Writing about Reading: Devil Said Bang

October 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

When we last saw Stark, a.k.a. Sandman Slim, Heaven didn’t want him and Hell was afraid he’d take over.

As Devil Said Bang opens, Stark is trying to rule Hell and doing a miserable job of it. Being the Devil is one of the most boring jobs Stark can imagine (not that he wanted the job in the first place), and the only thing breaking the tedium is the fact that all the rest of Hell is trying to kill him.

I loved the first thee books in Richard Kadrey’s series (Sandman Slim, Kill the Dead, and Aloha from Hell, respectively), but the first half of this book meanders so much that it seems like Kadrey is just going through the motions. For example, he makes a huge historical error that anyone who has done even the most cursory research into Wild Bill Hickok should know: in one scene, Hickok says that Broken Nose Charlie Utter “violently interrupted my final card game,” implying that Utter killed Wild Bill. It was, in fact, Jack McCall who killed Hickok; Utter was one of Hickok’s best friends.

Fortunately, the plot kicks in halfway through, so the second half sees Stark back to doing what we love: cracking wise while killing bad guys and saving the world. Unfortunately, the copyeditor seems to have given up at that point, because there several typos. I caught three on one page, and they were errors so glaring that they yanked me out of the story in annoyance.

Typos and historical errors aside, this still is far from the finest book in the series. The second half, while better than the lackluster beginning, still doesn’t reach the heights of the previous three books. All in all, Devil Said Bang could have used one more rewrite. Possibly two.

I hope Kadrey publishes just one more Sandman Slim novel, and takes the time to make it a really stellar ending to the series. Stark is one of the best badasses ever written, and he deserves a better finale to his odyssey than Devil Said Bang.


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