Aloha From Hell Sandman Slim #3 – Richard Kadry

Okay so this is officially my new favorite book. I cant believe how much i have forgotten about this series as i am reading it again.

Quick Recap – Sandman Slim aka James Stark is the new hot thing in LA, lived in Hell (literally) sruvived and is now back on Earth. In the previous books, he took on the agents of both Heaven and Hell, yes angels and demons (no mere mortals would do), reconnected and connected with old and new, avenged the murder of his girlfriend (sort of) and killed an entire army of zombies / drifters single handedly.

Stark is on a break from all the mayhem. “Nothing worth killing for. I’m no cop. The SubRosa has their own Mod Squat to deal with the small stuff” Being a Nephilium – Half human half angel, there is a war going on in his head between his two sides, reflecting in his actions and decisions. He is instigated into joining an exorcism on a boy who has been possessed by a demon, only to discover its no demon at all but Mason from Hell, who has stolen Alice (previous gf) from Heaven and has challenged Stark to find her in three days. “It’s so quiet and peaceful here I’m getting bored with breathing. Maybe we’ll get lucky and the world will go to hell again. Fingers crossed.”

Sandman seeks help from a ‘road rage deity’ to find a unobserved path into Hell (to circumvent Mason’s watch over known roads to hell) and has to kill himself to get in. “Dying is’nt the worst thing in the world, but dying because you are stupid is.” The goodbyes are awwww sweet. He lands near Eden, and believe it or not burns down the whole garden, just because (badass!)

Sandman Slim is on his way back to Hell and who knows if he is going to be back or not. Hell is hell. There is chaos, violence and unanticipated changes from Stark’s last visit down the rabbit hole. He is captured and loses an arm in the arena. He encounters God, or one-fifth part of God who then directs him to the asylum where Alice is and then on to Tartarus. Stark breaks into and out of Tartarus, which apparently has never been done before (of course). “Dante got it wrong when he put the ‘Abandon all Hope’ sign at the entrance of Hell. This (Tartarus) is where all hope dies, even for monsters)”

Once Lucifer, now Samael (since fallen angel is back in heaven) generals have been liberated and turned against Mason, war ensues. Stark’s trump is his patchy alliance with Kissi (“when you’re an Abomination, you can’t trust Hell, and Heaven hates you, so you don’t always get to choose who you dance with at the prom”), which turns the war in favor and gets all Kissi killed (two bird one stone, etc). Stark killed by Mason splits into two of himself. The angel and the human who is then saved by the angel LOL now we have two of Stark!

Mason gets killed and Stark becomes, guess….the new King of Hell – oh yeah, he is the brand new Lucifer! Angel Stark goes back to Earth, Alice goes back to Heaven with Samael and Stark is now getting ready to rule the hell

The third book in the series is by far my favorite. Its full of wit, sarcasm (refer conversation between Stark and God) and letting go’s.

Hail the new boss! looking forward to the fourth book in the series 🙂 i wonder what all will this new Lucifer get upto!

“I survived the arena and Mason down here, and i survived Wells, Aelita, and the Golden Vigil up there. I still have two legs, two eyes, an arm and something pretty close to an arm. I’m back in Pandemonium, so i bet Kasabian can see me. Maybe i’ll learn semaphore Morse code so i can send messages to Candy. And i wouldn’t mind killing Aelita. She goes right at the top of my Infernal to-do list. Yeah. Thi

Storm Front Dresden Files #1 – Jim Butcher

Everytime i read this series, its like the first time. Even though i know what’s coming, it’s still fun to read and rediscover.

Harry Dresdon is a wizard and available for hire as per the yellow pages. It made me check mine here in Singapore to see if there was any listings for wizard, but alas, none! Why do these magic people seem so keen on hiding all the magic stuff from us the normals…sigh! This is the first urban fantasy series i had read years ago and if i ever write a book, it will be this genre for sure.

“Science, the largest religion of the twentieth century, had become somewhat tarnished by images of exploding shuttles, crack babies, and a generation of complacent Americans who had allowed the television to raise their children”

There are multiple characters in the book – some normal and some magical. Murphy, the police contact of Dresden and sort of a friend is normal, Morgan, an agent of ‘the council’ is annoying and way too self righteous, Susan is a journalist chasing magic news and Mac is a quiet character – wow didnt know a quiet character could say so much. Then there is Mister the cat, Bob the skull and magical encyclopedia and Dresden’s clients. There are ofcourse the villians the protagonist has to fight (otherwise where would we be!)

Dresden is hired by police to consult on a murder investigation, where two people died because their heart burst out of their body and also hired by a woman to find her lost husband. While following the leads for both respective cases Dresden encounters the crime lord (somewhat like Yakuza or Triad head) Johnny Marcone and things go boom from there on. A demon manages to break through his house and completely destroy his date, and the ultimate power hungry Victor Sells is out to kill Dresden by making his heart bust out of his body.

“So, i concluded. It was up to me. Alone,. It was a sobering thought.”

Dresden lies to his only somewhat friend Murphy (who didnt take it well) to keep her safe and landed up at the den of inquity alone, hurt, tired and wihtout any of his toys, except a locket from his mother. ” The five pointed star within the circle was the ancient sign of white wizardry, the only remembrance of my mother”

Once the action is over and the evil has been laid to rest, Harry is ready for his death, when he sees Morgan and this interaction i think was the most funny part in the entire book “How perfectly typical, to survive everything the bad guys could do, and get taken down by the people for whose cause i had been fighting”

Its fun to read this series because its a bit of everything, a touch of reality, with a dose of absurd, and a mega helping of magical beings to give it flavor. As a reader, i always find myself getting upset on behalf of Dresdon as no matter how hard he tries to prove his being on the side of good – he remains broke, and he remains under suspicion.

Harry – just know you have friends, in the form of readers who are rooting for you.

Kill The Dead Sandman Slim #2 – Richard Kadry

WOW two books of the series in two days – they sure are addictive.

Quick recap – our antihero protagnist is a half angel, Nephilium, also knows as James / Stark / Sandman Slim, who has spent eleven years in Hell (literally) and come back from the dead to avenge on the magic circle that betrayed him and murdered his girlfriend. He ends up with four of the six in the circle dead, one (Mason) in Hell and last Kasabian a head brought from the hell to be the mouth piece of Lucifer (yeap THAT Lucifer)

Second book in the series starts with Stark working as an independent consultant between the forces of good (Vigil) and evil (Lucifer) by running paranormal jobs for whoever pays him. He is killing vampires, stealing from the ones he killed for side hustle and providing consultation on supernatural murders. “The way I look at it, me stealing from the dead is like regular people pocketing Post-its on their way out of office”. Lucifer’s retainer does help him pay the bills. Well the boss is in town (L) and wants Stark to act as the bodyguard during his time on earth.

Body guarding the King of Hell was never going to be easy, especially when Stark stumbles upon the mystery surrounding zombies, which are starting to infiltrate L.A. I didnt know there could be so many types of zombies! There are four – Zombies / Drifters / Zeds and Zots – the regular zombies like the ones in Kdrama Kingdom, Lacunas – some brain function but stink, Savants / Saperes – “Savant is a Lacuna that can call for pizza delivery” and Death Born – zombies whose souls have been removed at birth. Whoa! keep up people

The chase ensues, where Stark is finding the who, why, what of zombies – as hoardes of them have been let out on the streets of L.A. with neither agents of Heaven or Hell too keen on lending a helping hand. “The universe is the meat grinder and we’re just pork in designer shoes, keeping busy so we can pretend we’re not all headed for the sausage factory.” A bite from zombie renders the human part of Stark dead leaving him entirely angel or half angel.

The struggle between the human and non-human Stark (or as per the book Stark and not Stark) is very well depicted and reflects in the decisions. Stark is also trying to move on in life – with Alice, though dead but very much alive in his thoughts and dreams, the guilt is riding high. The brief expose of “who the father is?” and dice landing somewhere between Lucifer and Uriel is interesting. Sad though is Heaven or Hell, Angels or Demons, politics is all pervasive hands down and its all about power plays.

No one dies, not the good guys, i mean and Stark now has an open challenge from Mason, which means the choice is to find Mason before being found. Like Lucifer said “When i’m gone, Hell will need a new Lucifer……….There are only two candidates with the power and knowledge to take over: you (Stark) and Mason, One of you will live and lead. The other will die.” Now the question is will Stark accept the new job offer to be the Crown Prince of Hell or not.

Sandman Slim, #1 – Richard Kadrey

On break from work for a few months (loving unemployment so far) and I have decided to use this time productively, i.e. read my old (and new of course) favourites and write reviews.

This book is as Dark as Dark gets – maybe not “Irreversible” movie dark but it has its moments.

James Stark, who does not like being called ‘Jimmy’ or even ‘James’ has literally come back from the dead. In a magical ritual he was pushed into ‘Hell” or what he refers to as ‘Downtown’ at nineteen and now he is thirty. All he owns is a few pieces / artifacts from hell that have come with him and the clothes he presumably ‘died’ in. His magical coin ‘Veritas’ leads him to one of the six from the circle of friends.

“Its Kasabian, one of my friends from the old magic cried. One of the six on my list”

Leader of this circle is Mason, his sidekick / enforcer Parker, two ladies, a weak guy who killed himself wracked with guilt soon after and the loser turned into a Frost man running a video store. Stark’s girlfriend Alice has been murdered by Parker (directed by Mason) and Stark is out for blood – of all of them.

I loved reading the whole Stark chopping off Kasabian’s head and depositing it in cupboard (since he needs information and does not want to let K die just yet). As the story unfolds, we see shades and layers of grey – the pain, the agony, the grief and the humanity, which refuses to die out. He cuts off the head but doesn’t let Kasabian die and as confessed towards the end – he just couldn’t. He starts by a) revisiting his old apartment and finding an old friend maintaining it for him, then b) the place of his betrayal – which is now a land plot, and c) trying to find where his girlfriend maybe buried.

On one side we see Stark adjusting or trying or not trying to earth, we see the ‘monster who killed the monsters’ in hell and on the other side we see him still at nineteen mentally (girls), and what he has missed – what is blackberry, how do I ‘get’ internet and of course all the clothes he burns through at an astonishing rate.

Stark finds trouble or trouble finds him. As he discovers that in exchange for his journey to the hell, the circle of six except one suicide and one video store guy, four got powers beyond imagination. M & P (Mason & Parker team – almost sounds like a law firm) abducts Kasabian (wait can you abduct a severed head and a body – not dead), kill the two out of the six – the two women – one running the highest class bordello and the other teenage idol and proving yet again how psychotic they both are.

While focused on his quarry, Stark attracts the attention of two groups – one “SubRosa – are the people regular people aren’t supposed to know about. Its not that we don’t like you; its that you have a habit of burning us at the stake when you notice us” – in other words the magical community and the second ofcourse the national security. National Security guy (who of course is cocky) is the first to refer to Stark as ‘Sandman Slim’ – a pseudonym he earned in Hell. We are yet to discover if there is a deeper meaning behind the name.

The way the structure of the book is laid out is so simple and yet so complicated. There is of course Heaven, Hell and Earth. Angels, Demons and Mortals “We’re the punching bags in their family psychodrama” Hellions, except Lucifer are unable to travel to Earth unless they have the key that opens thirteen doors (which is one of the artifact Stark has). Angels try to recruit Stark with the whole redemption and sinner and in service to God marketing spiel, which did not take.. Its pretty astonishing – from the beginning Stark said he will kill everyone in the magic circle and go back to hell – as if he is convinced he belongs there – not on earth and definitely not in heaven (self worth issues!). Author introduces us to a new ‘species?’ Kissi (pronounced KEESHEE) who are the creatures of chaos.

The book answers so many questions and yet opens so many possibilities. Its a fantastic depiction of LA as a place, as a society and culture. “THERE’S ONLY ONE problem with L.A. It exists.” The writing is rich and the wit is sharp. Characters evolve realistically – no one is too good or too bad (except perhaps M&P) they all are multifaceted and human with individual quirks.

Stark aka Sandman Slim has saved the world twice over by the end of this book – once by dealing a strong blow to the Kissi – we dont know if they have been entirely eradicated byt for now the threat is contained, and second by maybe defeating Mason by handing him over to Hellions in Hell (Parker has of course been killed).

The first book ends on a cryptic note with Lucifer leaving Kasabian’s head wtih Sandman Slim as his ‘mouth piece’. Allright, i am going to read the second book now, see you soon with the second part.

Dragon(E) Baby Gone – Robert Gainey

I got this book recommendation off of Twitter directly from the author 🙂 Yes people! it helps to follow #writerslift on twitter and even more so to ask for book recommendations. You end up finding these little jewels, which you for sure would miss out on otherwise.

When it’s a book full of magic, evil wizards, slimy but helpful demons along with a couple of dragon eggs thrown in, the fact that the main protagonist (poor girl) is just plain normal human, doesn’t even slow you down. This book is action packed, fast paced and twists enough to keep you on your toes through all of 160 pages of it.

I wish there was a rule to not start a book (any book) in sewers – I was having coffee when I started reading, you know and lets just say some of those pages though interesting are not exactly a book-to-read-while-eating-or-drinking kind of material. Anyway, action begins with our strong female lead chasing up a drop off deal between two criminal factions in a sewer. As is the norm in any office, not enough information is provided whilst assigning the project and not enough or at least relevant tools either.

We come across human gang and creatures (fire elementals from Plane of Fire – an alternate reality) with chase involving bullets and fire and sewage slinging. Once the case is retrieved, Diane Morris (our strong female lead and FBI agent) discovers that though one stolen egg has been found, the second from the clutch needs to be retrieved and both replaced before the Big Momma Z ergo the who-shall-not-be-named dragon wakes up and finds them missing.

Agent Morris also has her own personal encyclopedia in the form of a cat “Jericho” who is a TV addict, champion at racking up credit card bills by impersonating Morris’s voice, for food, of course. Rest of the shopping can always be done via internet (LOL)

To enable her mission, Agent Morris is sent to a super secret facility to gain help from a “probably” demon and ends up contracting him for life under, hopefully, specific clauses and gaining a partner. Of course, the eggs are retrieved and replaced and benevolence of Dragon M gained at the end with multiple injuries and a ‘good job’ pat from the boss

I am not telling you the rest of the story – got to read the book for yourself hahaha. The plot is predictable but interesting to keep you engaged. There are a lot of details – for example about ‘probably’ demon, the Agent herself, the department etc, which I am hoping the author is planning to cover in the upcoming books. The writing is a combination of witty and sarcastic and character build up is intriguing. Just one observation, there are a lot of details thrown in with not much context – not sure if that is deliberate. For example there is reference to Merlin and Sigrid but not much to go on from there.

Its a fascinating world Agent Morris is operating in and I wish I could borrow her cat for a bit!