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Another fine mess

Reader fan critic teacher reader fan.

Currently reading

Ottessa Moshfegh
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Sandman Slim - Richard Kadrey By novel's end, I was enthralled, after a bumpy start, so the rating is more an average, and I'll definitely return to this series.

The book opens with yet another alienated smart-ass protagonist seeking revenge while fending off complications from various, equally-corrupt systems. Kadrey welds this reliable noir frame to a supernatural chassis, which has (alas) its own familiarity: Heaven and Hell have a sort-of war going on, and wronged human-wielder-of-magic Stark escapes from damnation to spin some spells and decapitate/disembowel/destroy those who done him wrong. All fine, but I began thinking about Mike Carey, William Hjortsberg, Joss Whedon, the comicbook Constantine, any number of previous exemplars: the noir supernatural has a pretty thick shelf at this point in time, and Kadrey seemed to be paging through the library. Nihilism chased with a perverse but persistent sense of honor, check. Hero ass-whupped, but then shaking off the bruises and whupping ass, check. Demons, angels, sundry beasties, big weapons both mundane and magical. And so on. And, while reasonably pleasing, the novel also seemed prone to certain generic pitfalls: an adolescent bent to the wisecracking, a sloppiness in the metaphor department that meant certain well-liked phrases got repeated (which undercut the otherwise often-inventive tang of his prose style), a plot that (see above) seemed pre-destined and without surprise.

But as the novel develops, about a hundred or so pages in, after it cracks its knuckles and does a few deep knee-bends and hits the speed-bag for a while, Kadrey seems invigorated. The plot gets a bit more intriguingly convoluted, the mythos/backstory grows wings and claws and fangs, the world imagined suddenly seems thicker, and Stark as a result more compelling. It reminded me of reading Richard Morgan's debut Altered Carbon: both novels start with high-concept mash-ups that tweak but lean heavily on familiar turns, but both shake off the training wheels as the respective authors exuberantly realize what they're capable of. By the end of Slim, I was eager to watch Stark and Kadrey break from the pack--and I look forward to future, freakier fun with this world.