August 2, 2013

Pina Coladas and Getting Killed in L.A.: a review of Richard Kadrey's "Aloha from Hell"

Aloha from Hell (Sandman Slim #3)

by Richard Kadrey

Harper Voyager (2011)

464 pages

ISBN-13: 9780061714337 

"Sandman Slim is my kind of hero." - That's Kim Harrison's blurb for this series, and I'm inclined to agree.

So, after two novels worth of Stark (aka Sandman Slim) having his life dragged over hot coals and broken glass, what could possibly happen to the guy that'd be worse? For starters, the evil S.O.B. he killed and sent to Hell, Mason, has actually taken over the joint and is building an unholy army to go knock on Heaven's front door. That alone would be enough to make your run-of-the-mall anti-hero buy a pack of Depends undergarments, but that's just the warmup act in what is set up to be the biggest meatgrinder Stark's ever been put through.

Aloha from Hell picks up only a little while after the zombie-stomping goodness that was Kill the Dead, and Stark has settled into what by his standards could be considered a rut. He has his inner angel on a short leash, the baddies has slunk off to their respective corners, and reconstruction of Max Overdrive (which has to be the last video rental shop in existence at this point) is going along without a hitch. To help keep from going apocalyptic on passersby, Stark allows Vidocq to convince him into giving private investigation a try. But it doesn't take long before he winds up right back in the crosshairs of Mason, Aelita, and everyone else who has an ax to grind against him.

It might not be so bad, but Stark's dead girlfriend, Alice, has gone missing from Heaven and it looks like she's being held hostage in Hell. Lucifer is no help, since he's moved into the penthouse known as Heaven, what with God acting as an absentee landlord, and Mason has free reign in Hell, recruiting Lucifer's former generals to amass an army against Heaven. So, while one more Armageddon gears up, Stark has to find a way back into Hell and save his lady love.

Frankly, if you loved the first two books, there's nothing you need to know, because this third book in the Sandman Slim series is going to be a must-read for you. If you were a bit tepid for whatever reason, it's fair to say that the salacious bits from the last two books may actually pale compared to the relentless badassery in Aloha from Hell. The quotable one-liners are too plentiful to count, and the introduction of a couple new characters late in the book (one new to Stark, and one he's all too familiar with from his first stint down under) make for great additions to the cast of memorable characters.

The story manages to tie up a couple loose ends, while maintaining a healthy bit of intrigue leading into the next book in the series. The action is frenetic and bloody and magnificent, and towards the end it gets downright bonkers. It takes a while for the story to fire on all cylinders, but once it does it is nothing short of sin-tastic.

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