Kill the Dead, Richard Kadrey, Eos, ISBN 978-006-171431-3, 434 pgs., $22.99
October 11, 2010 Leave a comment
This is the second book in Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series. Stark is back and trying to put the pieces together after escaping from hell, exacting a certain amount of bloody revenge, and saving the world in the process. He still has the animated head of a former peer living with him–part of that bloody revenge, and he’s still living above a video rental store in a sleazy section of Los Angeles. This time though Stark is offered a job being a body-guard for Satan, if offered is what you would call the demands of the Devil, and is trying to figure out how best to return to Hell and finish up on the revenge he started. Before he can get there though he meets a Czech pron star who turns out to be a zombie hunter, gets involved in trying to figure our why so many people attached to the families related to the supernatural side of LA are turning up dead, and where the sudden surge of zombies might be coming from. He gets help from many of the characters in the first book and from a few new ones as well. It seems the world, or at least LA, once more hangs in the balance and Stark is the only one who can stop it.
Kadrey writes with a raw energy that translates well to a protagonist from hell with an attitude to match. The action is violent and often messy and the language is strong and straight. Stark is an interesting anti-hero, struggling with a past that includes a lot of torture and serious personal loss. Kadrey adds emotional layers to Stark so that the character is both intriguing in terms of internal conflict and interesting in terms of attitude. There is a lot of dark humor here as well which helps to take the edge off what amounts to a lot of killing and dismemberment.
I really liked the first book in this series and so I had really high hopes for this book. I have to admit to be slightly disappointed, more so with the beginning of the novel which seemed to rehash old material in a way that was not as good as the original. Or perhaps it was just that Kadrey set the bar so high with the first book that there was no way he was going to match it with this one. As I read deeper I did find myself enjoying it more but it still seemed flat in places. I would still certainly recommend the book and if you have not read the first book, Sandman Slim, then you should definitely go out and get that one first. It’s hard to know whether this book reflects a mid-series slump, which often happens with the sequel novel, or a case where all the good stuff occurred in the first book and there’s no where else to go but down. I’m hoping for slump and will definitely read the next book in the series.