Today’s book, Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey, is not technically a zombie novel, even though there is a brief zombie apocalypse and zombies. Sandman Slim, also known as Stark and the Monster who kills Monsters, is a half-angel, half-human magician who was sent to Hell and returned to tell the tale. Now he’s kicking around Los Angeles, a supernatural hot spot, working as Lucifer’s bodyguard and helping a quasi-military angelic group that has joined forces with Homeland Security.
When Drifters, a type of zombie, start walking the streets of Los Angeles, Stark goes searching for the source. His investigation uncovers a mythology of zombies that includes the mindless Drifters, “nothing more than a mouth with legs,” the Lacunas “they can’t really think for themselves, but they can take orders,” and the Savants, “fully functional members of the brotherhood of man.” When downtown Los Angeles is overrun by Drifters and Lacunas, Stark’s standard approach to a problem, stabbing, shooting and shouting Hellion curses, proves insufficient. Luckily a Czech zombie hunter is in town to help.
Kill The Dead is to be applauded for understanding the complexities of the zombification process. Our experience at the Zombie Emergency Relief Organization has shown us that zombies come with different physical and mental abilities. Though we’ve yet to house a zombie who could pass as human, we’ve repeatedly seen that they are more than a mouth with legs. Though we deplore Stark’s wholesale killing of zombies, we understand, as John Wayne once said, “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”
Start with book one, Sandman Slim, if you wish, but feel free to dive into Kill the Dead first. Either way, be prepared for a world unlike any other, filled with vivid characters, inventive violence, and an anti-hero I wouldn’t invite over for dinner, but would love to take to Vegas. Really. With a few Hellion magic words, I’m pretty sure we’d run the tables.