Book of the Year 2009 (see all)
Some monsters only know damnation, pain and death, but this one is looking for something a little more; revenge for a life sentenced to Hell and a love lost. Returned to a world where Angels walk the path of righteousness with a sword and brutality. The Sandman is going home and plans to look up some old friends.
There is an introduction at the beginning of Sandman Slim: The dumber people think you are the more surprised they're going to be when you kill them. - William Clayon. This quote sums up the underlying theme and mantra for James Stark (The Sandman) quite nicely. Doped by his friends and sent to Hell, he surprises himself and Hell by surviving and escaping after 11 years from an endless cycle of torture, fear and hurt to use his new skills in obtaining revenge. Scarred both inside and out, Kadrey has written a character that is flawed and twisted, yet one that we can still relate too.
The moment he crawls out of Hell, dazed, confused and slightly smouldering the Sandman personality is evident: focussed, remorseless and a bit of a tool. James has personality plus but that’s okay, most of the people he crosses paths with tend to be tools also, including his friends.
Sometimes you just can’t help liking a bastard: he’s nicotine-fuelled, intensely sarcastic and covered in blood most of the time. He has a love for nice cars, which he liberates from the undeserving. And neither vampires, Lucifer or locked doors will get in his way - sometimes being a monster is the only way to get justice.
Kadrey has portrayed James in darker tones but there is still an underlying morality to him and his actions. He may have a slightly skewed sense of right from wrong but you feel the better side poking its head out every once in a while. Along his way he finds some old friends and picks up some new ones and these characters add a nice dynamic to the story; they are broken in their own way and try to help out as best they can. Kadrey has even given James a pet, the still living, talking head of one of the people who damned him to Hell. There is a lot of humour in this interaction, even if its gets a little messy sometimes (he still likes to eat, he just doesn’t have a stomach).
The addition of the Bamboo House of Dolls (great name) and Carlos adds a touch of reality to the story that would have been missing. It’s that one link to the real world that the backdrop of LA doesn’t quite fulfill. A slight negative with a positive spin for me is his ability to take a lot of damage but comes away stronger in the end, but because he gets slapped about most of the time this can be forgiven.
Sandman is dark, funny and well written. Kadrey isn’t afraid to slap the bad guys about in inventive and descriptive ways.
We all remember the Freddy Krueger rhyme and I feel it can be amended quite nicely for The Sandman:
1, 2, The Sandman is coming for you,
3, 4, lock your door,
5, 6, grab your crucifix; rocket launder; tactical nuclear warhead; WHATEVER,
7, 8, better stay up late,
9, 10, never sleep again
All the little monsters sing this before they go to bed.
Review by Fergus McCartan
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