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Happy Hour In Hell (Bobby Dollar) by Tad Williams
Review by Drew Bittner
DAW Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756408152
Date: 03 September 2013 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Being an earthbound angel, Bobby Dollar (aka Doloriel) usually works as an advocate for mortal souls--he takes the side of Heaven, naturally. However, this time he is not walking the streets of San Judas, California. No, this time he's gone somewhere a bit warmer...

In Happy Hour in Hell, Tad Williams takes his angel into Hell itself, to rescue his demon girlfriend Casamira (aka the Countess of the Cold Hands). It's a fool's errand, and Bobby is in deep trouble with Heaven anyway.

His boss Temuel has brought him before a tribunal for review of his job performance--which has the blot of an association with Sam Reilly (aka Sammariel). Sam's created his own afterlife in defiance of Heaven and Hell both, so both sides want him dead. They can't pin anything on Bobby, though, so he's on probation until further notice.

This gives Bobby a chance to put his plan (such as it is) into effect. He sneaks into Hell through a forgotten entry, wearing a demonic body for cover. Right off the bat he gets into trouble, stumbling across a slave trading operation that nets him an all-new enemy and fumbling his way into the affections of a socialite with twisted tastes.

Along the way, he takes Hell's elevator pretty far down and ends up on the run from not one but two security forces. Trading a bit of himself for a safe ride, Bobby never veers from his course: finding the home of his enemy Elegor the Horseman (a noble of Hell) and rescuing his beloved Caz.

Hell takes a toll on the angel during these journeys. He witnesses depravity and cruelty of all kinds; he must fight his impulse to help, lest he give himself away, until a more pragmatic callousness hardens his heart. That's the true nature of Hell--that it's an attitude as much as a metaphysical place. And hope turns out to be the most cruel torture of all.

As Bobby gets closer to his goal, he discovers the insidious nature of Hell and its influence on him. If he does manage to escape, with or without Caz, can he be Doloriel again? Or has he gone too far into the darkness?

Williams has written a terrific follow up to The Dirty Streets of Heaven in this volume, sending Bobby on a quest that will cost him nearly everything. What he sees and does cannot help but shape him in new and terrible ways, even as love drives him forward. Can love redeem the evil we do in its name? Is love worth having if the cost is too high? And at what point (and why) do we turn away from the suffering of others?

Bobby grows quite a bit in this story, learning many things about himself that he could never have suspected--some through torture at the hands of his many enemies and some simply by walking through Hell. He has cause to consider a missionary movement led by his new friend Riprash, he defends a homeless boy named Gob and he tests the limits of demon biology with several reckless stunts compelled by necessity. As the narrator, he's 'on screen' every moment, but his narration is conversational and relaxed, even when he's recounting truly harrowing memories.

The ending opens the door to a third volume, as there are debts to pay and a certain amount of vengeance to collect. Looking forward to it.

Recommended.

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