Thursday, May 28, 2015

Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey

Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey is the second novel in the Sandman Slim series published by Harper Voyager. A synopsis can be found here. Dead avoids the sophomore slump and improves in many ways over Sandman Slim. Kadrey, somehow, manages to up the ante with a book that ends up being even more outrageous while still preserving the qualities that made the first book so enjoyable. It is not without its flaws however with a few critical weaknesses that hold the novel back.

Dead continues its urban fantasy noir theme and in many ways finds a way to amp it up to eleven. Kadrey’s voice continues to be utterly unique and simply needs to be read to be believed. The Slim Series inventiveness continues with creations such as the Jackal’s Backbone. In all ways, Kadrey continues to produce the literary equivalent of candy coated crack; its addictive, playful, and probably not good for you but damn its fun.

Where Dead truly shines are the scenes between Stark and Lucifer. Lucifer oozes a sense of coolness that Stark only aspires to. Stark in return, is burdened with frustration, angst, and uncertainty; traits completely out of character for the persona of ‘Sandman Slim’. In many ways, this humanizes Stark and makes him more relatable. It also makes him all the more badass when he steps back into his Sandman persona.

Where Dead falls short is the continued weak handling of female characters and central storyline. Without exception, all of the female characters are victims. Even powerful females with agency, somehow become passive in this novel waiting to be rescued. Bridgette, the Czech Romany zombie hunting porn star, is reduced to little more than cheap titillation. Candy, a jade, does little beyond pine for Stark, and Allegra becomes a wallflower. All in all, its horribly disappointing.

The central storyline, the mystery of the zombie attack, turns out to be little more than a MacGuffin; a tool to move Stark from place to place and drive his interaction with Lucifer and set the stage for a showdown with his nemesis, Mason. As a result, the conclusion of this mystery lacks vitality and wraps up in an unimaginative, Hollywood-action-movie manner that I found unsatisfying.

Despite the negative, Kill the Dead is a blast to read. The setting continues to thrill. Stark’s character continues to evolve in new and interesting ways. I wish the female characters would share in the progress. Kill the Dead is an easy recommendation and I look forward to the next entry in the Sandman Slim series from Richard Kadrey.

Image Source: Harper Collins
Review Copy: Self Purchased
ISBN: 9780062063205