Aloha from Hell is the third book in the Sandman Slim series from Richard Kadrey and it is one hell of a ride. Wise cracking antihero and nephilim (that’s half human, half angel to you) Jim Stark, A.K.A. Sandman Slim, has been to Hell before. In fact, he spent eleven years down there as a killing machine. He hasn’t been back in Los Angeles for very long before he’s called upon to help find a missing boy who’s possessed by an unknown demon, which is odd because Stark and his friends thought they knew all the demons already. He really doesn’t want the job, but when all signs in the case start pointing toward a personal vendetta against Stark, he knows who’s behind it and fully intends to put that guy out of business permanently with the help of the Kissi, another particularly fierce species which doesn’t quite belong anywhere and stink like vinegar.
In this world of Kadrey’s creation, the concepts of Heaven and Hell, good and evil, are not at all black and white. Just like on Earth, above and below coexist in varying shades of gray. “God” is actually five brothers here, who lie or withhold helpful information and are each, in their own way, kind of an asshole. Lucifer has been forgiven and now resides above as a reformed angel named Samael, while madman Mason Fraim, Stark’s archenemy, runs the fire pit down below.
Stark’s mission isn’t simply to find a missing boy, as we soon learn; it is to stop Mason’s suicidal plan to destroy both Heaven and Hell and also to rescue Alice, the love of his life, from an asylum in Hell and get her to heaven before it all goes kablooey. This is no easy feat as he must traverse the broken streets of Hell, dodging firey sinkholes, an army of Hellions and mechanical hellhounds with only an untrustworthy serial killer to guide him. In Hell, one can be alive or dead, but what you really want to avoid is becoming double-dead; there really is no coming back from that…or is there?
Kadrey lets Stark tell us his story as events unfold in present time and he does so with equal parts cheeky humor and balls-out determination. Stark is badass cool and the kind of character you’d want to hang out next on a bar stool in some seedy dive bar in the crap end of town. Now, I’m not giving out any spoilers here because I don’t want to be a killjoy, but here’s a tiny taste of Kadrey’s brilliance. In this scene, Stark and his merry little band of detectives consisting of an immortal wizard of sorts, a defrocked priest, and a cute monster named Candy, are meeting the parents of the missing possessed boy. Stark narrates:
“Mom takes one look at my scarred face and I can practically see the words home invasion with multiple fatalities spinning around her brain like the dragon in a Chinese New Year’s parade.”
Aloha from Hell is an action-packed thriller with a cast of lovable abominations with real personality that will amuse and disgust you simultaneously. Of course, I must go back and read Kadrey’s first two books in the series, Sandman Slim and Kill the Dead because, as I’ve already said, Aloha from Hell was one hell of a ride. I want another one. Enjoy!