Fans of Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series can rejoice this week with the release of Kill City Blues, the fifth book in the series. Sandman Slim (or Stark, as he prefers to be called) is back and once more stomping a boot in the face of supernatural menaces everywhere. Stark has always been a pretty consistent bad-ass, but in Kill City Blues, Kadrey does his best to blunt his considerable edge.
The first three books in the series dealt with Stark’s vendetta against Mason Faim and ended with him taking up the role of Lucifer. Devil Said Bang, the fourth in the series, dealt with Stark giving up the role of Lucifer and learning more about the Angra Om Ya, the old gods who once ran the universe. It should come as no surprise, then, that this book focuses more on the Angra and the weapon that Stark discovered in the last book, the Qomrama (or the Magic 8 Ball, as he calls it).
Regular readers will recall that Stark possessed the Magic 8 Ball in the previous book before it was taken from him by Aelita, the angel who wants to kill God. At the beginning of Kill City Blues, word of the Qomrama has gotten out and everyone seems to think that Stark has it. As a result, he gets a lot of business offers, and a lot of threats.
Of course Stark wants the Qomrama back. It’s bad enough that it could fall into untrustworthy hands, but it might just be the only thing that can stop the Angra Om Ya when they—inevitably it seems—return to the world.
Stark’s search to get the 8 Ball back forms the main thrust of the novel and yet there’s also plenty of other things going on. Kadrey has a habit of wandering off the main path, and he seems to be content introducing elements that he intends to deal with more fully later. And if some plot threads seem closed off too quickly, it’s forgivable when there are so many others to pick up. He also continues to examine some of the events that have happened before and what their consequences are, particularly the metaphysical relationships of Heaven and Hell, God and Lucifer.
The usual cast of characters is back for this one—Candy, Allegra, Vidocq, Brigitte and Father Traven. Oh, and Kasabian as well. In what I hope is a continuing trend for the series, most of them get more screen time, or at least more to do than they usually do.
If I have one main problem with the series it’s that Stark is almost too cool. He’s incredibly hard to kill and heals quickly. Even when his arm was cut off (in Aloha from Hell), it was replaced almost immediately. With a scary Kissi arm, of course, but then again that, and all his scars, only serve to make him scarier. Where this novel excels, in my opinion, is a tense action sequence that seems to draw on Indiana Jones movies and dungeon crawls, as they enter the titular Kill City, an abandoned, damaged shopping mall. Here Stark’s usual strengths begin to fail him and it’s a refreshing change from much of the rest of the novel. In fact I think it might be one of my favorite parts of the series to date.
Kill City Blues is an enjoyable novel for the reasons mentioned above, and for the additional little brushstrokes that Kadrey adds to his supernatural world, but overall I felt like this was a transitional book, setting up the pieces for the next one. And while some pretty serious stuff goes down, it still feels a little like getting things ready, building up to the true conflict that I expect will occur in the next book. Still, I will be picking up that book so he’s definitely done his job. Regular readers of the series don’t want to miss this one!
Kill City Blues is available now from Harper Voyager.