beginning of this book.
The only thing that frustrates me more than the incessant romance that accompanies books of this genre, is characters that show no development and hanging plot points that simply go nowhere.
Then there is Stark’s angel nature – it is explored incredibly well in this novel, and Kadrey gives that part of a Stark some attention, but again, it goes nowhere. Stark reverts back to his status quo. As a reader, I ended this book feeling incredibly cheated.
I can only hope things change in the third book, that the strengths of Kadrey’s writing and world building, beyond the over the top nature of the gore and the violence, are given a chance, because that would elevate these books into so much more than they already are.