Last Friday, my latest Completist column was posted to SF Signal, featuring Brent Weeks's Night Angel Trilogy. I read the first two on publication and the 3rd a couple of months after it published. While I've seen some flack on these books, I enjoyed them a great deal.
Yesterday, over at SFFWorld, I reviewed the newest book by one of my favorite authors, Tad Williams. Happy Hour in Hell is the second novel featuring the angel Doloriel, also known as Bobby Dollar as he tries to free the creature he loves (a demoness) from Hell. Lots of fun in this book.
Superficially, Happy Hour in Hell is very much a travelogue through Tad Williams’ version of Hell, itself informed by Dante and Milton to a large degree. Whereas the first installment in this series was more of a mystery, Happy Hour is more of a quest tale, with Bobby traversing Hell in the guise of a demon. While Dirty Streets of Heaven set up, initially, a dichotomy between Heaven and Hell only to reveal a Third Way by novel’s end, in Happy Hour Tad Williams shakes up the rule book on Bobby (and the reader) suggesting the rules of Heaven and Hell aren’t quite what they are classically thought to be.
The tour through Hell is truly fascinating; Williams evokes some very gruesome imagery in both the inhabitants of Hell as well as the vast landscapes Bobby traverses. One group of demons he encounters reminded me a bit of the folks in Michael Moorcock’s Dancers at the End of Time sequence which itself is set in Moorcock’s Eternal Champion mythos. A combination of decadence and high societal cruelty marked this particularly strange and ultimately uncomfortable episode in Bobby’s odyssey through Hell. On the whole for Bobby’s journey, I was also reminded of Tad’s own Otherland novels for the layers of worlds explored by the characters. The literary winks nods are all over the place, but don’t weigh down the narrative in the least.