Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim is the tattooed badass of the Urban Fantasy genre. There’s no confusing this book with paranormal romance, there’s nothing romantic about it (unless you call getting a poisonous kiss from a people-eating Jade romantic. If you do, you’re kinda weird, but hey, whatever floats your boat).
The narrator and main character is Stark, a man who has freshly returned to earth from an eleven-year stint in Hell. Stark wasn’t dead, though. He was betrayed by Mason and his cronies and dragged down into hell while still alive where he becomes a novelty for the demons and Hellions and winds up fighting gladiator style in an arena for their entertainment. While in Hell, Stark becomes hard to kill. Whatever is thrown at him (or jabbed through him) only makes him stronger. Fighting and almost dying become the norm, until one day he gets his hands on his literal key to freedom, and he returns to Los Angeles.
While he was in Hell, all-around bad guy Mason has had Stark’s girlfriend, Alice, killed. Stark seeks revenge not only for his imprisonment, but also for the death of the only person he ever loved. Trust me though, when I say that at no point does the situation ever become sappy. Sandman Slim is pure belligerent testosterone-filled story, and the narrator makes no apology for it. He knows he’s impatient, imprudent, and immoral, but at least you get to read about him blowing up some Neo-Nazis.
Overall the story is fun, but not really full of meaning or depth. It’s a shallow, bad-ass-guy-saves-the-world-from-annihilation sort of story. And that’s exactly what it’s meant to be. It’s a readable action movie—entertaining with a lot of literary explosions.