The unexpected sweetness of Sandman Slim

I’ve not made it a secret that one of the things that’s gotten me through the past six months of general “what in actual hell is going on?” has been catching up on Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series via audiobooks in my car.

I started reading these shortly after the first one came out–I checked it out of the library along with In Cold Blood and another book with a climax that involved the main character walking barefoot through Hell (I think it was an Orpheus retelling, maybe? But with more blood and demons).  That was quite the month of reading, let me tell you.

But I dug Stark and his revenge quest, so I kept reading them.  And then for whatever reason I got behind on the books, and it occurred to me to see if the library had them on audio–and they did!  Like, all of them!

And McLeod Andrews is exactly what I imagined Stark’s voice to sound like.  (I’ve read a number of news articles about the president in that voice, and as I said on Twitter, if this is the end of democracy, at least it’s being narrated appropriately.)

So I’m on The Perdition Score now, and there was a scene I heard last night that struck me …

(and there will be spoilers below, so tread carefully …)

Okay, so Stark is, like, scarred in every way possible.  He was a slave gladiator in Hell for eleven years, he ended up being Lucifer for a while, he saves the world primarily by pissing off celestial beings and getting his ass kicked on a regular basis, everything he knows how to do involves blood, he’s really good at killing things, he’s rude and angry and dealing with more PTSD than he knows what to do with, and he’s recently developed migraines because, really, why not?

He’s got a girlfriend who is an actual monster.  Her name is Candy.  Well, it was Candy.  Now it’s Chihiro because Candy’s in a kind of magical witness protection program, so she looks different and is using an assumed name.  This has been a source of a lot of tension between the two of them–they’re both getting used to it, Stark feels guilty about it–in addition to Candy trying to put together an actual adult life with a job and stuff.  And a band.  Stark’s not sure what the hell he’s good for, anymore, and also PTSD and migraines.

So here’s the scene:  Candy’s bi-, and she tells Stark that she’s interested in Alessa, the new guitarist in her band.

This is not a giant surprise to any of us, they’d actually had a talk about this in the last book, about how Candy kind of misses dating women.  Stark had said he wasn’t going to keep her from doing anything she wanted to.

And he repeats that now.  Candy’s worried he’ll be mad, but he says he doesn’t know how he feels–honestly, he just doesn’t know.

Then they have a conversation about how Alessa only knows Candy as Chihiro, and Stark tells Candy she needs to think about how she’s going to deal with that if she and Alessa get together.  And it’s actual, honest, solid advice, like you’d give your best friend.  It’s not a fight scene.  They don’t break up.  They love each other and they talk about this together–not all of it, but some of it–like friends.  Candy says she’s not considered the whole Chihiro thing.  She says she was scared to tell him because she thought he’d hate her, and he says he’s never going to hate her.

It is, quite possibly, the sweetest scene I’ve seen in these books.

I’m not much past this scene, so I have no idea if the answer to this is polyamory (which would be awesome, but I also don’t trust Alessa, so we shall see), but I just loved that moment.  I like couples who are friends.  I like friends talking to each other about things (there’s a nice scene with Stark and Vidoq earlier in the book, as well).  I like watching Stark–who has spent a lot of damn books running full-throttle to save the universe–being forced to slow down and think about his life, and learning to be a person.

It’s a testament to Richard Kadrey’s writing and McLeod Andrews’ narration that this scene works so well.  Stark sounds … slightly confused by his own lack of reaction, and also not angry.  I think it’s the sort of scene that only comes after a lot of books–both the skill of the author, but also, you have to get the characters and the audience to the point where a scene like this can exist and feel organic.

So, yes.  Cool cool.  And now I have to finish the book and see what happens.

(I also have this weird connection/parallel going in my brain between this scene and the scene in House of Cards where Frank tells Claire it’s okay if she wants Tom, but that needs to marinate a little more.)

 

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