Happy Hour in Hell (Bobby Dollar book 2)
Bobby Dollar returns and the afterlife just ain’t getting any easier for our hero!
I’ve been a fan of Tad Williams’ work since I first picked up The Dragonbone Chair way back in the early 90’s but was sceptical when I heard what the subject matter of his new series was. Needless to say the blend of urban fantasy, noirish plotting and sense of humour soon won me over and I devoured The Dirty Streets of Heaven in around 2 days.
Somehow I was lucky to receive any early copy of the second book and sat down to immerse myself in the continuing adventures of the angel Doloriel.
Firstly let me say that Happy Hour in Hell is a relevant term as there is very little happiness for our leading character, starting with an elevator trip straight out of Angel Heart as he’s delivered to his starting point on the neronian bridge.
Experiencing Hell from its lower depths to its despicable capital Bobby D has very little to smile about and proves that Dante gave us the PG13 version of what’s to come if we don’t all behave ourselves.
Picking up where TDSoH left us Bobby is determined to get back his demonic girlfriend from her ex (who just happens to be a Grand Duke of Hell) and forms some unexpected alliances to get to Hell where his troubles really begin.
Tad paints a pretty vivid picture of the underworld and its occupants, presenting us with the idea that Hell is a society that makes you work for everything that you need to survive (and by work I mean the daily 9-5 doesn’t end just because you died it just gets worse!) and that unlike Heaven it seems to be solidly based on a familiar capitalist framework. You need money to eat, you need shelter and you need water (of a type) to drink. There are cars, boats and machines but don’t expect any environmentally friendly Hybrids or a clean air act.
Making friends and powerful enemies on his journey Bobby (in a snazzy new demon body) makes his way through several of Hells entries in this years Lonley Planet guide.
The pacing of the book is excellent and even when there doesn’t seem to be a lot happening you get drawn along by Bobby’s constantly running interior monologue. Less Chandleresque than the first book HHiH still retains its noir style and Tad displays a dry sense of humour that I really enjoyed. Bobby is an Angelic hero by accident not choice and his witty come backs at times when he is on the receiving end of some pretty brutal torture reminds me of Robert Mitchum in those old B&W films I used to watch on Sunday afternoons.
I have a couple of gripes but nothing major that will prevent me from counting down the days till the third instalment. After reading MS&T, Otherland etc I found the 400+ pages a little short but then worry that if it had been longer Tad would have spent that time filling pages with even more nightmarish images of Hellbound torture and suffering so maybe it’s a good thing. The sex, I’ve never read anything similar in Tad’s other books and it just doesn’t seem to sit right. I’m no prude but some of it just didn’t seem necessary (saying that Bobby’s encounter with the Lady Zinc will give most guys nightmares!).
All in all a good follow up to TDSoH, second books can be notoriously difficult to pull off, but I think that Tad has done well here, the politics of Heaven & Hell make for an interesting storyline and just who is Kephas?
One final point, Bobby, Bobby, Bobby. Scoolboy error pal, what’s the saying, “the Devil is in the detail!”.
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