The Perdition Score by Richard Kadrey fantasy book reviewsThe Perdition Score by Richard Kadrey

James Stark, AKA Sandman Slim, is making another effort to be more like a “regular” human being. He has left the arena in Hell behind and is working for the Sub Rosa, the clandestine magical community in Los Angeles. His girlfriend Chihiro works for a detective agency and is learning to play surf guitar. Stark has a salary, a 401(k) and even health benefits; but he is dissatisfied and only violence seems to provide satisfaction.

(This review contains a mild spoiler for readers who may not have read Killing Pretty, the previous Sandman Slim novel.)

The Perdition Score is the 8th Sandman Slim novel. Author Richard Kadrey has taken Stark through various mutations in these stories; in this one Stark goes back, for a time, to the place he truly feels most at home. Tom Abbot, the augur of the Sub Rosa, asks Stark to find the missing son of a Sub Rosa family. He is surprisingly sketchy on details. Stark is preparing to investigate when a dying angel brings him a vial of liquid called black milk. In small regular doses, black milk bestows strength, cellular regeneration and immortality; too much of it kills.

For the rebel angels fighting God in heaven, the black milk is a strategic advantage, and they will kill for it. It’s up to Stark to find and destroy the supply. The score in The Perdition Score relates specifically to this nasty miracle-drug. Stark’s quest takes him back to Hell. Along the way, he must learn to trust another angel (angels aren’t Stark’s favorite people) and come to grips with the changes in Hell that he has caused through his previous actions.Sandman Slim (10 Book Series) by Richard Kadrey

All of Kadrey’s great supporting cast members are here: Kasabian, Stark’s business partner; Allegra and Vidocq,a healer and an alchemist; Wild Bill Hickok; the evil financers of the Wormwood group, and even Manimal Mike puts in an appearance. We finally learn the story behind Vidocq’s immortality. The next sentence is a spoiler for the earlier books. If you’ve already read Killing Pretty or you don’t mind spoilers, highlight this invisible text: Candy, in her disguise as Chihiro, joins Stark on this quest. [end spoiler] As always The Perdition Score is filled with witty, acid-tinged observations about human nature and bizarre, nearly hallucinatory visions of Hell, whether it’s a trip through a very strange corn maze or a stroll in a poison garden that made my skin itch while I was reading it.

The nature of the “black milk” was appropriately disgusting and appalling and the way it is destroyed was a surprise that was completely believable. Stark manages to weaken the evil Wormwood group although it’s doubtful they’re down for good.

And then The Perdition Score ended on a shocking note, leaving me saying, “What? Really?” Kadrey noted on Twitter that he gets the most “hate mail” for this ending, and I understand why. The ending is foreshadowed and fair; it’s just not what we want to have happen! Is this a seismic shift in the series? I can’t tell, but I’m eagerly waiting for the next book, The Kill Society, scheduled to come out in June of 2017.

Published on June 28, 2016. Sandman Slim returns in a stunning, high-octane thriller filled with the intense kick-ass action and inventive fantasy that are the hallmarks of New York Times bestselling author Richard Kadrey. The request from Thomas Abbot, the Augur of the Sub Rosa council, couldn’t come at a better time for James Stark, aka Sandman Slim. For a man who’s most recently met Death—and death’s killer—a few months of normal life is more than he can handle. He needs a little action, and now Abbott wants Stark and Candy to investigate the disappearance of a young boy—and help uncover council members who might be tied to Wormwood’s power brokers. Stark’s plans change when he meets a dying angel who gives him a vial of a mysterious black liquid that could be a secret weapon in the ongoing war between angels who want to allow human souls into Heaven and rebel angels willing to die to keep them out. When one of Stark’s closest friends is poisoned with the black liquid, Stark and Candy have to go to the only place where they might find a cure: Hell. But standing in their way are the damned souls who, even after death, still work for Wormwood. The secret deal they’ve struck with the rebel angels is darker than anything Stark has encountered. Not only does the fate of the world hang in the balance, but also the souls of everyone in it. Stark has to find a way to break the stalemate in the angel war, score the Perdition cure for the black poison, and make it back to LA in one piece—where an old enemy waits to finish him once and for all.


  • 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.