Hollywood Dead by Richard KadreyHollywood Dead by Richard Kadrey fantasy book reviewsHollywood Dead by Richard Kadrey

“There’s dead and then there’s Hollywood dead and those are two very different things.
Dead is just dead. In the ground. Pennies on your eyes. A cold slab of meat and no slaw and definitely no dessert.
But Hollywood dead? That can be a lot of things. Yeah, you’re still a slab of meat, but now you come with curly fries and hot apple pie.”

James Stark, once known as Sandman Slim, is Hollywood dead when the 2018 book of the same name opens. Specifically, he has been brought back from the dead, but only partially. The tenth SANDMAN SLIM book brings us back from Hell to Los Angeles, but it’s not full circle; it’s a spiral, as it delves deeper into Stark’s death, life and destiny.

(This review may contain mild spoilers for earlier books.)

Eva Sandoval, a leader of the global-corporate evil group Wormwood, has brought Stark back for a special assignment; when it’s completed, she promises, a Wormwood necromancer will restore Stark to full life. Stark suspects the deal is too good to be true, and he’s right.

First, Stark must stop a rogue faction of Wormwood from destroying all of Los Angeles with a ritual. The original Wormwood group leaders believe they know the date of the ritual. They don’t know what ritual it is or where it will take place, and they have no leads. Stark develops a daredevil, borderline-suicidal plan to uncover the details, which works — and also tells him that the ritual is planned for two days earlier than the original Wormwood thought. As he races to foil the plan, the original Wormwood works frantically to undo their deal with him.

Sandman Slim (10 Book Series) by Richard KadreyThe upfront plot of Hollywood Dead (2018) is fast-paced with plenty of curves and twists, as we’ve come to expect. The real power of the book is Stark’s attempt to re-enter his earthbound, human life after being dead and in Hell for a year. His human and not-so-human friends have moved on with their lives, and since Stark is still half-dead and deteriorating, he isn’t even sure reconnecting with them is a good idea — especially with his lover Candy, who is in a new relationship. Still, Stark can’t pull himself away completely. It’s riveting to watch Stark struggle, while he never quite admits to himself how much he needs his friends.

As Stark, and we, suspected, neither side of Wormwood is to be trusted, and the original group has plans for humanity that are just as dire as the splinter group’s. Stark’s struggle takes him through the Room of Thirteen Doors numerous times, including into a neighboring dimension. Old enemies return, and some new characters are introduced. I hope they stick around.

Richard Kadrey

Followers of the series might remember that Stark gave up access to the Room of Thirteen Doors. Since it’s one of my favorite magical things ever, I was thrilled to see it back and put to such good use here. Stark also has his weird arm, his black blade and his deadly na’at.

Richard Kadrey develops some long-standing human characters. We finally see a bit more about Carlos, the bartender of the Bamboo House of Dolls. The Donut lady and a perky barista at a coffee house get some time on the page, and both of them have potential. My favorite new character is named Flicker. She is not human, and she runs the Devil’s Door Drive-In Movie Theater, which plays an important part in the story and graces the hardback cover. Kadrey uses Stark’s slow slide into actual death to keep the suspense mounting and his pacing here is perfect.

Kadrey always manages to drop something that should be mundane into a SANDMAN SLIM novel and make it truly strange, and in this case it’s a bowling alley. The change is not external; it’s in how Stark uses it. I won’t say anything more.

I was pleased to see the series return to the grotesque, dynamic Cadillac desert that is Los Angeles. The plot, and many questions in Stark’s life, are as resolved at they can be for someone like him, but Hollywood Dead — and Stark — is poised for many more strange adventures.

Published in August 2018. Life and death takes on an entirely new meaning for half-angel, half-human hero James Stark, aka, Sandman Slim, in this insanely inventive, high-intensity tenth supernatural noir thriller in the New York Times bestselling series.

James Stark is back from Hell, trailing more trouble in his wake. To return to L.A., he had to make a deal with the evil power brokers, Wormwood—an arrangement that came with a catch. While he may be home, Stark isn’t quite himself . . . because he’s only partially alive.

There’s a time limit on his reanimated body, and unless Stark can find the people targeting Wormwood, he will die again—and this time there will be no coming back. Even though he’s armed with the Room of Thirteen Doors, Stark knows he can’t find Wormwood’s enemies alone. To succeed he’s got to enlist the help of new friends—plus a few unexpected old faces.

Stark has been in dangerous situations before—you don’t get named Sandman Slim for nothing. But with a mysterious enemy on the loose, a debt to pay, and a clock ticking down, this may truly be the beginning of his end. . . .


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.

    View all posts