Stark has spent the last 11 years as something of a gladiator in Hell, sent there by one of his former circle of magicians, Mason. Now he's back on Earth and looking to avenge not only his time in Hell, but also the death of his girlfriend, allegedly at Mason's orders. He doesn't have much to his name: a coin that gives advice, a powerful knife, and a key that allows him to slip inside the 13 doors and between worlds, but being back isn't as easy as he thought. For starters, there's the screaming head he's now stuck with, and for another thing, it seems there's more going on than just Stark's plans for revenge: There's some kind of war going on and everyone wants him on their side.Sandman Slim is the first novel in Richard Kadrey's urban fantasy series, and includes a protagonist reminiscent of Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden, fallen angels, and a cast of characters you'll find yourself enamored with even as you reach for a scorecard to keep track of them. If you figure out the big reveal a bit sooner that you should, and find the Sandman Slim nickname to be a bit contrived, you'll ignore it, because the voice and the characters are so addictive. Butcher fans may make more than one comparison, but find they like Stark and friends for themselves and their witty dialogue (and Stark's inner monologue). Kadrey wisely leaves this first book mostly romance-free to focus on building his world and his characters, and he succeeds; I'm late to the party, but I'll be reading the second book as soon as I can.