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The Sandman Slim series of books by Richard Kadrey are about a man named James William Butler "Sandman Slim" Stark who is a talented magician (not a wizard! Wizards are Harry Potter) living in our world where magic is under the Masquerade. When he trusts the wrong people, the group who he thought were his allies (or at least not asshole enough to pull a stunt like this) sends him on a one-way trip to hell. For eleven years he's forced to participate in gladiatorial events for the entertainment of demons and fallen angels, then recruited as hitman for Azazel. When his girlfriend back on Earth is killed, Like a Badass Out of Hell he steals a key that can take him anywhere in the universe and escapes to the mortal world to hunt the killers down, including their leader Mason Faim and his pet thug Parker.
Basically Stark is Harry Dresden minus any sense of morality and on permanent god-mode. No wait... What's higher than god-mode?
Kill The Dead: Taking place six months after the first book, James kills some vampires, has to find a woman's son, and becomes Lucifer's bodyguard during a filming of his life story. To top that off, he accidentally begins and consequently has to stop a Zombie Apocalypse.
Aloha from Hell: Taking place two months after the previous events in the last book. After a successful break-in with Vidocq. Stark, gets a job to find a possessed nineteen year-old named Hunter. Who is addicted to a psychic drug called Akira. As he later finds out he was the younger brother of T.J. One of the old members of Stark's old circle. When he finally finds Hunter it turns out to he's not possessed by a demon but, by Mason himself. Mason tells, Stark, that he kidnapped, Alice, his dead ex-girlfriend from heaven (Thanks to Aelita).
He then proceeds to tell Stark that if he wants to save her, he literally has to go back to Hell. After informing the Kissi, Josef, and his fellows about the situation. Stark then crashes his car to get to Hell.(Not before burning down the garden of Eden.) There he breaks into Eleusis to get Alice and, A demon general out of Tartarus to fight against Mason. Then he kills Mason in a game of Russian roulette (Stark cheats, of course) This makes Stark the new Lucifer in hell (much to his displeasure.)
- Action Girl: Candy, Brigitte Bardo
- A Chat with Satan: literally.
- Adaptive Ability: A side-effect of Stark's Healing Factor. Each time he recovers from an injury, enchanted scar tissue forms that makes the same attack to the same area far less effective the second time. He gets to use this power a lot.
- Affably Evil: Mason, Josef and Lucifer.
- A God Am I: What Mason essentially wants. Aelita, too.
- Always Chaotic Evil: The Kissi.
- Asshole Victim
- Batman Gambit: Mason Faim's modus operandi. Mason ordered Parker to kill Alice so that Stark would tear a hole in the universe that would open the gates of Hell. Of course, the real plan was to trick Stark into sending him to Hell so he could turn Lucifer's generals against him.
- Becoming the Mask: It is revealed that Alice was a Muggle Born of Mages hired to spy on Stark before actually falling in love with him.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Francois Eugene Vidocq
- Black Speech: Hellion. A language composed of unpleasant animal noises. According to Stark, it is almost impossible to say anything in Hellion that cannot be interpreted as a threat.
- Blood Magic: Stark uses it in Kill The Dead to add power to a spell.
- Bloody Murder: Stark's blood is poisonous in some cases due to the nature of his birth.
- Brick Joke: Functioning as Book Ends for the first trilogy. When Stark returned to Earth, the first he did was attack Kasabian with the black bone blade, allowing him to decapitate the guy without killing him. In the last chapter of the third book, Stark realizes that the design specs of a hell-hound (basically, a four-legged Brain In a Jar) would be the perfect solution for Kasabian's lack of a body or a proper body prosthesis.
- Cell Phone: One will miss a lot of techonological advance being in Hell for 11 years. It takes Stark a bit to figure out the cellphone, and he finds it very amusing once he does.
- Cloning Blues: God. He was once one being, but over the years he split into five separate beings Muinn, Neshamah, Ruach, and two others.
- Cool Key: The Key to The Room of 13 Doors -- it's the only way out of Hell, and Stark has it lodged in his heart. He doesn't need to actually pull it out and put it in a lock for it to work; he just has to step into a shadow, through the room, and from there through his door of choice.
- Cute Monster Girl: Hi, Candy.
- Crapsack World
- Deader Than Dead: To Dr. Kinski/Uriel or any one in Tartarus
- Doubly so for those fed into the cosmic furnace in Tartarus.
- Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: Ammunition dipped in Spiritus Dei oil can kill pretty much anything.
- Drink Order: Aqua Regia. Neat.
- Enemy Within: Stark's inner angel sometimes screams inside his head, he often ignores it.
- Eye of Newt: The basis of alchemy, particularly the Drifer bite cure.
- Extra-Strength Masquerade: So a Zombie Apocalypse was narrowly averted. Half of Los Angeles was in flames. Fast forward six weeks and not a single Muggle has gone public with any solid evidence of what really happened. I guess it helps that all the Drifters turned to ashes.
- Expecting Someone Taller: When Carlos meets Kasabian.
Carlos: Stark's told me about you, too."
Kasabian: Yeah? What's he said?
Carlos:Well, I thought you'd be taller.
- Fallen Angel: Hellions, which are the ones that got kicked out with Lucifer. Also Kinski, AKA Uriel.
- Fantastic Catholicism
- Fantastic Racism:
- First-Episode Resurrection: Not technically dead, but the series starts off with missing-presumed-dead Stark crawling out of a cemetery after being in hell a good eleven years. Close enough.
- First-Person Smartass
- Flaming Sword: All angels have this. In Kill The Dead, after Stark becomes a Drifter/Nephilim, he gains this in a fight with Aelita. Then lights a cigarette with it. In Aloha From Hell, it is revealed that certain Hellion generals (such as Mammon) have secretly retained their angelic ability to generate one of these. It turns out to be an Awkward Ability when Stark has to use one to win a death match in a Hellion arena.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Heaven and Hell are both scared shitless by this dude by the end of the book.
- Genocide Backfire: Averted, and hard with, Josef. In Aloha from Hell
- God Is Inept: The reason why the Kissi and Nephilim exist.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Stark is covered in scars from head to toe from his time fighting in the hell arena. He acquires some new ones earthside.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Stark is a cigarette smoker who is an example of both types, since he's technically a monster, but saved the world in the process.
- Half-Human Hybrid: James Stark is revealed to be a nephilim (half-angel) this explains why he is such a badass
- Hellions Steal Cable: And watch old Kung Fu movies like Bamboo House of Dolls.
- Hitman: for one of Satan's generals -- in between monster fighting in Hell for the amusement of the demonkind.
- Insistent Terminology: Stark is a magician, not a wizard. Wizards are Harry Potter.
- Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality: Before Stark went Downtown, his magic was far more versatile but hardly dangerous. Now, after eleven years in Hell, his magic isn't good for anything else besides hurting people and destroying things.
- Jack the Ripper: Stark meets James Kelly when he goes back to Hell in Aloha From Hell.
- Kryptonite Is Everywhere: The Key to The Room of 13 Doors allows Stark to efficiently teleport between any two shadows in the entire known universe. Yet, he can't ever seem to find a shadow when he needs a quick escape.
- Knight Templar / Tautological Templar: Aelita, since she is an angel she also has an Omniscient Morality License.
- Los Angeles: Where Sandman Slim's stomping grounds were and are again.
- Losing Your Head: Kasabian
- The Lost Lenore: his girl is dead. Begin the revenge plot.
- Magic Items: Tons. From smart-ass Hellion coins that seem to know everything to objects that could destroy the entire universe, Munnin either has it laying around in his shop or knows where to find it. Not to mention a certain key tucked inside Stark's ribcage next to his heart.
- Nay Theist: In Kill The Dead
Stark (Narrating): If I was a religious man (and no, knowing there's a Heaven and Hell, God and devil and angels doesn't help being religious one little bit), I might take what I see as a sign.
- Noble Demon: James says there are a few in hell. Possibly Lucifer.
- No Man of Woman Born: It is said that the leader of the Gobah cannot be killed by any human, angel, Lurker, demon or Hellion. Stark notices that Nephilim isn't on that list and wisely deduces that his status as "an abomination" makes him the exception. It turns out he was right.
- Not Using the Zed Word: Stark and his people all refer to the walking dead as High Plains Drifters, or just Drifters.
- Or Zeds.
- Or Zots.
- Or Zeds.
- Omnicidal Maniac: Stark seriously considers destroying all of creation before ultimately deciding against it. Mason would've gone through with it.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: A very strange case. Everybody called Stark Sandman Slim well before he ever heard the nickname. But he took it on with glee as time passed.
- Our Angels Are Different: Most of them are assholes.
- Our Demons Are Different: There are the Hellions and then there are demons, which are more like general negative-elemental-hungriness-monstrosies from beyond.
- Our Liches Are Different: The Giestwalds bite there children at birth to become Death Born.
- Our Zombies Are Different: Zeds/Zots/High Plains Drifters/Zombies are the old fashioned mindless eating machines that shamble along, Laccuna are slightly more intelligent running zombies, Savants/Sapiens are intelligent and still retain a soul, and the Geistwalds are kinda like vampire-zombie-liches.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Mason tells this to Stark about why his former circlemates suck:
Stark: You want to rule this world, a not particularly great place, so you can take over an even worse place? Is that basically is it? That why you ruined me, killed Alice, and fucked over everyone who ever trusted you?
Mason: Firstly, fuck all those people who trusted me. Except for Parker, every one of them was greedy and then turned jellyfish the moment you stuck your nose out of the grave. I gave all of them their heart's desire and they folded the moment things got a little weird.
Stark: You didn't exactly give Kasabian his heart's desire.
Mason: Yeah, I did sort of screw him, didn't I? But admit it. There's the opposite of love at first sight. There are people walking the earth that the moment you meet them, you want to punch them and keep punching them.
- Revenge: The reason Stark escaped hell.
- Running Gag: Stark is really hard on his clothes. Really, really hard on them.
- Sassy Black Woman: Allegra.
- Shout-Out: A psychic drug called Akira
- Also, a warrior angel named Aelita
- "Stark", "Parker", and "Mason" are all references to the works of Donald Westlake
- Shoot the Dog: What Parker and Mason do to Alice and pretend to do to Vidocq and Allegra. Later Alice reveals that she shot herself in order to prevent Mason from sending her to Hell like Stark.
- Simplified Spellcasting: Stark describes this as being good at bluffing his way through spells (he doesn't use the word "bluff" though). His freedom to forego the technical aspects of magic has often earned him the envy, jealousy, fear and/or hatred of his fellow Sub Rosa.
- Spin Offspring: Stark is apparently a descendant of Wild Bill Hickok.
- The Stoner: The three other employees of Max Overdrive Video, so faceless to Stark that he just calls them Dude (insert adjective here).
- That Man Is Dead: Literally. Stark was in hell 11 years and declared dead legally after 7. However, he also dislikes all the nicknames he was called by before he was sent to hell. Also In kill the dead, this is what Angel!Stark says about human!Stark after getting bitten by a Drifter.
- Training From Hell: in Stark's case it's training in hell.
- Trenchcoat Brigade: James Stark.
- Weirdness Censor: Aelita's team tends to rationalize the stuff that happens, but people still see what they want to see.
- Whip Sword: The na'at is the Hellion version of this and Stark's Weapon of Choice.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Mason's revealed to have a pretty damn good Freudian Excuse in the third book. If Stark were to have followed through with his killswitch plan, he would've been one too.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Vidocq characterizes the experiment that made him immortal as "an accident."
- Witch Species: The Sub Rosa are humans who are genetically predisposed towards magic. Magic only works for a human being if they are Sub Rosa. The one exception to this rule is alchemy. This type of magic is less about natural talent and more about Eye of Newt dailed Up to Eleven.
- Wound That Will Not Heal: Lucifer has one of these from when God gave him the boot.
- Zombie Apocalypse: Narrowly averted...except for LA, where it was quasi-apocalyptic.