Death is a nightmare, but you should try living with him.
Death comes for us all, young, old and everything in between. However, he usually doesn’t come hand on heart, trapped in undying flesh, asking for your assistance. Well in this case no heart at all, as someone has just stolen it. Who do you call when you just want to sleep that final sleep and make the world right once more, the Sandman.
Survivor, outcast and victor of more than a few battles between Heaven and Hell Stark is the one man Death knows can help him restore the natural order, allowing people to begin dying once more and work out who took his heart in the first place.
Stark and friends dig into a seedy LA world of Ghost trafficking, vampires and the re-emergence of an Occult Nazi sect. Cobbled together with having to get a real job and slowly integrating Candy's new face into his world, sometimes being dead will just kill you.
Welcome to the new and improved world of James Stark, aka Sandman Slim. Well, not really improved for Stark: he's still broke, he's still getting his ass handed to him and he's still in trouble with the Law, but he's trying, that counts for something right? The Getaway God concluded the previous story arc for Stark and now in Killing Pretty we get to see how the Sandman tries to rebuild his life without Hell, Heaven, Old Gods and revenge hanging over his head.
Killing Pretty is a pretty good addition to the Sandman Slim series and a nice reboot for the series. Stark is acting as a PI for Death, who thanks to some very bad people has been forced into human form minus a few small; some would say really important items, such as his memory of being Death and his heart - his actual heart. The result of which is that people all over the world are not dying.
Is this a perfect reboot? No. Is it still full of the Sandman Slim attitude, big guns, gratuitous violence and magic? Yes. While the action is not as in your face or as constant as it had been in the previous books, when it kicks in (pun intended) it still carries that angry at the world punch.
Stark at times is a little more introspective, taking a more mature approach to the problems he faces, both in his every day and magical life. We see the transition of Cro-Magnon, battle scared Stark to a more civilized (that's maybe a bit of a stretch) modern-man Stark, fighting it step by step.
Overall, the story is engaging, containing neo-Nazi cults, Death in human form, not so dead girlfriends with magical camouflage and ghost fight clubs, and you know what they say about Ghost Fight Club… The occult references are very detailed which keeps it very interesting and provides a real feel to the read.
Most stories follow the lines of a double peak story arc, a chart slowly rising to one reveal, providing a small climaxing before falling slightly to rise once more to a final apex and the conclusion. Killing Pretty is more along the line of many small peaks, before spiking that little bit higher to conclusion. I particularly enjoyed the final fight scenes (no, that’s not much of a spoiler so it’s ok) as they are classic Sandman Slim, raw with lots of energy.
Throw in some old friends, a few new faces, a nice new twist towards the end (you are going to be very happy with this little introduction as it has so many possibilities) and we are given the rebirth of the Sandman series, which will keep long time readers happy and should entice some new fans to start the series from the beginning.
Death is a nightmare, but you should try living with him. Always helps with the dishes, but you know his heart isn't in it.
If you are interested in reading more about Richard you can check out our interview with him here.
Review by Fergus McCartan
Interview by Fergus McCartanRichard Kadrey is a freelance writer, accomplished author and photographer living in San Francisco, California. Alongside his hugely successful urban fantasy Sandman Slim series, Richard's othe [...]
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