The problem with so-called "summer reads" is that all too often they're nothing but plot, barely bothering with niceties like humor, wordplay, or any other padding for the bare bones of the story's structure. And sure, authors can bank to a degree on a reader's need for narrative resolution—I stayed up until 2 am the other night reading Hollywood Is Like High School with Money, just to find out how it ended, but I sure did skim most of it.

Support The Portland Mercury

My favorite summer read thus far is Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim, a witty genre-melder that satisfies certain basic seasonal requirements (fast paced, sorta trashy, not too challenging) without sacrificing a single sentence's worth of humor or originality.

Sandman Slim is a classic LA noir, with a few minor tweaks—namely, a casual acceptance of the existence of the supernatural. The book's titular character is a magician who's recently returned to Los Angeles, having spent the last 17 years living as an assassin in hell. He's on a revenge mission after the former friends who killed his girlfriend and banished him to hell, and he's equally comfortable using guns or magic to dispense his enemies. Kadrey jams his narrative with outlandishly hard-boiled one-liners, bad guys with world-ending agendas, and an innovatively creepy femme fatale. It's a fast read, and a fun one—a guilty pleasure you don't actually have to feel guilty about.