Kill City Blues book review: a quest & a Magic 8 Ball

Blurb: James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, has managed to get out of Hell, renounce his title as the new Lucifer, and settle back into life in LA. But he’s not out of trouble yet. Somewhere along the way he misplaced the Qomrama Om Ya, a weapon from the banished older gods who are also searching for their lost power.

The hunt leads Stark to an abandoned shopping mall-a multi-story copy of LA-infested with Lurkers and wretched bottomfeeding Sub Rosa families, squatters who have formed tight tribes to guard their tiny patches of this fake LA. Somewhere in the kill zone of the former mall is a dead man with the answers Stark needs. All Stark has to do is find the dead man, get back out alive, and outrun some angry old gods-and a few killers-on his tail.

Stars: 4/5

If Kill City Blues – or any Sandman Slim book – were a movie, I rather imagine it would be a Mad Max-esque movie, barrelling forward with barely a moment to take a breath. It doesn’t actually need to be a movie to do that, but because that’s what reading a Sandman Slim book feels like.

When the story opens, Stark is living the high life with Candy, and Kasbian along for the ride at the Chateau Marmont on the Devil’s credit card. They’re fairly certain the hotel is too afraid to query the bill, so they’re going to take as much advantage of it as possible. However, living situation aside, Stark is out to find the Qomrama Om Ya, or Magic 8 Ball (catchier title for a magic artefact) and prevent the Angra Orn Ya from invading this planet he happens to like these days.

This time, aside from the usual Sandman-ness of the novel, we’re treat to a Stark who has taken a small step toward change – he knows he has friends, acknowledges they mean something to him and that he may need them in his life, along with Candy, who he loves. It’s a vast difference from the Stark of the earlier books and his evolution is welcome. If he’d just be Sandman Slim all the time, these books would be formulaic and they’re anything but.

In order to find the Magic 8 Ball he and his friends go on a treasure hunt into an abandoned mall where they meet all manner of supernatural beings in their attempt to find it. Stark loses someone along the way, someone on his watch on a quest he asked for their help on, and while he says he doesn’t feel guilty, his actions towards the end of the book speak louder than words.

The beauty of this series has always been Kadrey’s ability to create a fantastic, gritty, supernatural world where neither God nor Lucifer are exempt from his pen. The result is beautiful prose that is going to make you laugh, snicker as Sandman Slim and his friends careen towards the end of this book.

Killing Pretty, book 7 of the Sandman Slim series, is out 28 July.

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