Audiobook Review: Kill City Blues by Richard Kadrey

8 08 2013

Kill City Blues (Sandman Slim, Bk. 5) by Richard Kadrey

Read by MacLeod Andrews

Harper Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 11 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Kill City Blues is a Dantesque ride through a true retail hell. While  mostly a set up novel to the coming epic confrontation, Kill City Blues is in no way a let down. It’s a chance to hang out with a group of some of the most intriguing characters in Urban Fantasy today, before they quite possibly need to end all of existence.

Grade: A-

I’m not sure how my God-fearing, drag me kicking and screaming to church three days a week mother of my childhood would have reacted if I told her that one day, one of my favorite literary characters would not be a single Lucifer, but a trio of characters who held the title of the Prince of Darkness. Nowadays, mom has resigned herself to the fact that I’m a Stephen Kind loving, hard rock playing fan of all that is dark and spooky, and just shakes her head and deals. I mean, hell, I’m an adult, if I want to ride the highway to hell, I guess that’s my call.  Yet, if I had revealed this side of me back in the days where I sat happily in the church basement singly "The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me" as a precursor to another felt board telling of Joseph and his coat of many colors, that secretly I would have loved to seen Joseph’s coat among the looted wastelands of a post nuclear America full of dragons and unicorns and robot zombies, then I probably would have been rushed to the local exorcist who I think was named Pete. You see, where I grew up, it was never Mick Jagger declaring his sympathy for the devil, but Greg X. Voltz and the boys of Petra singing "Angle of Light, I see your glow in the night, but you only bring darkness to my soul" or those wonderful guys who make up The Lost Dogs asking the important theological questions, "Why is the Devil Red? Why ain’t the Devil Blue?" Yet, all this anti-diabolical propaganda instead fostered a fascination with Lucifer and his hordes of fallen angels. I have read lots and lots of fictional explorations of hell, the devil, angels and demons, and by far my favorite depiction of the underworld and its leader is in Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series. I love his depictions of Lucifer, whether it be the original suave Fallen angel who held the role, the newest incarnation who was at one time, at least in part God, and even Stark’s poor attempt to hold the role. Honestly, I think if Richard Kadrey was my Sunday School teacher, church would have been a heck of a lot more fun. Of course, I’m not sure how much mom would have appreciated it, but at least Pete would get lots of business. 

As you begin Kill City Blues, you simply know that Richard Kadrey is building the series up to an epic confrontation between the powers of this universe, and some Lovecrftian demons who may have been the original powers of our reality until the entity we call God stole it away for them, but like any continuing series, this means he needs to set all the pieces in place with a few set up novels. Because of this, I was expecting Kill City Blues to be a bit of a let down, the calm before the storm. While, in fact, Kill City Blues is a set up novel to the big war to come, it in no way let me down. In Kill City Blues, Stark, and his cadre of complicated cohorts are on a mission to relocate the Qorama, a weapon capable of killing the immortal. Stark once had possession of this device, but the rogue angel Aelita stole it away from him and hid it in the depths of Kill City, an abandoned Mall taken over by a strange menagerie of beings and souls.  Now Stark has a lead on it, yet he must take a Dantesque trip through a true retail hell, Kill City. Kill City Blues is another excellent hardcore trip through the otherworldly side of existence. Sandman Slim remains one of the most original characters in Urban Fantasy, and even though his edges have softened a bit, he is still a harsh as that first shot of whiskey. Kadrey does a lot in this novel. While the core story is the search for the Qorama, along the way we get to see Stark get into a bit of a power struggle with the Lucifer’s, take a trip into the coldest corners of hell to rescue a friend,  fix some of his strained relationships, and forge some intriguing new alliances. Kill City Blues lacks some of the focus of the traditional Urban Fantasy. Kadrey surrounds the core of his story with little side trips, yet these side trips give the tale it’s heart, and allows for moments of humor to balance out the rocket fueled pace, and apocalyptic import of Stark’s mission. This style gives the tale a vivid reality where not everything moves straight from A to Z, but need to make a few out of order alphabetic pitstops that would drive the most anal muppets to drink  Kill City Blues felt almost like a recharging for the series. It’s offered some true vital tasks for the continuing storyline, but also allowed us to hang out with these characters we love for another fun adventure, before they quite possible need to end all of existence.

One of the biggest pleasures of audiobooks is when a narrator becomes the true voice of a series, to a point where you just can’t imagine it without that voice. For me, MacLeod Andrew’s whiskey soaked sneering voice will always be Sandman Slim. Andrew’s totally embodies this character to a point\ where I can’t help wondering if perhaps he spent some of his own time vacationing in hell. One of the true talents Andrew has is his ability to naturally transition between a large cast of quite different characters. It can’t be easy to slip between Socal girls, old French thieves, crazed underground hillbillies, angels, demons, defrocked priests, god, talking disembodied heads, the devil and other assorted hellion and earthly creatures, and have it all sound natural.  Yet, Andrews pulls it off, allowing you to feel like you’re immersed in some infernal coffee klatch. Andrew constantly drives the pace forward, turning the underground Kill City into a otherworldly amusement park on a rollercoaster ride that never slips the track but still manages to scare the crap out of you. This series turned me into a fan of MacLeod Andrews, and I love every chance I get to return to it. It’s one of my must listen to annual audio experiences, and really, dammit, it should be one of yours as well.

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