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Book Review: Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey

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I wish I got to read Richard Kadrey’s first book to feature his anti-hero protagonist Sandman Slim, titled, drum roll please… Sandman Slim.

If I had done so, I would have had a chance to get to know James ‘Sandman Slim’ Stark a little better before jumping into Kadrey’s provocative sequel.

Kill the Dead begins with Sandman Slim’s hunt for a vampire. Vampire Eleanor Vance is described as a ‘pretty blond cheerleader type with big eyes and the kind of smile that got Troy burned to the ground’.

Don’t compare Kadrey’s prose with Stephenie Meyer’s, or even Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Those works are mere fluffy soap operas next to Kadrey’s writing.

Richard Kadrey’s imagination is gritty, sleazy, and macabre. High school English teachers may hesitate before recommending Sandman Slim and Kill the Dead to their students. A lot of parents may get pretty upset! Richard Kadrey’s works are for adults with an appreciation of dark themes and coarse language.

A more apt metaphor for Kadrey is that he’s what would happen if Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino were spliced in some freaky experiment. I intend that as a compliment.

Sandman Slim has been to Hell and back. Literally. In his first appearance in the book of the same name, Slim was released from Hell, and accidentally ‘saved the world’ as he took revenge for his girlfriend’s murder.

By Kill the Dead, Slim is living in Los Angeles full time, but he is officially dead, according to government records. He has a job ‘killing the dead’ to pay for his basic living expenses.

Kadrey’s L.A. is full of the supernatural. Vampires, Sub Rosa, Kissi, zombies, and various other types of demons exist without most of the city’s ‘civilians’ being aware.

Slim’s ‘deadkilling’ job is linked to Homeland Security. Kadrey makes no secret of Slim’s resentment toward his employers.

Slim knows his employer’s security guards can read his mind, literally. He creeps them out my letting his experiences of Hell run through his memory.

Lucifer, otherwise known as Satan, visits L.A. for his own purposes. He’s getting a movie made about his life, and he insists that Slim work as his bodyguard. Slim is already infamous among the supernatural types for all of his work and carnage in the previous book. Lucifer tells Slim that being seen together is good for both of their images.

As the book goes on, a number of magical creatures disappear or are found horrifically slaughtered. Slim is caught in the middle of L.A.’s zombie mayhem. To learn how he fares in this bloody mess, I suggest you pick up Kadrey’s new book.

Sandman Slim’s supporting cast is eccentric and fascinating. There’s not only the Devil Himself, but Slim has a ‘pet’ severed head (Slim did the severing in the previous book) named Kasabian, a Czech porn star zombie killer has the hots for him, and Allegra and Vidocq return from the previous book.

I’m careful to call Kill the Dead a book, but not a novel. Aren’t novels supposed to be divided into chapters? My father is a popular novelist, and he tells me novels must have chapters. Kill the Dead either has no chapters, or is one huge 434 page chapter. Either way, when the reader wants to take a break, Kadrey gives them no hints as to where to leave their bookmark. That didn’t bother me at all, but it’s something for some readers to keep in mind before they purchase Kadrey’s book.

Kill the Dead is the kind of fiction that will always provoke strong reactions. Readers will either love it or hate it. I love it, because Kadrey’s prose is deeply engaging, and he makes me feel that my dark side isn’t quite so dark, after all.

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