Sandman Slim Series ~ the Audiobooks (4-6 )

AudiobookReview

Getting out of Hell is just the beginning.
What do you do after you’ve escaped Hell, gone back, uncovered the true nature of God, and then managed to become the new Lucifer?
Well, if you’re James Stark, you have to figure out how to run Hell while also trying to get back out of it . . . again. Plus there’s the small matter of surviving. Because everyone in Heaven, Hell, and in between wants to be the fastest gun in the universe, and the best way to do so is to take down Lucifer, a.k.a. James Stark.

Stark, still tucked away in Pandemonium in his role as Lucifer, finds himself totally bored with admin work, dealing with Hellions and trying to sort out the chaos that is Hell so he is almost relieved when he’s on the receiving end of assassination attempts. At least it livens things up a bit and he can forget about court politics. Hell is just a lot of administration and red tape with infighting thrown into the mix.

Welcome to Hell. It’s just like high school but with more boredom and entrails.

After telling Candy when he left he would only be a few days but has now actually been stuck in Hell for months, Stark is absolutely ready to go home. And, of course, when he gets there via Hellion Hawg, LA is in big trouble. Reality has taken a nose dive and a killer ghost along with Aelita are causing havoc while the Dreamers are doing their best to hold reality together. Stark and St James have parted company so Stark no longer has the key to the room of thirteen doors but he returns from Hell in Lucifer’s armour and with a new and fascinating weapon.

Stark, still trying to save the world, is his usual coarse, snarky, irreverent and entertaining anti-hero self. All the fantastic characters from previous stories are back and I love who gets to be the permanent Lucifer.

The writing is dark and witty, the full on action plot does get a little convoluted at times but is still deliciously gratifying with lots of outrageous and exaggerated violence and everything that makes a Sandman Slim novel.

  • KillCityBluesKill City Blues #5
  • five-stars

James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, has managed to get out of Hell, renounce his title as the new Lucifer, and settle back into life in LA. But he’s not out of trouble yet. Somewhere along the way he misplaced the Qomrama Om Ya, a weapon from the banished older gods who are also searching for their lost power.

The hunt leads Stark to an abandoned shopping mall-a multi-story copy of LA-infested with Lurkers and wretched bottomfeeding Sub Rosa families, squatters who have formed tight tribes to guard their tiny patches of this fake LA. Somewhere in the kill zone of the former mall is a dead man with the answers Stark needs. All Stark has to do is find the dead man, get back out alive, and outrun some angry old gods-and a few killers-on his tail.

A great opening chapter has Stark, Candy and Samael in Donut Universe while Candy updates Stark and Samael’s Wikipedia pages. Stark and his angel half have reunited, he is back to being a nephilim and again has the Key to the Room of Thirteen Doors. 

Stark is in a race to find the Qomrama Om Ya, a weapon greater than any other, before the old gods, namely the Angra Om Ya who existed before anything else, can take back and destroy the universe. Aleita has hidden it somewhere and Stark needs to find it before she can do her worst. Which requires a trip to Kill City, a creepy, abandoned shopping mall.

The world building is described in intricate detail and the dialogue and banter between the characters is superb. The violent action is way over the top and there’s a serious eww factor as Stark acquires more scars. Some surprise plot developments too. 

I love the growth of Stark’s character and how he gets a little introspective in this story.

Most nights I still dream about Hell. I can feel it inside me. It’s in the stink of my sweat. Flashing on the place even for a second makes me furious and sometimes afraid and sometimes ashamed of both those things.
On the plus side, I got up close and personal with the killer inside me. I learned I was good at taking lives. Doc Kinski called me a natural-born killer, so now it’s what I do. But I don’t always like it, and when I do, I don’t always like myself for liking it. That’s what Hell is. It’s the shithole bottom of the universe, but it’s a place where you’ll learn more about yourself than you ever wanted to know.

This is gritty urban fantasy at it’s darkest. Richard Kadrey’s off the wall sense of humour and amazingly imaginative writing, not to mention the unique take on Heaven and Hell and their residents, make this series one of my favourites. The cast of characters, some new and others returning from previous books, is as bizarre and outlandish as ever. 

 

  • TheGetawayGodThe Getaway God #6
  • five-stars

Being a half-human, half-angel nephilim with a bad rep and a worse attitude-not to mention temporarily playing Lucifer-James Stark aka Sandman Slim has made a few enemies. None, though, are as fearsome as the vindictive Angra Om Ya-the old gods. But their imminent invasion is only one of Stark’s problems right now. LA is descending into chaos, and a new evil-the Wildfire Ripper-is stalking the city.

As the Apocalypse draws ever nearer and the non stop rain in LA has driven most of the population away, Stark is working to prevent the Old Gods, the Angra Om Ya, from finding the means to destroy the world and everyone on it. Add to that a serial killer running riot, and given to extremely gory tendencies with body parts, who turns out to be a very unexpected blast from the past. 

You’d think the end of the world would be exciting, but this apocalypse is about as much fun as dental surgery.

Take the current situation. Sitting at a dead stop in traffic, as lively as a stone angel over a tomb. Not one car has moved in ten minutes. It’s bumper to bumper on Sunset Boulevard, which is nothing new, but this kind of traffic is 24/7 these days, as it seems like half the city is hightailing it out of Dodge all at once. And the rain. It’s been coming down non-stop for two weeks. It’s like L.A. lost a bet with God and the old bastard is pissing his Happy Hour whiskey all over the city. Which, when you get down to it, isn’t far from the truth. This isn’t how I figured I’d ring in the apocalypse.

And as things get even more disastrous there is confusion, violence and shocking developments. Stark is once again working with The Golden Vigil as well as a mummified centuries old mystic called The Shonin. There’s an abundance of bizarre characters, flawed gods, angels and demons, and a huge amount of often gruesome action packed into this story. I like the way the relationships between Stark and the other key characters develops, albeit complicated and rocky in places.
An extremely tight, irreverent and darkly humorous narrative bringing to a satisfactory and surprising conclusion to the Angra Om Ya storyline. Also, it seems, bringing to a close this stage of Stark’s life. I can’t wait to see where he goes from here. And it’s actually quite amazing to realise the whole series spans just twelve months!

 

MacLeod Andrews’ performance is superb, I love his characterisation of Stark, and the way he handles all the other utterly diverse characters with their own individual ‘voices’ is perfect.

Sandman Slim Series ~ the audiobooks (1-3.5)

 

James Stark has spent the last eleven years in Hell as the slave of Azazel, Lucifer’s second favourite general, fighting for his life in the arena and as an assassin.

So what would you do if your boss gives you a particular key so you can kill another of Lucifer’s generals? Especially since this key can can take you anywhere and everywhere in the universe via shadows and the room of thirteen doors.

You kill your boss and get the hell out of Hell, of course, along with the key which is now buried (literally!) in Stark’s chest. That’s how James Stark aka Sandman Slim “wakes up on a pile of smouldering garbage” in a graveyard in LA.

So now he’s back, with Hellion magic, and looking for revenge against his old magic circle friends who sent him Downtown for being a better magician. The only advantage he has is the fact he’s become very hard to kill after his time in Hell.

It’s not too long before Stark finds one of his former friends, Kasabian, who pays a high and very weird, price for the part he played. Stark’s main aim though is to find Mason Faim and his sidekick, Parker, for killing his girlfriend, Alice.

Thoughts

A dark and gritty story told from Starks point of view with sarcasm and snarky humour. Things don’t quite work out as Stark thought as Heaven and Hell have their own agenda and he has to deal with every demon you could conjure up and more besides.

It’s witty, with laugh out loud moments, brutal but kind of sad as well and I find myself in compete sympathy with Stark. He’s the flawed anti-hero, the “monster that kills monsters”  It’s a roller coaster ride of the weird and wonderful.

  • 8026445Kill the Dead ~ book 2
  • Author: Richard Kadrey
  • Performed by MacLeod Andrews
  • Released: October 2010 by Brilliance Corporation
  • Category: Noir/Urban Fantasy
  • four-half-stars

After saving the world at the end of Sandman Slim Stark is back and freelancing for The Golden Vigil, a secret angelic arm of Homeland Security, tracking down and killing off monsters. A young vampire who goes on a rampage sets in motion the events leading to another LA apocalypse featuring several different variations of the undead, Zombies, Lacunas, Drifters and Vampires.

When Lucifer comes to LA supposedly to collaborate on a movie being made about him, he enlists Stark as his bodyguard for reasons he keeps to himself. That is, until Stark realises what those reasons are and how they will affect him.

You know you’re in for a fast and fun listen with the opening sentences…

“Imagine shoving a cattle prod up a rhino’s ass, shouting “April fool” and hoping the rhino thinks it’s funny. That’s about how much fun it is hunting a vampire.”

Which is how the story begins and Stark gets more than he bargained for from a pod of vampires.

Thoughts

Being a nephilim, of angel and human parentage, has played a key part in Stark’s personality and we get to know more about him as his character evolves.  And although he is as tough and acerbic as ever, underneath it all there is morality and his own set of ethics despite his penchant for violence. We lose Stark for a while there too, but I’m glad he’s back.

Lucifer figures quite a bit in this story, not in a cartoonish or over the top way either. He’s not to be trifled with but he’s humorous, cool and composed. And hurt, physically and by his banishment from heaven, which is surprising and not at all like the usual interpretation of Lucifer.

I love the addition of Brigitte Bardot, a Czech porn star who is starring in Lucifer’s movie and has a hidden agenda. She and Stark bounce off each other in more ways than one.

So now, the question is will Stark take Lucifer up on his offer.

  • 51PELCnbLrL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX342_SY445_CR,0,0,342,445_SH20_OU02_Aloha from Hell ~ book 3
  • Author: Richard Kadrey
  • Performed by MacLeod Andrews
  • Released: July 2012 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Noir/Urban Fantasy
  • five-stars

Once again all is not right in L.A. Lucifer is back in Heaven, God is on vacation and an insane killer mounts a war against both Heaven and Hell

A few weeks have passed since Stark’s zombie killing spree. Stark and Kasabian are living in a motel room while Max Overdrive is being rebuilt. Stark thinks he’s getting the respite he deserves afar saving the world yet again….but no, that would be too easy.

He and Vidocq steal an artefact for Mr Muninn and have a run in with a demon. Stark is pulled into an exorcism gone wrong and meets an interesting new character, Father Traven. The boy who was being exorcised just happens to be the brother of one of the original magic circle. Coincidence? Stark doesn’t think so and the trail leads where he thought it would. Straight to Mason and into the middle of a planned war between Heaven and Hell.

Mason, along with Aelita, has been planning and plotting, gathering armies together and Stark has no choice but to go back to Hell and try and sort out the chaos Lucifer left behind. And while he’s there maybe this time he can save Alice from being murdered again by Mason. The downside, apart from the obvious, is what he has to do to get back there.

And now that he has his Angel under control he’s back to his old self.

The angel half of me got shaken loose a while back when a High Plains Drifter – that’s “zombie” to you – bit a chunk out of my hand. The human half of me almost died and the angel half thought that was its chance to take over. It was for a while, but then I got my strength back and I locked the angel upstairs in the attic like Joan Crawford in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? It still bangs on the door and shouts but I’ve learned to ignore it most of the time

The snarky humour and wit is here again, in spades, along with the gruesome, the grotesque and the violence. It’s dark and hellish and Richard Kadrey’s writing is as entertaining as ever, made even more so by the narration. I love the way Hell and L.A. are written as versions of the same place and the descriptive writing paints vivid, if sometimes scary, pictures. It’s an insane, imaginative and creative ride through mind-boggling places. 

DevilintheDollhouseDevil in the Dollhouse ~ book 3.5

four-stars

James Stark, a.k.a. Sandman Slim, has a new job, but being the new Lucifer in town gives fresh meaning to the word “Hell.” Especially when he hears of hideous massacres near a haunted fortress out on Hell’s frontier.

As far as Stark’s concerned, the more dead Hellions, the better, but he still has to prove that no one screws with Sandman Slim. And facing creatures so terrible even Hell does not want them is no cakewalk, even for Lucifer.

Being Lucifer isn’t a fun job and it takes Stark into the outer reaches of hell in this short, violent and very bloody story. Lucifer #1 has left him a hell of a mess to clean up and although it’s the last thing he wants, Stark has to make sure he is acknowledged, if not approved, as the Lord of the Underworld. 

I used to be James Stark or sometimes Sandman Slim but then Lucifer 1.0 pissed off back to Heaven and stuck me running Hell. I thought that was the worst thing that ever happened to me. That was three days ago. Today things got worse. Today I’m in a truck convoy heading somewhere I never heard of to find someplace that scares even these evil fallen-angel pricks.

So, while trying to negotiate the politics in Hell, sorting out a demon even the worst Hellions fear and trying to find a way back home, Stark has his work cut out, to put things mildly.

A great bridge between Aloha from Hell and Devil said Bang filled with Richard Kadrey’s brilliant writing.

I love the gravely pitch of Stark’s voice, MacLeod Andrews absolutely nails it. Shifting seamlessly and without obviously ‘doing’ voices, he changes from Stark to a two hundred year old Frenchman, to several female voices, Hellions galore, the Kissi, a Texan sheriff and Lucifer to name a few. 

The books are available at  Amazon UK and Amazon US