Devil Said Bang
Review by Darkeva
The fourth book in Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series continues the hellish adventures of the eponymous main character, aka James Stark. We last left things off in Aloha from Hell with Stark pursuing his enemy, Mason, in Hell, and having some choice interactions with Lucifer, who, as it turned out, just wanted to be Samael again, and to return to Heaven. He thrust his position onto Stark, who has become the new Lucifer, the new king of Hell and all its demonic denizens.
Devil Said Bang begins ominously with a quotation from Virgil’s Aeneid that leads in to the first scene, which sees Stark in a bar meeting the Hellion Council (who are, much to his dismay, organized for demons). He’s being shown blueprints for some redesigns of Hell to spruce things up a bit, and as with all the previous volumes in the series, humor remains Kadrey’s strong point. He’s a master of snappy dialogue, and hilarious exchanges between two characters, that still serve to advance the plot, so he’s not just being a comedian at the expense of the story. Stark actually asks a group of demons if they’ve seen Fritz Lang’s film, Metropolis, which, of course they haven’t.
I also found it interesting that Hellion is actually a separate language and that some demons like to practice their English with him, one of the finer tidbits of world-building that Kadrey sprinkles into the narrative. It doesn’t take Stark long to get attacked simply for his rank in Hell, and suffice it to say he finds out the hard way that being the Devil is a lot harder than it looks.
When he gets to Earth, he reconnects with some of the previous cast of the prior Sandman Slim novels, including everyone’s favorite talking head, Kasabian, who now has an odd body; Vidocq, the French alchemist and Stark’s confidante; as well as Candy, the Jade woman that he had a “thing” with, and more importantly, in this book she becomes the woman that helps him move on after the painful loss of his first girlfriend.
As if he already doesn’t have his hands full enough, Stark finds out that he has a doppelganger running around town, who Kasabian nicknames Saint James, much to Stark’s dismay. Adding to the cool world-building, Kadrey establishes that there are four types of magic in the Sandman Slim universe: Aethereal, Corporeal, Baleful, and Theoretical. He also meets dreamers, who create things out of dreams.
Although it’s nice to be back in the Sandman Slim universe and many of the things that started off so well in the first book are part of this continuation of the series, there are parts of the novel where it feels as though the freight train leading the charge has started to slow a bit. There’s definitely a lot of excitement and action, new threats to overcome, and a lot of the elements that made the previous books in the series so good, as well as some important changes in the Sandman Slim universe, but I hope that the forthcoming fifth volume, which I am anxiously awaiting, picks up the pace, so to speak. Highly recommended for die-hard Sandman Slim fans who have been following the series, as well as those looking for gritty, dark urban fantasy action with a cool, unapologetic male lead that would make Hellboy blush.