Happy Hour in Hell

Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams, Bobby Dollar #2

Bobby Dollar has a problem or four of epic proportions. Problem one: his best friend Sam has given him an angel's feather that also happens to be evidence of an unholy pact between Bobby's employers and those who dwell in the infernal depths. Problem two: Eligor, Grand Duke of Hell, wants to get his claws on the feather at all costs, but particularly at all cost to Bobby . Problem three: Bobby has fallen in love with Casimira, Countess of Cold Hands, who just happens to be Eligor's girlfriend. Problem four: Eligor, aware of Problem three, has whisked Casimira off to the Bottomless Pit itself, telling Bobby he will never see her again unless he hands over the feather.

But Bobby, long-time veteran of the endless war between above and below, is not the type of guy who finds Hell intimidating. All he has to do is toss on a demon's body, sneak through the infernal gates, solve the mystery of the angel's feather, and rescue the girl. Saving the day should just be a matter of an eon or two of anguish, mutilation and horror.

If only it were that easy.

Last year saw the release of Tad Williams' first book in the Bobby Dollar series, The Dirty Streets of Heaven, which was his first venture into the urban fantasy genre. Having been a long time fan of Tad Williams' works I was eager to pick it up and after finishing, I wanted more, well needed more Tad Williams just has his own amazing style when it comes to writing, his descriptions of the world and character and everything surrounding them just work full color. The second book in the Bobby Dollar series: Happy Hour in Hell was my most anticipated read for this year and Hell Yes! it proved to be worth the wait! The Dirty Streets of Heaven showed that Tad Williams was on top of his game, Happy Hour in Hell proves this even more the Bobby Dollar series is utterly brilliant.

In The Dirty Streets of Heaven, Tad Williams introduced his own visions of Heaven and Hell. Creating a bureaucratic type of setting, where Heaven and Hell send judges to argue about whether the deceased person should go to Heaven of Hell. This vision and the whole world surrounding it was shown in an excellent and more than lively manner, showing the fundamentals of the world gave a solid grip on everything. In the midst of this all we found the Angel Doloriel or better known as Bobby Dollar, who is a Advocate for Heaven. If you talk about characters that stand out, there are two words: Bobby Dollar. His character is just brilliant. His nonchalance attitude towards most of his task and life in general is just funny to read but he is also a character that when push comes to shove, he will rise to the occasion and help out. The Dirty Streets of Heaven introduced a few interesting aspects in the storyline, which I was eager to see explored in the sequel. Happy Hour in Hell.

Happy Hour in Hell continues directly where The Dirty Streets of Heaven left off. The start of Happy Hour in Hell is a bit similar to the first one where there are scenes in the near future, followed by a quick flashback where Bobby is used to explain how these events came to pass. This type of writing in the book always gets me fired up when used in a good way (which Tad Williams does), giving a sneak peak of in what sort of troubled Bobby is, piqued my curiosity and created a fast paced beginning of the book.

Happy Hour is Hell takes place mostly in Hell, which gave a nice broadening of the already existing and interesting world of the Bobby Dollar series. The introduction of Hell and rescuing Caz isn't done in two pages, instead Tad Williams invests a lot of time and effort into setting this element in his story just right. In Hell you visit quite a few places: from Abaddon to Pandemonium, River of Styx, The Neronian Bridge and much more. The introduction to many elements in Hell had a Roman inspiration to it which gave the whole setting just that extra nudge to make this part more livelier. Tad Williams writes this part so that Bobby’s give the reader a well guided tour through Hell, which isn’t without fear for his own life!

The “flashback” to the events that lead up to Bobby’s entry into Hell makes up roughly the first quarter of the book and are just as great as the actual part taking place in Hell. Because it is not only that Caz is taken back to Hell, Bobby also has some other problems on his hands. His friend Sam's Third Way initiative and the golden feather. I was eager to see this being explored in the second book, and it’s done in a subtle way. Tad Williams releases step-by-step crucial information about this plot line that leaves you on the edge of your site dying to find out how it will all work out. And if that wasn’t enough, Bobby is haunted by a psychopathic killer from his past who was supposedly bagged...  The part that took place outside of Hell was neatly constructed, that when looking back on these events in the end of the book, they do make certain things fall into place. By cleverly laying the emphasis slightly more on Bobby rescuing Caz than on the Third Way, but later on making several crucial revealings about this part of the plot was neatly done, and really gave me that "ow wait, snap!" feeling.

As for the characters in Happy Hour in Hell, to most we were already introduced like Bobby himself, Sam (Angel Sammariel), Caz and Temuel (The Mule). Bobby is still the main focus of the storyline and like I mentioned above his character is just amazing and he does continue his whole attitude in toward the world in a similar way. It did feel like outside of Hell he was more his usual self than the time that he spend inside it, possibly since he was more or less thrown into a lot of added problems on top of the ones that he had, first inhabiting a demon body, secondly navigating through Hell with fear for his own life, against the Grand Duke of Hell he does make his occasional puns and jokes. But overall this changing in his attitude is one thing that does make his character even greater, showing that even for Bobby not everything is all fun and jokes. Caz takes up a role more in the background overall doesn't feature that much in the book in terms of dialogues. Now for the more interesting additions to the story there was a good amount of input from Sam and Temuel, Sam is now working for the Third Way and Temuel had an extra job for Bobby to fulfil in Hell (a bit like, while you’re at it could you...) by them and one important character that Bobby gets to meet in Hell, the storyline develops even further. Tad Williams knows how to design and write about his characters in a perfect manner showing a great balance. Bobby Dollar is amazing and though he does quite steal the show, he doesn't take the spotlight completely away from the secondary characters of the series. It all balances out in the end.

Happy Hour in Hell is a great addition to the series taking the story of Bobby Dollar a giant leap further. I was happy with the introduction of Hell in full colours, from the inhabitants to the lava pits and rivers, all calculated and amazing to read about. With the guided tour that Bobby, everything really paid off. The characters be it the protagonist Bobby himself or the secondary cast are all just as rich as the story itself. The ending of Happy Hour in Hell sees some great lively action scenes, where I was rooting for Bobby to make it across the bridge, Tad Williams shows again here that even though Bobby is an Angel he is not the omnipotent kind, he is not perfect. But he made it out of Hell without that lousy T-shirt! Next to this there are some great revealings in the end that show a possible direction for the last book in the series. With all that I have read so far in this series and from his earlier works I know that we as readers are in for an more than Grand adn explosive finale in Sleeping Late on Judgement Day. Happy Hour in Hell is brilliant and the Bobby Dollar should be on everyone’s reading shelves. Because Yes, it really is that freaking awesome.



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