What is the worst thing you can do to an authority hating anti-hero? Put him in charge. Lucifer is in Heaven, all hail Lucifer. Stark’s reward for finishing off the Kissi, averting a war between Heaven and Hell, and killing Mason Faim is being stuck in Hell again, but this time he is The Devil. Look, if this is a spoiler for you, that’s just too bad. You should already be reading the Sandman Slim series. Also, I don’t think it’s really that much of a spoiler given the title of the book.
Stark has to figure out how to be Lucifer, stay alive and find his way back to LA. Since his angel half left, Stark isn’t as invulnerable as he had been, but nobody can know that. Stark is learning how to be a politician, how to keep the various factions from killing him and each other, and how to rule the universe’s biggest suicide cult. Stark has always sided with the downtrodden. Now that he’s the King of Liars, he sees that the hellions have received the shittiest end of the shit stick.
He does figure out how to get out of Hell and returns to LA where he discovers that his angel half, Saint James, has pissed everyone off, given away all his money, and is a suspect in a murder. His friends think the part of him that’s Stark is dead. He reunites with Candy, but she’s moved on and has a girlfriend. Still, he is happy to see her.
If you ever need to confirm that a girl is worth coming back from Hell for, show her your monster arm and see what she says.
Stark can’t rest on his laurels. There’s a killer ghost, the fabric of reality is threatened, and he has to figure out who is crank calling him. The politics of the Universe are never as far away as he would like. And Stark is learning that there are worse things than a fractured and angry god.
Devil Said Bang can read like two different books – Stark as Lucifer in Hell, and Stark the trouble magnate in LA. After my second read, or listen in this case, it feels more like one coherent story. There’s a larger story being told, an exploration of life, afterlife, reward and punishment. Stark’s time in Hell, both his 11 years as a slave and his 100 days as Lucifer have given him entirely different view of the universe. Hell is just a place – an awful place with some awful people, but is it really worse than LA?
The question sounds flip, but it isn’t. The Sandman Slim series is funny and profane, but it’s view of good and evil are complex. Once you get over the vicarious hangover from the vicarious drinking and violence, there are some pretty serious questions about what happens to our souls after death, and our relationship with the deity that created us.