Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

"Hell, boy. At some point, all fathers want to kill their sons. Just like all sons think about killing their old man. THey're too much alike or they're not enough alike. t doesn't matter. What's beautiful is that they don't do it." - Some guy in this book

There's only one problem with L.A. It exists.

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them. – Mark Twain

Every year, I read a book or two that barely qualifies as a book at all. Whether it’s a Christopher Pike novel, a novelization of a video game, or Chuck Palahniuk, there’s always one book that makes me cringe just a little when I see it on my annual list. The thing is, for the most part, these books aren't touted as something they aren't—with the exception of pretty much anything by Palahniuk, I’ve known what I was getting into; I’d just forgotten how depressing a bad book could be.

This year’s bad book award goes to Sandman Slim, the ostensible subject of this post. It follows the titular protagonist, a man who’s literally been to Hell and back, as he tries to track down and kill the former friends who sent him there in the first place. It would be classified, I suppose, as urban fantasy, and it takes most of its imagery from the Bible: Satan, archangels, weird evil angels, actual demons, and some other creatures make appearances throughout. The writing style is a mixture of noir-style toughness and 19-year-old notebook scribbles. The takeaway from this book: Slim is EDGY. Everything in this whole book is EDGY. Slim is on the ball; he realizes that God and the devil are both just screw ups, equally selfish, stupid, and useless. He’s the center of the universe, and since he’s an immoral jerk, well…

It sort of pains me to write those previous paragraphs. Full disclosure: as a Christian, I would have found sections of this book offensive if the whole thing hadn’t been so offensively stupid. It’s never exciting, involving, suspenseful, sad, happy, and, perhaps most damningly, it’s never fun or funny, in spite of Slim’s non-stop stream of EDGY, hilarious bon mots.

So, of course, the real question isn’t “Was this book about a guy who kills angels and stuff good?” but, as Chris asked me, “You knew what this was about and you read it anyway?” It’s a hard question to answer. Movies can be so bad they’re good, but it’s tough for a book to reach that point. Bad books are time consuming and depressing, and after I’ve finished them, I wish I’d spent my time on something else. On the other hand, I feel like there’s some benefit to reading really terrible stuff. For one thing, if you like to write, it gives you something to look at and say, “I could do better than that.” As a reader, it keeps you balanced and gives you some perspective: no matter how much you disliked the last Jane Austen, or even Chuck Palahniuk, book you read, it wasn’t as bad as Sandman Slim. It might also help you (me) to choose more carefully in the future.

Next up: Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.