Audiobook Review: Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

18 03 2011

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Read by MacLeod Andrews

Brilliance Audio

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Despite some flaws, Sandman Slim is an original, entertaining, albeit irreverent Urban Fantasy.

Grade: B-

I have only recently begun reading/listening to novels in the subgenre called Urban Fantasy. For the longest time I have been skeptical of the whole urban fantasy thing. The way I would define the subgenre is magical or fantastical things occurring in realistic non-fantasy settings. Yet, what I feared most urban fantasies were about was basically sexy vampires and I am not a huge fan of sexy vampires, nor of sparkly variety. Yet, upon the urging of people I respect I began listening to The Dresden Files. To be honest, I was sort of ho-hum about the first few novels. The audiobook releases of the Dresden Files series was a bit weird, with the early books, and the more recent books being released pretty close together, but some of the middle books getting a later release. Being someone who likes to read a series in order, I waited for a while for the middle novels to be released. So, after months off from listening, I re-entered Harry Dresden’s world. My feelings of ho-humness were shattered almost immediately. The adventure, emotion and humor won me over so completely, I began to search out other Urban Fantasies to ease my wait until the next Dresden Files novel. I found some good ones, specifically Thomas E. Sniegoski’s Remy Chandler novels, and a few not so good. So, with this search for quality urban fantasies, I stumbled upon Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey.

From the beginning of the novel, I had mixed feelings about Sandman Slim. Our main character, James Stark, pulls himself out of hell, determined to kill those who had betrayed him and killed his girlfriend. Stark is a brash, petulant character… a sort of Anti-Dresden. He is brutally opinionated, and mouthy. He’s that kid you see in the punk rock T-Shirt who has no respect for anything, and stares at people, mouthing criticism under his breath and just making everyone around him uncomfortable. He has this air of superiority that hides under an outer self deprecating attitude. He believes his ideas and actions are right, yet with each move he makes matters worse, drives away his friends and allies, and makes unnecessary enemies. Yet, part of you, deep down in those dark areas of your black soul, can’t help but sort of like the guy. What won me over as a listener though, despite my issues with Stark, was an original and intriguing mythology. Sandman Slim isn’t a cookie cutter novel, it is full of original concepts, yet grounded in established mythologies. The world Kadrey creates, from the arenas of hell, to the void, to Rodeo Drive, all fit well into this story. One word of warning, if you don’t like lots of profanity and irreverent attitudes towards basically everything, you probably won’t like Sandman Slim. Yet, if you are like me, and don’t mind a ton of F-Bombs, and the occasional sacrilege, you should take a chance.

MacLeod Andrews is a very talented narrator. Sometimes a talented narrator has to make a tough choice when voicing a character, especially a first person POV character. At first, I was a bit worried with Andrew’s choice to voice Stark as almost a bratty teenager, yet, the more you get to know Stark, the more Andrew’s interpretation of him fits. Despite the fact the main character is around 30 years old, he had been stuck in hell for 11 years, and thinks and acts like a 19 year old. This snarky, sneering voice plays out perfectly for this conflicted character. Andrews has fun with the rest of the characters, from a 200 year old Frenchman, to an egomaniacal Angel, and his enjoyment of the challenges of the novel comes through in his reading. Sandman Slim isn’t without its flaws, and its definitely not for the faint of heart, but the original concept and excellent narration makes it a positive listening experience.

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