Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Second Glance: Devil Said Bang by Richard Kadrey

I usually leave second glance reviews for books I read years back before I started doing reviews, or even looking at books critically altogether. But as anyone who is up to date on my blog knows, I made a promise for this one. Several months ago I read a digital copy of Devil Said Bang and found that a good chunk of the books was missing. I said that if I found a hard copy of the book and it turned out that it was actually missing and not some stylistic choice of the writer, then I would rescind my statement. Well, I found a hard copy, found that the story WAS missing from the digital copy, and I'm not taking down my original review. I've never apologized for having a contrary opinion, and I'm not going to start now. To be honest, the missing pages probably made the story better.

Devil Said Bang is an Urban Fantasy novel written by a pretty badass author named Richard Kadrey. In the books, the main character, James Stark AKA Sandman Slim, is a man with the most abysmal luck. He was sent to Hell while he was still alive, tortured, came back to get revenge and was thwarted at every turn by the people who sent him there. Assisted by a talking head, an immortal alchemist, a woman who picks the damnedest times to get scruples, and a girlfriend who is a repressed monster, Stark still has the time in his life to worry about silly things like movie stores, and clothing.

In the latest story, after being Shanghai-d in Hell to be the new Lucifer, Stark is trying to get back and stay alive at the same time, and that's about how far I got in the digital copy before the big skip...132 pages of missing pages to be exact. I counted. I say that the missing pages made the book better because of this: there is no sense of linearity. The problem with Urban Fiction that doesn't involve a detective is that the characters don't go through life looking for how things connect, so often times, in the story they don't. For example: a detective might see a toothpick at a crime scene, remember that the dead man's chauffeur had one in his mouth all the time, and connect that to the gun they find on him that matches the bullet used to kill him. In a story with Joe Schmoe, he has to wait until the person who’s killing people puts a gun against his kidney.

Stark goes from trying to get out of Hell, to trying to find out who's gunning for him, finding a killer, getting back home, finding some conspiracy involving people he's just meeting, and then there's actually no resolution at the end at all. There was something to do with a ghost that might not have just been a ghost, that's killing people for no apparent reason. The reason they gave was kind of pathetic, which may have been the point, and then when they finish the job, she's just kind of gone? Where's the climax? Where's the meat of the story? It just seemed like Stark went through all the trouble to get out of Hell just to babysit or something.

This was of course on top of all the typos that were in the book. Names were transposed with other names that confused me, words were misspelled, missing, or sentences just didn't make any sense at all. I've re-read a few of Richard Kadrey's previous books, and they were never as bad as this. I know I said it before, but there might be something wrong with Kadrey's publishers, because if it was this bad when he turned it in, then that's on him, but the fact that all of this got through to print makes me think that they dropped the ball here and should be held accountable. People pay good money for digital and especially pricy hardback books, and should get what they pay for. I love the story of Sandman Slim, and will eagerly await his next book, but I have a feeling that Devil Said Bang is going on my list of books I just can't get into anymore.

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