Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Review - Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey

Kill the Dead

Richard Kadrey

Publisher: Eos (2010)


448 pages


Demon Hunter extraordinaire, escaped Nephilim from Hell, and all-around bad-ass Sandman Slim is back in action and hot on the trail of yet another underworld killer. This time, however, he has to quell a major zombie infestation shambling out of the bowels of Los Angeles, join forces with a zombie-slaying porn star, and interact with the strangest cast of characters since The Wizard of Oz met Lord of the Rings. And even then you still couldn’t touch the zany antics of this son-of-a-fallen-angel, James Stark, aka Sandman Slim. Intrigued yet? Well, you should be. Kadrey’s second Sandman Slim novel is grittier, more guttural, and ultimately more satisfying than the first. And that’s something that just doesn’t happen too often!

In my earlier review of Sandman Slim, the first book in the series (see August 2009 post) I said, “Kadrey definitely knows how to spin a dark tale. His language, while offensive to some, fits the character of the story perfectly. Gritty, dark, angst-ridden and graphic the dialogue and fight scenes are coarse, bloody, and down-right mean-spirited.” Kill the Dead is doubly so.

Kadrey’s story treaties with demon-killing and the required weapons needed to do so and with the pre-requisites necessary to become the Devil’s bodyguard and with three different “types” of zombies and with the ability to walk away from earth into shadows and with fallen angels and father issues and gruesome, blood-splattering annihilation. So, why then do I find this macabre story so fascinatingly entertaining and downright funny? Because Kadrey is as compelling and comedic a writer as you'll ever come across. And I mean that in the best possible way. While the supernatural aspects drive the story the twisted/sick humor kept me reading page after page. And believe me when I tell you that the grisly humor is not gratuitous in any way but necessary to make the whole thing work. Because even gruesome needs a break before it crawls into the sewer forever and Kadrey instinctively understands exactly when to sprinkle in those lighter moments. His dialogue and banter knows no equal and his characters, the dregs of the earth, are painfully fun to watch. The bikers, two- dollar whores, meth addicts, murderers, hexed ghouls, and numerous nasties living right around the corner - seen but unnoticed - help drive this story and the zombies make you want to run like hell as fast as you can in the other direction. Which might explain why I associated with them in my head as I read Kill the Dead and perhaps tells you more about me personally then I usually divulge. But Sandman Slim was really an entertaining and fun read for me and many a scene of dialogue made me laugh out loud. I’m certain this book isn’t for everyone but for me it’s right there… dark, macabre, grisly, and hilarious.

Opening line:

Imagine shoving a cattle prod up a rhino’s ass, shouting “April Fool!”, and hoping the rhino thinks its funny. That’s about how much fun it is hunting a vampire.

Favorite quote:

"The universe is a 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."

Dialogue banter:

"Marshall Wells said you liked to talk."

"I'm a people person."

"Is that before or after you cut people's heads off?"

"I only cut off my enemies' heads. I break my friends' hearts."

"So, that's, what, zero hearts broken?"

"The night's still young."

Additional reading:

Google Books excerpt of Kill the Dead

Kill the Dead Review

Kadrey’s Wikipedia Entry

Author Website

 Harper/Collins Site for Kill the Dead

Blog Review

Cory Doctorow’s Review

Oh, and one other thing regarding the actual composition of this book. In an unusual editorial decision Richard Kadrey wrote Kill the Dead with no obvious chapters and very few breaks in the action (or perhaps the entire book is one huge 430 page chapter, hard to tell.) When the reader wants to set the book aside Kadrey gives them no hints as to where to leave the bookmark. That fact didn't really bother me much, but I can see how it might be irritating to some. So, if that’s the kind of thing that bugs you then be forewarned.

By the way... Kill the Dead is also a very quick read (for those who like their death and destruction cranked up to level 11!)

Buy it. Read it. You won’t be dissatisfied.

4 out of 5 stars

The Alternative

Southeast Wisconsin

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