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VINE VOICEon July 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I am a big fan of Jim Butchers, Harry Dresden books. I devour them as soon as they are written.
Looks like I have another character to add to my list.
Sandman Slim is hopefully the first in a series. The character of Stark or Sandman Slim, is a magic using Hells Escapee with 11 years of gladiator fighting with demons and worse under his belt.
And now that he's back on Earth he's seriously pissed.
The plot of the book was very well paced. Kadrey has some simply hysterical similies and metaphors which are just so unexpected and refreshing. A girl storming out of a room in a rage and pounding down the stairs is referred to as "God's tiniest tyrannosaurus" These little phrases slipped effortlessly into the narrative really keep the reader on their toes and the interest level high while simultaneously staying completely in character with the first person narrative.
I would highly recommend this book to any fan of Jim Butcher and the likes of Simon Green.
I would offer the one caution that Kadrey does have an affinity for swearing...quite a bit. But it does fit the character and I think it would have read false if it was sugar coated or watered down.
All and all a very fun read!
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on June 12, 2009
(This review is based on an advanced readers copy)
This is a dark and dirty work of fantasy, so if you're looking for elves, look elsewhere. Stark comes across as a complete hardass, but isn't completely unsympathetic, I mean, I'd want to see some heads roll if I were sent down to Hell, alive. Sandman Slim is unapologetically a novel of brute force, cynical dark humor, and visceral fun.

My synopsis barely covers the plot, which would be more entertaining to read in the book rather than me spouting out what at this stage in the game would be spoilers. There were a few plot points I saw from almost the opening pages, which only put me off a little bit as I read. However other plot elements, like the ENTIRE ENDING, totally took me off guard. I like a book that can surprise me.

For the squeamish out there, here's your warning: If you're devoutly religious and you don't like controversy, fiction, or thumbing your nose at God, Angels, Devils, what-have-you, this is not your book. If you don't like violence, unsugarcoated gut spilling, antiheroes that make goody-two-shoes nervous and other such nastiness, steer clear. However, if you're like me at all, and you like a good adrenaline infused read, go pick this up when it comes out July 21st.
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on October 16, 2010
The main character in this urban fantasy book comes back from Hell to find his revenge on the people that killed his lover. He finds himself ten years older, in a dark Los Angeles haunted by demons, monsters and vampires. He is an hard boiled and humorous character, without hope but not wits.. I won't spoil your reading explaining who and what Sandman Slim is, but I recommend you not to miss this very well written book.
At the end of the book you will find an excerpt of the next one, "Kill the dead": I will surely buy soon as its price decreases around $ 10. Enjoy!!
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VINE VOICEon July 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It's Constantine meets Gladiator, with a dash of Sandman, told as a Mike Hammer-style L.A. violent noir-slash-Gothic-punk hard-boiled detective action story! Or that's how I imagine the elevator pitch for the movie that this book seems calculated to set up, like a nearly four-hundred-page screenplay treatment. Stark/Slim, the narrator, is a quintessentially badass ex-Hellion pit fighter, back on Earth to revenge his emo girlfriend's murder, and caught up unawares in a plot to... well, do something or other that's epically, cosmologically bad. This is every bit as garbled a novel as it sounds, full of set-pieces strung together by no reasonable explanation or narrative plausibility, and strung together by over-talky bits of exposition that seem more concerned with establishing its kooky cosmology for sequel-setup purposes than with telling a single organized story. And some of the pleasure of following along on its wild ride is starkly diminished by the failure to establish rules for the magic, or for the novel's world, that make consistent sense of it; one feels at times like one is playing along with a clever five-year-old who deals a new hand of cards whenever it suits his momentary purposes.

All the same, there's plenty of fun to be had here -- the book is a great quick, escapist read full of all-out-of-bubblegum tough-guy talk and of weird-world politics, angels vs. devils vs. whoever else, doing vaguely Machiavellian scheming. If you've seen or read Hellboy and Constantine and their ilk there is not going to be much surprise here, but there is a certain more-of-the-same pleasure to it, which is no bad thing; and any reader will end up hoping they can get Ron Perlman to take the role.
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on July 26, 2011
"Sandman Slim" is about a young "Magician" named James Stark who's betrayed by his Coven and sent to Hell. For eleven years, he serves as a Gladiator to fight other monsters for the amusement of the Inferno's demonic populace. Somehow, Stark escapes and returns to L.A., hellbent (pun intended) on revenge.

It's a good concept (though not necessarily an original one) that would have made for a good story.

Could have been a great story.

Unfortunately, it fell short on nearly all levels.

While Richard Kadrey does an admirable job contributing to the urban fantasy genre, he doesn't really add much that's new. The gritty city setting smacked of Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files", the ambiguous morality of Heaven and Hell seemed straight out of Todd McFarlane's "Spawn" series and the supernatural peek behind The Veil seemed lifted directly from White Wolf's "World of Darkness" role playing games.

But all this could have been overlooked if Kadrey at least gave us a compelling hero. For me, the weakest part of the book is the title character itself.

Stark is set up to be this slick, bad-ass anti-hero. Yet he spends far more time TELLING us why he's so dangerous than actually SHOWING us. Supposedly, he's a highly gifted magician. But we never get a demonstration of his skill because he refuses to use magic. Why give your hero traits that he never uses? Also, he's spent eleven years in mortal combat with some of the most vicious creatures in Hell. We know because he mentions this nearly ever other page. And yet he seems to repeatedly get his clock cleaned by half the characters he meets. He never seems to "Walk the talk" as it were.

I also found the first person narration a bit ill-fitting. Supposedly Stark was sent to Hell when he was nineteen. He was there for eleven years, so that would make him about thirty years old in 2009 (when the book was published). This means he would have grown up in the 80's. So why does he ruminate like a hard-boiled 1930's detective? Why doesn't he use the slang and language of a kid from the MTV Generation? This was, for me, the most distracting aspect of the book. Don't get me wrong...Kadrey goes a great job writing a film-noir-ish book. It just seemed incongruous given the hero's backstory.

Finally, there's the mystery of the novel's title. It refers, obviously, to Jim Stark. But the reader is never told why. About half-way through the book, a random character pops up and starts calling Stark "Sandman Slim". Soon everyone, including Stark himself, starts using is as if it has tremendous weight and significance. But that significance...whatever it may never explained to the reader.

"Sandman Slim" is a quick read with some interesting set pieces and occasionally brilliant noir-ish writing. Unfortunately, Kadrey's first foray into the genre is marred by too-familiar scenarios and a surprisingly lack-luster anti-hero.
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on December 22, 2012
So, you're considering buying this book. Let me try to dissuade you.

First thing: the book is in the present tense. You really need to read a few paragraphs to get a feel for this. If this bothers you initially, give this book a pass. You won't get used to it; if anything, it gets worse. If the tense doesn't irritate you, Kadrey actually has a pretty good ear (particularly when describing LA). Let's proceed to part two.

Second thing: there are many, many better books for you to read.

The basic formula for a protagonist is simple. A protagonist has one special property that makes him or her unique and noteworthy. Sometimes it's a magic item, sometimes a special skill, or - if the author is really desperate - there's a prophecy about a chosen one. James Stark doesn't have one special property, he has seven:

1. He was stabbed in the back by his friends, who sent him to Hell. There, he fought as a gladiator. After that, everything on Earth is pretty nonthreatening by comparison.

2. While in Hell, he learned secret Hell magic, which gives him a leg up on normal, pedestrian wizards.

3. He's a magic savant.

4. In Hell, he acquired a magic Hell weapon. This weapon can do basically anything, including change form.

5. He also found a coin that can accurately predict the future, but only by answering yes or no questions.

6. Plus, there's also a key that lets him travel anywhere he wants.

7. Oh, yeah, his lineage gives him super powers (being related to Wild Bill makes you a gun savant, apparently).

So... this guy is basically immortal, excels in hand-to-hand combat, is awesome with guns, and is the greatest wizard ever. The only thing he can't do is create dramatic tension. James Stark is like Superman, if Superman wasn't restrained by a moral code and didn't have to make any difficult choices ever.

Good writing, of course, can overcome bad concept. There are some clever passages in this book, but that's about it. Reading this is like watching people trying to fist fight underwater; it wants to be fast paced, but everything's telegraphed way, way in advance.

Look, if you want to read a book about a dark and gritty supernatural world, where the main character is a magic thug dealing with wizard nerds, read the Twenty Palaces novels. If you want a power trip fantasy, where the main character is basically invincible, but still has to work to get what he wants, read about Edwin Drood. If you want a man bent on revenge who has a magic shadow key, read Jack of Shadows.

There's nothing here that's interesting or unique, or even well done. Reading this book is a waste of time. That people like this book makes me sad for the genre.
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on March 13, 2013
Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim is the tattooed badass of the Urban Fantasy genre. There's no confusing this book with paranormal romance, there's nothing romantic about it (unless you call getting a poisonous kiss from a people-eating Jade romantic. If you do, you're kinda weird, but hey, whatever floats your boat).

The narrator and main character is Stark, a man who has freshly returned to earth from an eleven-year stint in Hell. Stark wasn't dead, though. He was betrayed by Mason and his cronies and dragged down into hell while still alive where he becomes a novelty for the demons and Hellions and winds up fighting gladiator style in an arena for their entertainment. While in Hell, Stark becomes hard to kill. Whatever is thrown at him (or jabbed through him) only makes him stronger. Fighting and almost dying become the norm, until one day he gets his hands on his literal key to freedom, and he returns to Los Angeles.

While he was in Hell, all-around bad guy Mason has had Stark's girlfriend, Alice, killed. Stark seeks revenge not only for his imprisonment, but also for the death of the only person he ever loved. Trust me though, when I say that at no point does the situation ever become sappy. Sandman Slim is pure belligerent testosterone-filled story, and the narrator makes no apology for it. He knows he's impatient, imprudent, and immoral, but at least you get to read about him blowing up some Neo-Nazis.

Overall the story is fun, but not really full of meaning or depth. It's a shallow, bad-ass-guy-saves-the-world-from-annihilation sort of story. And that's exactly what it's meant to be. It's a readable action movie--entertaining with a lot of literary explosions.

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VINE VOICEon October 20, 2010
I read this as an ARC and liked it. Glad to get it as a freebie for my Kindle.

The blurb says "Nicotine and octane in equal parts might come close to the high-energy buzz from Kadrey's Sandman Slim".

Yeah, that sounds pretty ridiculous, but I actually liked Sandman Slim. Could hardly put it down, even. It has a lot of things to like. First, the hero/narrator is a likable guy. He's a little bit gunslinger, a little bit vigilante - he's got cool fighting skills, a hot temper, and a dry sense of humor. The basic idea is that he is a bad guy: violent, angry, murderous tendencies. But he is out for revenge against Even Worse Guys - guys who ruined his life and who might even be out to destroy the world. So, he's the "monster that kills monsters", as they say in the book. Of course, he's a good guy at heart who cares about the people close to him and worries about the condition of his own humanity.

So that's right - end of the world, revenge story, vigilante, bad boy monster-hunter. Stuff that appeals to pretty much anyone.

And the writing style is all right. I normally don't like present-tense narration, but in Sandman Slim, it was actually pretty smooth. The book has a fast pace, a fun action-packed plot.

A lot of the elements in the story are unique as well. I liked the hero's sarcastic magic coin, which he flips for questionable bitter advice. I laughed pretty hard when the hero visits the Room with 13 Doors (the method by which he can travel anywhere in time/space), and his friend says "My God. It really is a room full of doors. I assumed the doors were a metaphor." Ha.
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VINE VOICEon October 21, 2010
After reading the description of Sandman Slim I was hooked. Throw in all the positive reviews (mostly 4 and 5 star on Amazon) as well as the notable authors proclaiming their love for this novel (William Gibson and Charlaine Harris) and you would assume that this book is a gritty, cynical, sarcastic, refreshing, unique, bloody, hard-boiled, satisfying, noir supernatural thriller. You know what happens when you assume...

The general trend of urban fantasy seems to be a peeing contest to see who can create the most sharp-edged antihero. There's nothing wrong with that, antiheroes make for compelling characters. They allow us as readers to explore our own darker nature without ever having to fully succumb to the taint of evil. As such James Stark/Sandman Slim should in essence be pure antihero to the core, after spending 11 years in Hell who wouldn't be? Despite all the promises of some serious hardcore antics Kadrey really fails to deliver on this end. Stark very much wants to be the Dirty Harry of the underworld but really he's just a teenager with a biker jacket and some guns. There's plenty of talk and not a whole lot of follow through on his part. Stark hates cops and goody-goody hero types, he talks about how screwed up LA is and how the rich drive their nice cars and the poor squabble over scraps. You probably know his type in real life, the guy that complains about the messed up society we live in but does nothing to change it, 'cause ya know he's too busy getting a new tattoo. Stark fails on a lot of levels. You can't empathize with him, its his fault he hung out with such a sketchy group of people and got sent to Hell in the first place. He's a crappy detective, he follows a minimum of leads while tending to just go with the flow. He's also a lousy fighter. After spending 11 years fighting cage matches in Hell you would think that he can handle his own. He spends plenty of time talking up the hellion magic he learned with his time Downtown but he never uses it because he doesn't want his enemies to find him. He really has no redeeming qualities, he's a 19 year old punk at heart.

Then there's the other characters who are flat as cardboard. There's the loyal French alchemist, the feisty video store clerk, the evil for the sake of being evil guy, the evil guy's henchman, and a couple other characters I cared nothing about. Lucifer himself makes an appearance, as well as an angel and a member of Homeland Security but none of these characters add any depth.

One more complaint. As "Sandman Slim", Stark is supposed to be the bane of evil. A monster who hunts monsters. He spent some of his time in hell killing other demons for his evil benefactors. Then he comes to Earth and for reasons beyond his reckoning everyone starts calling him Sandman Slim. The thing is he didn't kill a single monster while on Earth. Stark mentions vampires and werewolves and such (none of which feel like they fit in the story at all) but he doesn't have a run in with any of them. There is a point where he teams up with a Jade (somewhat similar to a vampire) but that's the extent of it. None of that monster stuff fits in. Whatever dark tone the novel had (which was minimal at best) was completely ruined by the inclusion of monsters.

I realize my review doesn't conform with the general opinion. I'm sure some people are able to enjoy this messy, adolescent, shallow "masterpiece". I'm just not one of them.
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on May 25, 2011
I definitely could have used a much more critical review of SANDMAN SLIM prior to my purchase.

A reader will definitely get everything they're promised in this first entry into what assumedly will be a continuing series featuring the titular "hero": demons, angels, guns, magic, blood, talking heads, fantastic weapons, invulnerability, and a copious amount of smack talk with a heaping side of attitude. I'm hoping that the author continues to grow as a writer and take a bit more time flushing out his characters if he hopes to really reign in a piece of the torrent of readers flocking to similar contemporary supernatural vigilantes.

The most glaring problems with this novel will be apparent immediately. Everyone in LA is apparently just another slice of the same cocky, belligerent, foul-mouthed jerk with a chip on their shoulder. The grouchiness hits immediately from all angles and no one behaves in any sort of manner that's believable. The author hasn't taken the time to build character or plot- it's all just a kinetic snowball of action and anger with the shallow depth you always worry will exist in this genre. Demons, blood, and magic isn't enough to hold your attention through to the final paragraph let alone for repeated entries in a series.

I imagine there will be several folks who can overlook character and plot and rate this novel full stars based on topic alone. That's not enough for me, and I doubt it would be for anyone who reads more than one or two books a year. I don't hate SANDMAN SLIM. In reality it worked for what I wanted it to- an in-betweener, something to tide me over between novels of higher aspirations, quality, and thought.
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