He’s Baaa-aaack! Sandman Slim Rides Again With Devil Said Bang


Devil Said BangDevil Said Bang

Yeah, I’m one of those kinds of fans of Richard Kadrey’s anti-hero, James Stark… aka, Sandman Slim, Hell’s Hitman. I’ve been with him from the beginning… you know, when he figured out how to escape Hell and come back and get revenge on the people who put him there in the first place? Don’t know that story? Well, you better get reading, because you’ve got three books to get through before you’re ready for the next round of big surprises in Kadrey’s latest Sandman Slim novel, Devil Said Bang.

Kadrey hasn’t really lightened up on Stark … or should I say, Lucifer? Yeah, he got the raw end of the deal in the previous (third) novel, Aloha from Hell, when Lucifer 1 managed to trick him into taking over the duties. Now Stark’s got to endure the worst horrors the new position throws at him — business meetings, budget reviews, and zoning ordinances. Hell’s been through a war (another one… again), and Stark’s been left to clean up the mess. The generals are scheming and plotting Stark’s assassination, the personal staff can’t be trusted to even deliver his meals done properly, and he’s discovering that enemies back on Earth are reaching out (or down?) for their own bit of injustice. Just another normal day for Stark. (Anyone who’s read the first three novels knows I’m telling the truth here.)

So, without giving away major plot points, what can I tell you about the story? Well, quite a bit actually. But the things I’m going to mention below are for those familiar with Stark and his world. Like I said, if you haven’t read the first three books, most of this won’t make sense. Too bad. Time to catch up.

Okay, so for those who are still with me, I’m guessing you want to know a status report since we last left Stark at the end of Aloha from Hell, right? Here goes:

1. Aelita is still quite ticked at him. Like, murderously angry. You do NOT upset an angel’s plans to take over heaven and expect to get away with it. Stark knows she’s out there and he’s watching his rear.

2. Candy’s still on Earth. She’s not angry, or at least she wasn’t angry when Stark left her in Aloha to go after Mason. We all know what happened to Mason, and the repercussions of that action play a big part in Devil Said Bang. No, Mason’s gone. Honest. He doesn’t make a surprise return. Dead. I can’t speak for the next book — Kadrey’s pulled some humdingers before.

3. Kasabian is still around, and given that he’s one of my favorite characters because he gives Stark nothing but attitude since Stark cut off his head and left him bodiless, I’m quite happy that Kadrey gives him some screen time here, as well as a questionable mechanical body that doesn’t always work properly. And Stark throws Kasabian some interesting new super powers that I think will become important in the next book.

4. The Sub Rosa, Earth’s hidden group of magicians, aren’t big fans of Stark right now. When he took over duties in Hell, his good half (Stark was half-angel, remember) returned to Earth and has performed some questionable acts (while looking like Stark) that have made the real Stark some serious enemies back home. He should have remained in Hell, but it wouldn’t be much of a story if Stark stayed around to deal with Hell’s bureaucracy. Nope … about half the book takes place downstairs as Stark begins to put two and two together and starts figuring out who’s gunning for him. And who else is gunning for him. Because Stark never has one enemy… that would be boring.

All the other minor characters are still around (Vidocq, however, just didn’t get much attention… but maybe in the next book), but this is a tightly wound mystery that doesn’t stray too far from the major players. All the bad guys (and gals) have got an angle, they’re all looking to expand their power or territory or both, and none of them want to see Stark back in L.A. And that’s too bad, because Stark is a Gold Medal Troublemaker, and he lives to throw himself right into the middle of things just to see what happens. I won’t give away a great little scene later in the book, but Stark has always hated the Sub Rosa and since they’re unaware of his new title and duties, you’re in for some fun reading when that reality sets in for them.

So, to summarize. Stark is Lucifer, but he doesn’t want the job. He’d really prefer to be left alone, but he also knows that ain’t ever gonna happen with all the enemies he’s made. He’s made some discoveries — new powers, a new weapon, a new universe, and even a new major enemy. (Yes, the Kissi are gone. They’re gone. Seriously. And they’re pretty tame compared to what appears to be on the horizon for Heaven, Hell, and Earth.)

Once again… Kadrey delivers a (NSFK) novel that is not for the easily offended. His characters are still crude and ultra-violent, the good guys are ugly and the bad guys are beautiful, and there’s enough blasphemy between the covers to give an exorcist the vapors. But for those who can look past all this and dig deep, looking for deeper meanings and moral truths… you’re out of luck. That just isn’t Stark’s style.

He’s not back to rock the boat. If he’s not left alone, he may very well sink it. He’s got a nice collection of weapons, a number of favors to call in, and he’s back on his home turf. If you’re going to tackle reading Devil Said Bang, be prepared — this is not the Sandman Slim from Book 1. This Sandman Slim is now figuring out exactly who his enemies are and, rather than circling the wagons and developing a strategy, he’s just going to deal with them the hard way. And Kadrey’s version of the hard way is way more entertaining than a hero with a plan.

Devil Said Bang is out now in hardback. You can read my previous review of the first three books here.

Book 1: Sandman Slim

Book 2: Kill The Dead

Book 3: Aloha From Hell

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