November 5, 2012

The Dirty Streets of Heaven

The streets of heaven, in Tad Williams' new urban fantasy are actually nice and clean. It's the metaphorical streets that are paved with "paperwork and bullshit" that make them dirty.

Bobby Dollar is an advocate.  An Earth-bound angel who gets a call when there is a death in his area and shows up to defend the soul in question and do his best to get it into Heaven.  At the same time he is met with a demon prosecutor who does the same for the Opposition.  It's an old system that has worked well for centuries until suddenly some souls start disappearing on them.  Not going to Heaven or Hell, just...blinking out to some other place.  Both sides are understandably upset and paranoid and Bobby Dollar finds himself in the middle of things and trying to clear his name, not knowing who he can trust on either side of this.

It's a fun, light read.  It's got all the trappings of a hard-boiled detective novel, except the bullets are silver, the bad guys are Really Bad and the good guys glow a lot and are inscrutable.  Bobby is a great and earthy Earth-Bound angel who makes for a great point of view character.  He is, of course, as flawed as any Humphrey Bogart character, and sometimes even more flawed.  Heaven doesn't come off that well (it's pretty boring) and we never actually see Hell (but it sounds about like you'd think it would).

There are some great lines and fun side characters.  One of Bobby's sources of info, for example, is a were-pig.  No, really.  It's not quite as funny as an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it's in the same general ballpark.

The religious stuff is very non-denominational.  There's a Heaven and a Hell, angels and demons and all, but it's not strictly Catholic or anything and even an atheist looks to be reviewed favorably for leading a good life.

The femme fatal  is an Uber version of the trope.  There are some slight loose ends, leaving the door open for the inevitable sequels, but the main "case" is wrapped up in a satisfying manner without feeling you must get the next one.  I guess on a scale of 1 to 5 I'd give it a 3.5.

Read for the November Sword & Laser pick.