This morning I don’t know if this is a good idea? I wrote a book review, which I want to post; I don’t want to interrupt this stream of This Morning blogs, so I thought I would use the book review for This Morning. Opinions? Is this a copout? Just the wrong sort of thing for me to do, because This Morning is about my thoughts and feelings? I dunno.
I can make book reviews a part of this streak, or I can make separate posts.
Leave a comment and let me know what you think, if you have thoughts.
I’ve read three Sandman Slim novels (And if you haven’t, you should – dark horror/fantasy with a punk edge and a great sense of humor), so I had some idea of what to expect with this book; but I didn’t expect this book.
It’s a caper story, a one-off novel with no connection to other Kadrey books (And I just found out this second that there are sequels) about a professional thief who gets hired to steal the wrong thing, and even though he manages to do it, he gets sold out on the job by a fellow thief, who, predictably, has no honor. Coop (Charlie Cooper, though no one calls him that) gets sent to a special prison for the next few years, before he is sprung, by the same guy who put him away, and for the opposite reason: this time the guy, Morty, needs Coop’s help.
He needs Coop’s help specifically for the same reason that Coop was in a special jail: because Coop is not a normal thief. He is a magical thief, who steals mystical and mysterious items for mystical and mysterious people who can pay him in cold, hard cash.
That’s the setup (And forgive me for spoiling the first two chapters), and it’s a good one. The opening scene when Coop is on the job is a lot of fun, and the subsequent caper action is just as good, all the way through. The book does start a little slow, as Kadrey has a pretty broad cast of characters; there’s a madcap element to this, as it ends up with one of those Mad Mad Mad Mad World scenarios, with everyone running around looking for the same thing – the Everything Box of the title – and so getting all of those characters with their disparate personalities and motivations into the reader’s mind is a challenge. Kadrey does it as well as any, I think, but simply because it’s a single book, he has to fall back on some fairly generic tropes and character types. He does at least one wonderful thing, though, which is to completely flip some of those tropes: there are two different demon-worshipping doomsday cults involved, one led by a High Dark Magister (Or is it Dark High Magister?) with a bad back whose throne is a Barcalounger, and the other led by a very traditional suburban family who hold bake sales to raise funds for their dark rituals. (The bake sale scene is one of the funniest things in the book, and one of the funniest scenes I’ve read in a long while.) But there are some confusing moments: there was one character who I actually thought was a different character until they met each other, and I got lost in the earlier chapters and had to slog a bit. But it picks up, and the last 100 pages whiz by; the ending is great.
Apart from the caper action – which takes more than enough twists to keep you guessing; I honestly kept thinking, “That’s it? That can’t be it. Oh wait – that’s not it!” – the book does one other thing remarkably well, which is make you like the characters. Almost all of them are generally likable and amusing, including the ones opposed to our hero Coop, who is an excellent sort of everyman guy who just happens to be a thief. But both because they are a bit one-dimensional, and also because they are pretty goofy, you don’t mind too much when bad things happen to them – and like all of Kadrey’s books in my experience, a lot of bad things happen to a lot of people.
And I liked it.