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  1. #1
    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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    The Bobby Dollar series by Tad Williams

    Bobby Dollar #1: The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams

    Bobby Dollar is an angel who serves as an advocate for the recently deceased. Whenever someone dies, their soul is fought over by Heaven and Hell, with advocates from both sides competing for it. Dollar's latest case is complicated when the soul in question vanishes, and even the infernal legions of Hell seem at a loss as to what's going on. As Dollar investigates, he uncovers ancient conspiracies, political infighting even amongst the ranks of the angels of Heaven and that he himself has been targeted by every supernatural gang in California. He just doesn't know why.

    The Dirty Streets of Heaven is the opening novel in the Bobby Dollar series by Tad Williams. Williams is best known for his shelf-destroying epic fantasies and the extremely slow pace of his novels. His recent Shadowmarch series suffered from a glacially ponderous structure that sometimes threatened to spill over into outright boredom. However, Williams's move into urban fantasy has been like a shot of pure storytelling adrenalin. The Dirty Streets of Heaven moves like a whippet with its tail on fire.

    The book outlines its ground rules early on: Heaven and Hell are real, but their forces have been in a state of uneasy peace (or a Cold War) for millions of years. Complex rules govern their interactions. The relationship between the two sides shifts by location; Muslims, Jews and those of other faiths experience different results to those of nominally Christian denominations. Also, being an atheist is no help either. Spirits in Heaven have their memories wiped of their mortal lives, allowing them to start over, whilst those in Hell are damned by their previous actions and forced to recall them vividly. Given the low-key nature of a lot of urban fantasies, it's interesting to see Williams outlining an epic backdrop right from the very start.

    Bobby Dollar is our only POV character (the novel is told from the first-person) and is a complex individual, nominally on the side of Light but a bit too fond of mortal vices like sex and drink. His superiors despair of his methods, but he gets results and remains loyal to the Highest (who hasn't been seen or head in eons), so is tolerated. Dollar has a bunch of allies and helpers, such as fellow angel Sam (who he was in the angel special forces with) and a superb information-broker who has unfortunately been cursed into a reversed werepig, only lucid and capable of intelligence speech between the hours of midnight and dawn when he is in the shape of a pig.

    Freed from the language and technological constraints of medieval fantasy, Williams goes to town in this novel. The author is clearly having a lot of fun as he hits the reader with a lot of inventive ideas, fast-paced action scenes and decent moments of character introspection. The relatively short length (400 pages makes the book a novella by Williams's normal standards) means that the pace has to be fast and furious, packed with plot twists and revelations

    The only complaint that the solution to the mystery in the book relies a little too much on the metaphysics of the setting, which have not been fully explained, so it's hard for the reader to solve the puzzle themselves (half the fun of a good mystery).

    Beyond that, The Dirty Streets of Heaven (****) is Williams on top form, delivering a page-turning, highly inventive, fun read and his best book in a decade. The novel will be available on 4 September in the USA and on 13 September in the UK.

  2. #2
    Registered User gainespost's Avatar
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    I've only read a few of Tad Williams's books; "Tailchaser's Song" and the "Dragbone Chair" series and one other, whose name escapes me. But I really like his prose; he's a good writer. 'Looking forward to reading more by him; I know he has some other series out there that have gotten high praise. 'Glad to hear he's still putting new books out.

  3. #3
    Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, his first epic fantasy series, is by far my favorite of his works. i have to agree with Werthead about Shadowmarch which i tried several times to read and failed each and every time. War of the Flowers is a fantastic stand-alone that is pseudo urban fantasy. Otherland, his third large series, falls somewhere in between. Great concept and some amazing characters, though it can drag and points for certain, especially if you find certain characters more compelling than others.

    I hadn't realized this novel was coming out, thanks for the heads-up werthead, it'll definitely go on my wish list.

  4. #4
    Registered User MattNY's Avatar
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    This book sounds quite interesting and I am always eager to start new series so I can feel like I am up to speed for a change (I am usually reading books several years, or decades, old).

    I am always a bit leery when reading a book with religious overtones as the main backdrop for the story's setting. With this being only 400 pages though, it is probably worth the gamble to give it a shot.

  5. #5
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    I am always a bit leery when reading a book with religious overtones as the main backdrop for the story's setting. With this being only 400 pages though, it is probably worth the gamble to give it a shot.
    I think it's worth giving this one a shot, Matt. There's some interesting ideas about the religion aspect of such things, as well as an element of 'it just is'.

    Totally take your point. I wouldn't count myself as particularly religious/atheist, but I think Tad handles it well and in an intelligent way.

    My SFFWorld review will be up next week, I suspect.

    Quote Originally Posted by From review
    I had my concerns about this one: I needn’t. Impressive stuff from a brilliant author, and easily one of the best urban fantasies I’ve read in a long, long while. As much as I like The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher’s definitely got his work cut out for him to keep up with this one. Dresden, watch out: there’s a new guy in town.
    Mark
    Mark

  6. #6
    Registered User MattNY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbit View Post
    I think it's worth giving this one a shot, Matt. There's some interesting ideas about the religion aspect of such things, as well as an element of 'it just is'.

    Totally take your point. I wouldn't count myself as particularly religious/atheist, but I think Tad handles it well and in an intelligent way.

    My SFFWorld review will be up next week, I suspect.

    Mark
    Good to hear Mark. I certainly won't mind it if it is handled that way. Between your comments here (including a sneak peak at your review!) and Wert's review above, I feel confident it will be handled to my liking and it sounds like it is shaping up to be an exciting new series.

    The only thing I will feel bad about is that this series will be my first exposure to Williams. I haven't even checked out Memory, Sorrow & Thorn, despite knowing it will be a series I will be quite taken with. I do plan to rectify that in the next few years, but I shall likely pick this up when it releases.

  7. #7
    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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    Williams is an interesting author. I often think of him as the American Neil Gaiman, if Gaiman had gotten distracted away from writing his normal stuff by the lure of the Big Fat Fantasy. Williams has got that similar versatility and ability to work with many different kinds of mythology and legend (maybe even moreso, with his ability to do SF in Otherland and his short fiction), but, unlike Gaiman, tends to get bogged down a lot more easily in long-running series.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Werthead View Post
    Williams is an interesting author. I often think of him as the American Neil Gaiman, if Gaiman had gotten distracted away from writing his normal stuff by the lure of the Big Fat Fantasy.
    I actually don't see this as a negative, assuming I am into the Big Fat Fantasy he's writing. I love love loved Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, so I was happy as a hog while he was bogged down in it. On the flipside, couldn't stand Shadowmarch, so it almost felt like I'd lost him as an author, since I knew it'd be years and years before he was free to write anything I enjoyed again.

  9. #9
    Mystic and Misfit Gkarlives's Avatar
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    I actually liked the Shadowmarch series although the ending let me down a bit until he recovered a bit with the cleaning up of the loose ends. I liked the duel level of the God's wars and the mortal/immortal wars. Barrick's time behind the shadow line was incredibly immersive. I will say that the Shadowmarch series was very derivative of all his other books. At times I sensed War of the Flowers; Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn; and Otherland. Unfortunately, I bailed early on the Otherland series and have constantly thought of trying again.

  10. #10
    I loved TW's Otherland series and I found this book to be a fun read. However on a mystery level it does read like a regular one, nothing original over here in regards to the plot twists, the side character cast or the noir-ish setting.

    The world building is the most interesting part as the author leaves a lot vague about Heaven and who rules it. I'll be reviewing it soon on FBC as well. I liked the way it ended and makes me curious to know what the author has planned next in the remaining books of the trilogy.

    Mihir

  11. #11
    Registered User MattNY's Avatar
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    Eagerly awaiting the release on Tuesday, especially after reading Mark's full review as well as Wert's. I think I may crack into this as soon as I finish The Dragon Reborn (WoT #3).

    Anyone else picking it up on release day?

  12. #12
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Thanks Matt. I hope people enjoy it as much as I did!

    Because I am useless at such matters, i should perhaps point out that my review is HERE.

    There's also an extract from the novel at Pat's website HERE that gives you an idea of the fast paced style that's throughout the book. It is very different to the 'usual' Tad, but might give people an idea of what this is like!

    Mark
    Mark

  13. #13
    A Fantasy Freak
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    This one sounds really good to me...just pre-ordered it.

  14. #14
    Unreasonable reasoner
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    Quote Originally Posted by Werthead View Post
    Williams is an interesting author. I often think of him as the American Neil Gaiman, if Gaiman had gotten distracted away from writing his normal stuff by the lure of the Big Fat Fantasy.
    I remember thinking the "War of the Flowers" pros were highly reminiscent of Gaiman's in "Neverwhere."

  15. #15
    Omnibus Prime Moderator PeterWilliam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MattNY View Post
    Anyone else picking it up on release day?
    Very much, yes.

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