REVIEW SUMMARY: This third novel in Tad Williams’ version of Heaven and Hell again features Angel Advocate Bobby Dollar breaking the rules of Heaven. It expands the worldview more about how Heaven and Hell work here, and brings a bit of closure…but leaves things open for more stories in this world.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Doing a summary for the third book in a series without revelation to those who haven’t started said series is difficult. Suffice it to say that Bobby Dollar (also known as Advocate Angel Doloriel) has gotten crossways with certain factions of Heaven, to go along with his ongoing battle with the denizens of Hell…all in the name of truth, justice and saving his beautiful demon girlfriend Caz.
PROS: The character of Dollar (sarcasm personified); the evolution of Clarence, the naive angel; good world building in a well-worn world.
CONS: It doesn’t end, though it does tie up a major story line. (I vacillated between putting this as a PRO or a CON.)
BOTTOM LINE: Each of the three novels in this series has offered something different in this worldview of Earth, Heaven and Hell and the creatures that populate those places. Sleeping Late on Judgement Day reveals a few more of the rules, breaks some others, and continues to enjoyably let Bobby Dollar (Angel Doloriel) dig deeper to unravel some of the mysteries…some, but in typical Tad Williams fashion, not all.
In this the third (but doubtfully final) novel in the Bobby Dollar series, Williams has propped up many questions to be answered:
- Who in Heaven has it in for Dollar and why?
- Who is Bobby? Or rather who was he when he was alive? And does who he was in real life have anything to do with Why these things keep happening to him?
- Who is Clarence really and who is he spying for?
- Why don’t the all knowing powers of Heaven smite him down for his recent trip to Hell.
It is difficult to do world building in a known world. The tropes of Heaven and Hell are well known and have been written to death (poor pun intended). But Williams does create a unique vision where Heaven is not all knowing, is certainly not perfect and is prone to insurgencies just like any other Kingdom.
He’s built this world around a rouge angel who is now an advocate for the dead but used to be in the Navy Seal part of the angel corps. Dollar curses, drinks, is sometimes irreverent and always sarcastic.
“That’s not an excuse, or rather it is an excuse. Yes, I drink more than I should, and if I didn’t have a very fit angel’s body which could heal a deep wound in twenty-four hours or less, I’m sure my liver would be in a jar somewhere in a medical museum, next to Rasputin’s famous kielbasa and Einstein’s deli-sliced brain.” (pg 197)
The rules of this world and the character of Dollar are what makes this series interesting. The closest character that I’ve seen to Dollar is Constantine – though there are some marked differences. Both are irreverent but Dollar shows a certain respect and fear for what those in charge in Heaven would do to him if he’s caught breaking the rules. Their motivations are different as well, as Dollar gets in trouble just trying to save his demon girlfriend, and trying to have more hot demon sex (can I say that out loud here on SFSignal?)
Henceforth details of the first two books will be included, thus noted for spoiler avoidance.
Dollar has survived Hell only to have lord of Hell Eligor trick him and keep both his girlfriend and the angel feather. The angel feather was part of a pact with some unknown angel and Eligor to create a “Third Way”, a place outside of Heaven and Hell for souls. And Dollar’s best friend Sam, who has made himself scarce as of late due to his own involvement in the “Third Way”, could have the answers that Bobby seeks.
After a drunken stupor, Dollar realizes that Eligor must have exchanged something to the angel for the feather and that whoever the angel is that is Eligor’s partner in crime has been sending nasty things Bobby’s way to try and kill him. Dollar tries to figure out both mysteries: who is the powerful angel doing these things behind Heaven’s back and where is the item Eligor traded for the feather? And can Dollar use it to get his girlfriend back?
In a social media exchange with the author, I remarked on one part of the banter between Dollar and Clarence, the newest angel advocate. Williams replied “Basically, one could view the whole trilogy as a treatise demonstrating Clarence finally getting as good (or better) at slanging Bobby as Bobby has been about slanging Clarence.” For the longest time, I suspected that Clarence was actually God (“the Highest”) or one of the top angels in disguise, come down to determine what all the fuss surrounding Bobby was about (the trip to Hell? the demon girlfriend? Surely this dude warrants some scrutiny or was someone special when he was alive). And even with the end of this third novel, I’m still not letting go of that theory (even though the voices in my head chant “let it go…just let it go…”…and not to the theme of Frozen, thank you very much).
The evolution of the naiveté of Clarence, who goes from teased and tormented noob advocate Angel to one of Dollar’s counted-on confidants.
Williams populates the world with many interesting characters: the researcher, who lives with old nuns in an old nunnery and seems to know more about the workings of Heaven and Hell than even the angels; the werepig, Bobby’s researcher and investigator….the lesbian “Amazons” (who are actually Scythians) who join Bobby in one of his fights. The world as Williams builds it is ripe for characters like this, and the author weaves them seamlessly into Bobby’s personal quests to reunite with Caz and save his own skin (or the angel equivalent).
Going in, I was hoping this would “end” the story and not just be one of a series. There is already a novella out in the same world (God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlepig) which is in my TBR pile. Though I’m a long-time Doc Savage pulp fiction fan, I do not generally enjoy long running series of novels with a main character who gets into life-threatening situations but never dies; it pushes the boundaries of disbelief and the tolerance for repetition after a while. With the world he’s built here, Williams could go on forever, as death is not the end. I’ll be interested to see where he takes it…but please, Tad, finish The Last King of Osten Ard series first!