BOOK REVIEW: The Dirty Streets Of Heaven
Posted by Dion on August 9, 2012
Bobby Dollar is dead but that is the least of his problems. He is also an angel who has managed to get caught up in the middle of a conspiracy involving missing souls, a stolen artifact of immense importance and a secret which could shatter the uneasy truce between Heaven and Hell.
His angelic bosses are keeping secrets from him, the other side want him dead (permanently and messily) and someone has set a seemingly unkillable monster on his tale. Then, just to make things really complicated, he starts finding himself drawn to a dangerous but highly alluring female demon.
The Dirty Streets of Heaven is the new book from Tad Williams and is a change of pace for a writer best known for sprawling sagas in the genres of fantasy and science fiction. It simple terms it is a noir thriller with angels and demons in place of cops and mobsters. This works surprisingly well and the rules for the interaction between heaven and hell are carefully thought through. Bobby Dollar is actually the Angel Doloriel in human form and his ‘day job’ is as an advocate, arguing for the souls of the recently deceased to get a place in Heaven. Of course the other side have their prosecutors and naturally tensions run high in the struggle to claim human souls.
The book uses the traditional noir first-person narrative which is a helpful device for delivering exposition without slowing the plot down too much. Our hero is able to deliver handy titbits as the story progresses with the occasional “none of your business” thrown in for good measure. Tad Williams is an author who can occasionally get bogged down in excessive world-building but here he has a refreshing lightness of touch, enabling the reader to plough through the enjoyably pulpy adventure with relative ease.
Of course any book dealing with angels, demons and the immortal human soul can hardly avoid raising some weighty questions. Williams manages to walk the line between creating a version of the ever-after which is recognisable from Christian teaching without any heavy-handed religious message. Even as a servant of Heaven, Bobby still has a lot of questions and does not blindly accept that his angelic bosses are always in the right. Heaven might be a place of eternal bliss but the human souls who reside there have also lost a large part of their identities after death, with no memory of their former lives. The alternative is considerably worse.
The mystery element is the weakest link of the story. It starts intriguingly enough with a missing human soul and the gruesome murder of a demon ‘prosecutor’. However it loses momentum in the middle section and the denouement is a bit underwhelming, with several loose threads left hanging (presumably to be dealt with in the planned sequels). This is by no means a fatal flaw in what is essentially a highly enjoyable read. Hopefully, with all the set-up out of the way, any subsequent books in the series will benefit from slightly tighter plotting.
Overall a very promising start to an exciting new series from one of our greatest modern F/SF authors.
Reviewer: Clover Winton-Polak
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