Although I own a couple of Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim novels, I have yet to give them a shot. I was planning on doing just that when the folks at Harper Voyager offered me an early read of his newest, The Everything Box. I've been postponing my reading of the author's signature series because I didn't want to go into another multi-volume book sequence. As a stand-alone novel (there is contradictory information claiming that this might be the first installment in a new series), The Everything Box appeared to be the perfect opportunity for me to sample Kadrey's writing.
Advance praise compared this one to Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, which was all I needed to have my curiosity piqued. Quirky and snarky, The Everything Box is one fun romp of a book!
Here's the blurb:
Reminiscent of the edgy, offbeat humor of Chris Moore and Matt Ruff, the first entry in a whimsical, fast-paced supernatural series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Sandman Slim novels—a dark and humorous story involving a doomsday gizmo, a horde of baddies determined to possess its power, and a clever thief who must steal it back . . . again and again. 22000 B.C. A beautiful, ambitious angel stands on a mountaintop, surveying the world and its little inhabitants below. He smiles because soon, the last of humanity who survived the great flood will meet its end, too. And he should know. He’s going to play a big part in it. Our angel usually doesn’t get to do field work, and if he does well, he’s certain he’ll get a big promotion. And now it’s time . . . . The angel reaches into his pocket for the instrument of humanity’s doom. Must be in the other pocket. Then he frantically begins to pat himself down. Dejected, he realizes he has lost the object. Looking over the Earth at all that could have been, the majestic angel utters a single word. “Crap.” 2015. A thief named Coop—a specialist in purloining magic objects—steals and delivers a small box to the mysterious client who engaged his services. Coop doesn’t know that his latest job could be the end of him—and the rest of the world. Suddenly he finds himself in the company of The Department of Peculiar Science, a fearsome enforcement agency that polices the odd and strange. The box isn’t just a supernatural heirloom with quaint powers, they tell him. It’s a doomsday device. They think . . . And suddenly, everyone is out to get it.
The bulk of the action takes place in modern-day California. It's a world in which magic and mystical creatures exist. God, Heaven, Hell, angels, demons, Lucifer, and everything else in between are real. Qaphsiel, the angel who was meant to use the box to wipe out what was left of mankind following the flood, has been wandering the Earth for thousands of years in search of it. Only by completing his task will he be welcomed back in Heaven. And now, the magical map he's been using shows that the object of his eternal quest seems to be found in Los Angeles. Little does he know that a thief contracted to steal the box has just acquired it for a man known only as Mr. Babylon. But this robbery will cause a chain reaction of strange events that will draw various parties in search of the doomsday device. Believe you me: hilarious chaos will ensue.
The characterization is by far the best aspect of this work. In a variety of ways, every single protagonist is an odd, flawed, inept, not-the-sharpest-knife-in-the-drawer kind of character. Majestic angel he might be, but there's no denying that Qaphsiel is a bona fide dumbass. And I'm not being negative when I say this, as his stupidity makes him quite endearing. The same can be said of the thief Coop. Not the strongest of lightbulbs, he and his crew are nevertheless a very entertaining bunch. Agents Bayliss and Nelson are a highly dysfunctional pair, as are two different cults trying to one-up each other and bring about their own version of the apocalypse before the other has a chance to do so. Add to that an incompetent government agency staffed by the living dead and weird creatures, minions of Lucifer attempting to recruit an exiled angel, and you have all the ingredients required for an engaging read!
Dark and twisted humor full of pop culture references abound. This is a fun read that will often make you laugh out loud. Though I must say that at time Kadrey went a little over-the-top with the jokes and the dialogue. It sometimes felt as though the author was going for a chuckle a page ratio and occasionally the humor or the one-liners fell a little flat. But overall, the snark, the quirkiness, and the irreverence work very well.
As enjoyable as it was, The Everything Box was not as dark and edgy as I was expecting the book to be. Given everything I've heard about the Sandman Slim novels, this one was a decidedly lighter read. Hence, I have a feeling that newbies like me might get more out of it than long-time Richard Kadrey fans. Time will tell whether or not this one marks the beginning of a brand new series. As things stand, The Everything Box features a totally self-contained tale and works perfectly as a stand-alone book. Though I'm not sure where the story could go next, I'd be happy to follow more misadventures by Coop and company!
If you are looking for a fun and entertaining read rich in unexpected twists and snarky humor, The Everything Box is definitely for you!