As I demonstrated back in March and April, I love Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series. Killing Pretty was released a few weeks ago, but at a higher price point than my budget will tolerate, so I decided to save it for my birthday. And yes, I woke up this morning at 6:30, bought it and began listening to the audio narration. Now I’ve written an off the cuff review. Best birthday in years.
Spoilers for the last 6 books in the series.
When we left Stark at the end of The Getaway God, Stark has saved Los Angeles and the world from the angry elder gods and the asshole aspect of God, a nicer aspect of God is back in Heaven, and Lucifer is back in Hell. While Stark may have saved the world, again, he is broke, again, and there is always going to be some asshole who wants to grab power or escape mortality. In this case some assholes have murdered the Angel of Death, and Death has hired Stark to figure out who killed him and why.
One of the joys of the Sandman Slim series is that James Stark and his friends grow and evolve, but are essentially the same people. Stark is no longer a monster, it’s official – not a monster. Stark is trying to be responsible and repay former Federal Marshal Julie by being her employee and thinking about his actions before he acts on his impulses. It’s tough, but he’s trying. He even has an opportunity to become a respectable member of the Sub Rosa leadership. He’s still Stark. He’s still paranoid and his first impulse in problem solving is to hit something. And while he isn’t entirely right about who is behind the attempt to replace Death, he isn’t entirely wrong either.
The stakes in Killing Pretty are as high as ever (Death is on the line) but the scale is much less epic. And that’s a good thing. We needed less epic and the series benefits from a more tightly told story.
It is clearer than ever that the things that gets you in trouble in Stark’s world are love of power and fear of death. Live your life and when you are dead move along to the next thing.