Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Review: "Kill City Blues" by Richard Kadrey

I thoroughly enjoyed the early books in Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series, but I wandered away after “Devil Said Bang.” I thought the idea of Stark being Lucifer would be more appealing than it actually was, and I thought that was the weakest book of the series.

So, a couple of years later, I’m looking for a quick read, and “Kill City Blues” ($14.99, Harper Voyager) is still sitting there in my TBR pile. I decide that it’s time to dive back in to the story.

Stark is out of Hell and back in L.A., though he’s still enjoying the devil’s posh digs on Earth for the moment. His Jade girlfriend Candy is with him, and for the moment, life is pretty good for the Sandman.

He still has a mission, though. The rebel angel Aelita has escaped with the Qomrama Om Ya, a powerful weapon that she intends to use to kill the split personalities of God. It just so happens that the Qomrama might be the only thing that can save the world from a race of gods more ancient than its own who are determined to break through and take their revenge.

To keep that from happening, Stark must find the Qomrama, which leads him to a crumbling, labyrinthine resort now known as Kill City. The project was abandoned after a collapse killed construction workers and is now the home to disgraced Sub Rosa families and a few other less savory creatures. The weapon has been stashed there, but did I mention that Stark isn’t the only person looking for it?

“Kill City Blues” serves as both a bridge book and a reset for the Sandman Slim series. There’s a bit of a lull from the explosive action of a story like “Aloha from Hell,” but it also brings the series back to its origins in the first couple of books. Stark is once again the badass demon slayer roaming the streets of L.A. and making the supernatural community quake in its collective boots.

Much of the dark and macabre humor that I thought took a backseat to the action in recent books returns, and Stark, though changed irrevocably by his recent experiences, settles back, at least as much as he can, into the character we knew and loved early in the series.

Eventually, of course, break time (and, yes, chasing a holy relic through a crazy supernatural shopping mall does count as a break for Stark) has to end, and events at the close of “Kill City Blues” have the story poised to ramp up again.

Whether it was the break I took from the story or the slight shift in direction, I enjoyed “Kill City Blues” immensely, and it won’t be another three years before I continue the series.

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