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Happy Hour in Hell (Bobby Dollar) Hardcover – September 3, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
The second installment of Williams's urban fantasy series (after The Dirty Streets of Heaven) starts off, like the previous installment, with wisecracking Bobby Dollar (aka the Angel Doloriel) proving he never lets facts or good sense stand in the way of a suicidally foolish course of action. Bobby, on indefinite leave from work as a soul-saving angel, is pining away for his demon girlfriend, Caz, Countess of the Cold Hands, who's now in Hell with her owner, Eligor the Horseman. Bobby is also being hunted by a twice-dead psycho-killer demon, Smyler, demanding the magical golden feather that Bobby stole from none other than Eligor. Wearing a new demon body and persona, Bobby embarks on a chaotic cloak-and-dagger mission through Hell's many levels of infernal protocols and punishments to rescue Caz. Fans are assured of dark humor, even darker adventures, and quirky characters in this solid read, though the too-long stay in Hell sometimes slows the storyline. Agent: Matt Bialer, Sanford J. Greenberger Associates. (Sept.)
“When I heard that Tad Williams was writing an urban fantasy novel, I got all tingly. Now I’ve read it, and it’s even better than I’d dared to hope. It’s snarky, fast-paced, and above all, original. You should be tingly, too.”
—Patrick Rothfuss, #1 NYT bestselling author of The Name of the Wind
“A noir fantasy series with a dark and thrilling story of Heaven and Hell battling for human souls. Exhilarating action, fascinating characters, and high stakes will leave the reader both satisfied and eager for the next installment.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Fans as well as urban fantasy enthusiasts will enjoy Williams’s take on Heaven’s less desirable places as well as his wry humor and keen insights.”
—Library Journal, Starred Review
“With a hint of detective noir, a colorful cast of characters and fast-paced, witty dialogue, The Dirty Streets of Heaven is a fantastically fun read.”
—Amazon.co.uk Editors’ Pick
“Delicious, crunchy, Hellish fun.... Bobby’s odyssey makes for a compelling, page-turning experience, chock-full of visceral sights and sensory overload.”
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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In Happy Hour, the plot is that Bobby Dollar is obsessed with getting his demon girlfriend Caz out of hell. Why? Because a) she's beautiful, b) she's beautiful, c) she's beautiful and d) they had great sex. Oh, and he is sorry for her.
In Dirty Streets, Bobby was a great character. A tough guy with a unexpected sensitive and thoughtful side, who never took himself too seriously. He was funny. In Happy Hour, Bobby comes across as a infatuated, self-pitying drunk.
His demonic crush Caz, or the Countess Cazimira of the Cold Hands, seems to have lost most of her personality. In Dirty Streets she was an impressive lady, scary, angry, cold, clever, and infinitely dangerous. In Happy Hour she spends all her time looking sad, or dangling limply from the hand of her captor. Caz from the first book didn't need to wait around for some drunken angel to rescue her.
Most of Happy Hour is about Bobby travelling through hell and encountering various yucky, horrid, stinky, nasty things. Some of this was interesting. The best part is when Bobby gets his brain back for a moment and wonders why hell and heaven work the way they do, or when he tries to make sense of the ideas of punishment, morality, and guilt. For example, he encounters my favourite character in the book, a monster called Riprash. Riprash is convinced that even the damned can still be forgiven and ascend to heaven, and holds little prayer meetings with other damned. That stuff was interesting!
Also, hell was boring. Compared to, for example, Ursula Le Guin's depiction of the afterlife in The Farthest Shore, which was truly frightening, this was just yucky. Williams falls back on old favorite techniques, and hell is pretty much just disgusting combinations of body parts sewn together /insecty thingies / eyeballs in jelly with the occasional "ew, genitals are gross" bits thrown in to spice things up.
There's a glimpse of hope when one of (the many, many, many) torture scenes takes place in what looks like a Holiday Inn conference room. That's more like it! But other than that, its watered down Hieronymus Bosch territory all the way.
Tad Williams is one of my favorite writers, but something went badly wrong here. I won't be reading the third book.
But she's gone, taken back into hell by the Eligor, one of the Dukes of Hell out of jealous possession. Unable to let her go, Bobby embarks on a dangerous journey into hell itself. He will do anything to save Caz, even lose himself to an eternity of torment.
And even if he survives the trip through the layers of hell and finds her, he will have to contend with one of its most powerful ruler.
Williams paints a very bleak and disturbing hell. Like Dante before him, he takes you into the darkest pits. But Bobby, unlike Dante, doesn't just witness the suffering and torment. He lives it. He has to experience the horrors day after day as he treks across its layers and meets its inhabitants. Willaims shows the lives of those damned to suffering, how they survive, how they are tormented, how their dystopic societies work. Everything wears down the spirit and you suffer it with Bobby.
It is powerful writing and a great follow-up to the Noir detective novel of the first book. Williams takes his world into the fantasy quest with seamless effort. The journey through hell is one of the most macabre that I have written, with imagery that will haunt you. It is clear the author put a lot of effort into his imaging of how Hell would function, from its different classes of people, each with their own motivations and dreams, to the vagarious ways they are tormented.
Happy Hour in Hell is a dark, disturbing, and powerful read. Fans of Urban Fantasy need to check out his series and understand why Tad Williams is a huge name in the world of fantasy literature.