I loved Richard Kadrey’s first two Sandman Slim books, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the third installment, Aloha From Hell. For reference, here are links to my reviews of Sandman Slim and Kill the Dead.
Aloha From Hell starts not long after the conclusion of Kill the Dead, and begins with James Stark (aka Sandman Slim) dealing with the aftermath of the collapse of the Golden Vigil, an organization he despised with the intensity I usually reserve for clowns and the movies of Roland Emerich. The Vigil’s ex-leader in the mortal plane, the insane angel Aelita, has a heap of daddy issues and decides to kill God for being a deadbeat dad. (He apparently kept the liquor cabinet locked up on her even after she turned twenty-one, and it’s really pissed her off.)
Stark gets guilted into helping out an ex-Vigil member with a unique assignment–locate a teenage boy who was possessed by a powerful and rare demon who just happened to mention “Sandman” during a failed exorcism. The kid skipped out and is nowhere to be found, leaving only a demolished room and a scorched magical symbol on the ceiling.
Stark realizes that there’s more to this case than just a missing kid. There are deep ties to his former mentor Mason, the magician who sent Stark Downtown (his euphemism for Hell), where Stark became Sandman Slim fighting in the arena for the amusement of bored, gambling Hellions, all the while becoming stronger and harder to kill. Stark returned the favor to Mason at the conclusion of Sandman Slim, his final act of vengeance on the asshole who sent him away and killed his girlfriend Alice.
Aloha From Hell brings much of this full circle. Alice is still haunting Stark even as he tries to create a relationship with Candy, a cute and perky girl who sometimes turns into a monster and eats people (though she’s trying to kick the habit), and demolishes hotel rooms while having bouts of rollicking sex. After consultations with an excommunicated priest and punk drug dealer, Stark comes to learn that the possessed boy is part of Mason’s game to get Stark to come back to Hell.
I was a little worried that Kadrey’s portrayal of Hell wouldn’t cut it. Let’s face it, after Dante and Milton, no one’s had a lot of luck (at least in my opinion) writing about the Great Dank Basement of the Universe. But Kadrey manages to pull it off, creating a Hell that’s not only convincing, but a location that could only exist in the Sandman Slim universe.
This book is batshit insane, and I say that with total love and wide-eyed adoration. Kadrey’s prose is laser-tight, without an ounce of flab, propelling the story along with the speed of Saturn V booster rockets.
Aloha From Hell is audacious and funny as … well, you know. It’s a guns-blazing, take-no-prisoners ride through the seedy underside of L.A. and the even seedier streets of Hell.
Highly, highly recommended.