DEVIL SAID BANG is the latest book by Richard Kadrey (Twitter), picking up where ALOHA FROM HELL (reviewed here by me) left off. Okay, well, technically, it picks up some time after the short story “Devil in a Dollhouse” (reviewed here by me), but that was a little bonus for the superfans. If you’ve read ALOHA, but not Dollhouse, you’ll be fine.
Anyway, DEVIL SAID BANG begins with James Stark, AKA Sandman Slim, AKA the monster who kills monsters, in charge of hell. So you can add Lucifer to his list of titles and nicknames. And you’d think a guy like the Sandman would love the position. After all, he loves to kill Hellions, and he’s got the dark, snarky sense of humor to make those hellish punishments even more devilish. But no such luck. Hell is hell, even for the Devil. Stark is bored to tears by planning committee meetings and memos, that he almost welcomes an assassination plot against him just for the excitement it brings.
Thankfully, Stark finds his way back to his beloved L.A., but things are falling apart there as well. There are more assassination plots, a killer ghost, ancient gods older than God, and reality itself is at risk of coming apart at the seams. Of course, the familiar cast of characters (including Candy the Jade and love interest of Stark, Vidocq the immortal alchemist, and Kasabian the body-less best friend) is there to help Stark battle the Sub Rosa and their affiliated bad guys.
Fans of the series will know that it wouldn’t be a Sandman Slim novel without all of reality, including Heaven and Hell, being put at risk. And it wouldn’t be a Sandman Slim book without the twisted descriptions of the underworld and its inhabitants, Stark’s sarcasm and pop culture references, and the ass-kicking action sequences. DEVIL SAID BANG has all of these things.
Unfortunately, what it lacks is a well-defined plot. This is definitely a weak entry in the series. For example, there’s no real reason to transition from Hell to L.A. other than the fact Stark is bored. There’s no reason he has to get up there. And once he is up in L.A., the Hell subplots are all but forgotten. Moreover, the mysteries and dangers of the L.A. portion don’t come together as neatly as those in the past volumes to form one big, overarching evil plan. The pieces of the L.A. plot are just loosely held together with bubble gum and duct tape. It almost seems as if the Hell plots and the L.A. plots were two cars that crashed into one another and couldn’t be separated. And if that was the case, the L.A. plot was a clunker made up of mismatched replacement parts. But hey, even car crashes produce some loud noises and can be fun to watch.
If you are a fan of the series (and I assume you are, because starting here would be a mistake), you’ll have fun and you’ll enjoy this book. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible either. It just seems a little phoned in and unpolished compared to the previous books. I wasn’t as compelled to keep turning pages as I have been in the past with Kadrey’s other books. I hope the next Sandman Slim book returns to it’s older, better form. Otherwise, Kadrey might start losing fans faster than he would like.