What do you do when the Old Gods are returning to Earth after millennia, and you have the thing that will open the door? That’s what Stark has to figure out in The Getaway God, the sixth book in Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series. The enemies are at the door and he has no idea how to stop them.
That Stark even wants to stop the apocalypse and willingly enlists in the cause is a sign of growth in the character. Over the course of six books, Stark has come to care not only for the people in his life, but for the world. Additionally, he’s a bit wiser, not so quick to pull the trigger or make things go boom. The Stark of The Getaway God is at least a little more thoughtful…
On the other hand, The Getaway God is also a return to basics for the series. After a stint running Hell, Stark is back on Earth in Los Angeles, and he’s once again working for The Golden Vigil, the US Government’s supernatural investigations bureau. And things are tense because the apocalypse is coming. This particular apocalypse, of course, is the result of the Angra, the aforementioned old gods that were kicked out of reality by the Judeo-Christian god. The Angra want back in and are reaching out to beings both human and not to help let them in. One of the key elements of their plan is the Qomrama, a weapon also known as the Godeater.
Stark had previously recovered the Qomrama (which he calls the Magic 8-ball) and turned it over to the Golden Vigil for study. Unfortunately, no one seems to know how it works, and to that end, The Vigil has enlisted the help of an ancient Chinese mummy who likes to call Stark fatty.
As if that weren’t enough, at the same time there’s a serial killer named St. Nick on the prowl in Los Angeles, and he’s got a connection to the Angra as well. Add to that the problems that Candy, Stark’s Jade girlfriend, is having, and the return of one of his old enemies—things look pretty bad for Sandman Slim.
One of my biggest criticisms with the series is that nothing seems to ever truly threaten Stark. He gets an arm chopped off and pretty quickly gets a new one (an ugly new one, but of course it also has advantages). Throughout The Getaway God Stark deals quite handily with any physical threats, shooting them, or barking quick magical hexes or, when it gets serious, manifesting his flaming Gladius and smiting them. The series is often labeled as noir but Stark feels more like a superhero guest-starring in a noir story.
Kadrey is much better with the non-physical threats, though. Stark’s true conflicts, the ones that he can’t stab or shoot, are the emotional ones. Candy’s difficulties, for example, do threaten Stark and do hurt him and that comes through quite well. Additionally, Stark now has friends—people he cares about, his own mixed-up family—and those people are also threatened. This helps keep the conflict level up, even if most physical danger can’t seem to touch Stark.
I wish that had been the case for the apocalypse, though. We’re told again and again in the beginning that this is it, the end of the world, that people are fleeing LA and that it hasn’t stopped raining for weeks and things are all screwy. The Angra are on their way, there are dead bodies piled atop one another… and yet it never feels that urgent. Rather than separate events building on one another, rising up to the climax, they tend to pull the action in opposite directions and as a result the novel often feels aimless. When the climax does come, it resolves all too quickly and without the bang I was expecting. It feels like more of a whimper.
What I did like was the fallout from that climax. The end of the book sets up a new paradigm for future books in the series, one that I think will be refreshing, but ultimately I wish that this one had been more, well, exciting. In my review of the last book I said that it seemed like Kadrey was setting up pieces for a big finish. Unfortunately, The Getaway God doesn’t really deliver. Longtime fans of the series will want to read it for the developments in Stark’s life, but I wouldn’t single it out as one of the best of the series.
The Getaway God is available now from HarperCollins.
Rajan Khanna is a writer, narrator, reviewer and blogger. His first novel, Falling Sky, will be out from Pyr in October 2014. His website is www.rajankhanna.com and he tweets @rajanyk.