Sandman Slim returns to hell. Again. Must be Tuesday.
The prolific Kadrey has been riffing off his comedic thief Charlie Cooper for his last couple of books (The Wrong Dead Guy, 2017, etc.), so it’s time to get back to business with James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, the half-angel assassin who anchors his inventive horror saga. Only, whoops, Stark’s dead, murdered by Audsley Ishii right in front of his girlfriend, Candy, back in The Perdition Score (2016). Fortunately for him, Stark has been here in the Tenebrae, a subset of hell, before, like that one time he had to be Lucifer for a while. Back story aside, Stark finds himself in a Mad Max–style desert apocalypse populated by a roving band of followers of a powerful rebel called the Magistrate. “I know a killer when I see one and he’s one cold Charlie Starkweather motherfucker,” says Stark in assessing the Magistrate. Not that the infamous Slim outs himself, instead going by the moniker ZaSu Pitts. Buoyed by a familiar face in Father Traven, the man who eats sins, Stark reluctantly joins the gang. It turns out that the Magistrate seeks to unite a powerful cannon with the Lux Occisor, God’s own sword, to blow the gates off heaven itself. Like any good ensemble drama, there are plenty of cool cameos, including the return of Cherry Moon, who used her power to transform herself into a manic pixie manga girl, Stark’s old girlfriend Alice (now a powerful angel), and a touching reunion with Stark’s buddy Death himself. If you’re a newbie to the series, you’ve probably realized by now that starting nine books into it is probably not a great jumping-on point. For fans of Kadrey’s profane assassin, it’s a welcome return to form and a wildly entertaining bridge to bring Stark back from the brink.
One of horror’s most singular characters goes to hell. And back again. As per usual.