This is a hard book to review without tons of spoilers. Things that have been building since the first book come to a head and are (mostly) resolved. I’m going to be coy and talk around things because I want you people (yes, I said “you people” and you know who you are) to have the joy of discovery. And People, you should be discovering Sandman Slim. If you are thinking about investing in a series of audiobooks this year, I highly recommend the Sandman Slim audiobooks. McLeod Andrews is a wonderful narrator, and his voice performance is perfect for Sandman Slim.
The apocalypse has arrived and it’s going slowly. Stark has to do more thinking that head bashing, and that’s not his strong suit. Stark is working for the re-formed Golden Vigil, and it’s going about as well as it had before. He and Candy have settled back in to Max Overdrive with Kasabian and have settled into a domesticity that terrifies Stark. As with previous books, Stark can’t seem to get away from the dead. Stark is growing up and becoming more contemplative. He is starting to consider that there are consequences to his past actions. In addition to averting the impending apocalypse, he’s also trying to clean up some of the messes he has made.
Kadrey’s language is beautiful. Not in a sweeping prose sort of way, but in a profane and hard driving way. The descriptive passages are evocative and the dialogue is fast and biting.
I’m used to Aqua Regia’s kick, but down enough at once and it’s going to turn anyone’s cerebral cortex into chocolate pudding. I let it and the tea do their work. They fight it out in my stomach. The Hellion hoodoo wrestling whatever kind of magic Mr. Bones uses. My stomach cramps and for a few seconds I want to throw up. But I hold on and the feeling passes. The room gets thin, like it’s made of black gauze. I put the crow feather between my teeth just as I fall out of myself.
“Okay, Cassandra, there’s something else. Did it rain much when you were down there?”
“No. I don’t remember it raining at all.”
“Well, it is now. Raining cats and dogs and little imps with pitchforks. I mean, there’s doomed. There’s screwed. And there’s monsoons-in-Hell fucked. And we’re at fucked o’clock.”
More than before, Stark has a metaphysical point of view. He’s evolved from “it’s not fair.” to “it’s better to be somewhere that is terrible than to be nowhere at all.” When we first met Stark crawling out of Hell, he would have as soon burned the Universe down as looked at it. Cars, clothes and people were disposable. Since then, Stark has possessed devices that would allow him to end this Universe and start a new one. He has chosen not to use them. He has allowed himself to become a little bit domesticated. He’s not just Sandman Slim, the monster who kills monsters anymore. Even at the very end he ends the apocalypse with as much of a possibility for a new beginning as a possibility for annihilation.