Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: "Devil Said Bang," by Richard Kadrey

In Richard Kadrey’s “Devil Said Bang” ($24.99, Harper), James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, is trapped in Hell again. This time, though, he’s running the place.

Being Lucifer, though, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it’s like being the boss of a lot of things. Stark finds himself dealing with budget meetings and the daily minutiae of keeping things running. Though he has Lucifer’s magical armor that protects him from most attacks, he hasn’t come into the full power of his position yet, and splits his time looking for the secrets of Samael’s power and plotting his escape.

What he really wants is to go home. He wants to see his girlfriend Candy again, and he wants to return to his normal life on Earth now that his vendetta against long-time rival Mason is settled. But Hell needs a ruler.

Meanwhile the angel half of Stark – who only recently discovered he is nephilim, half angel and half human – is running around Los Angeles ruining his reputation there. And when he finally figures out a way to break out of Hell, he discovers that things aren’t much better back home.

After the epic ending of Kadrey’s last novel, “Aloha From Hell,” you almost expect “Devil Said Bang” to be a little anti-climactic. I mean, how do you top an all-out war in Hell that ends in your main character becoming Lucifer?

By upping the ante on a huge level.

The action doesn’t fully arrive in this book, but we learn a little of what’s coming, and it might make the war in Hell look like a walk in the park.

As always, I find myself surprised at how much I like Stark. He’s a stone-cold bastard, a ruthless killer, an evil SOB. Or, at least, he was. And that’s what makes the character so endearing to the reader. There are still flashes of that guy we met in the first book of the series, and he can still take care of business, but he continues to struggle with those violent urges and the fact that he is, once again, learning how to care for the people around him and what that means for both them and the infamous Sandman Slim.

In “Devil Said Bang” there’s a bit more revelation for Stark, who thinks that he just might be able to find a little bit of peace at last by the end. Of course, we all know that’s not going to happen.

Kadrey’s style continues to be entertaining, mixing a hard-boiled detective sort of style with break-neck action, some Lovecraftian horror touches and plenty of worthy one-liners. His take on heaven and hell and the inhabitants of each continues to be interesting, and does offer some genuine moments for thought about the nature of what so many people believe. One of Stark’s realizations about the outlook of the denizens of Hell in this book is particularly intriguing, though I’ll leave that for the reader to discover.

With “Devil Said Bang,” Kadrey keeps the tale moving forward at a good clip and sets up some very interesting scenarios for readers to think about down the road.


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