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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 3 October 2013
This reads like a linking book in a trilogy - the middle book where everything goes wrong before the penultimate showdown and the main character ends with his face ground into the dirt. Except it's not nearly as entertaining as The Empire Strikes Back.

Instead of being swept up in events, this time Bobby goes on his own quest and spends an inordinate amount of time being tortured. It became so tiresome that I started skimming large sections of the book just to see what happened at the end. The torture scenes read like gratuitous events thrown in for a bit of grotesque colour, and while it is a relief that Bobby seems to emerge from them with his jaunty outlook and sense of humour intact, it does make you wonder what the point of them was.

The overall background universe of the series was developed with just enough detail to keep you wanting more. A couple of the twists were fairly predictable, but I felt this book was just trying to set the scene for a massive denouement later in the series. In fact, I hope the entire set up of Heaven and Hell in this universe is shattered beyond recognition.

I will probably buy the next book in this series, because I am a devoted Tad Williams fan, but after reading this I had to go out and immediately buy a trashy romance with a happy ending just to improve my mood.

Writing style: *****
Characterisation: *****
Pace: *
Plot development: *
Ending: *
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on 17 November 2015
Definitely with the feel of a middle book, this was a dark and quite horrific tale. It definitely opened my eyes to how terrible hell really could be and made me think more. I look forwards to the conclusion of the series.
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on 9 September 2013
Happy Hour in Hell (Bobby Dollar book 2)
Bobby Dollar returns and the afterlife just ain't getting any easier for our hero!
I've been a fan of Tad Williams' work since I first picked up The Dragonbone Chair way back in the early 90's but was sceptical when I heard what the subject matter of his new series was. Needless to say the blend of urban fantasy, noirish plotting and sense of humour soon won me over and I devoured The Dirty Streets of Heaven in around 2 days.
Somehow I was lucky to receive any early copy of the second book and sat down to immerse myself in the continuing adventures of the angel Doloriel.
Firstly let me say that Happy Hour in Hell is a relevant term as there is very little happiness for our leading character, starting with an elevator trip straight out of Angel Heart as he's delivered to his starting point on the neronian bridge.
Experiencing Hell from its lower depths to its despicable capital Bobby D has very little to smile about and proves that Dante gave us the PG13 version of what's to come if we don't all behave ourselves.
Picking up where TDSoH left us Bobby is determined to get back his demonic girlfriend from her ex (who just happens to be a Grand Duke of Hell) and forms some unexpected alliances to get to Hell where his troubles really begin.
Tad paints a pretty vivid picture of the underworld and its occupants, presenting us with the idea that Hell is a society that makes you work for everything that you need to survive (and by work I mean the daily 9-5 doesn't end just because you died it just gets worse!) and that unlike Heaven it seems to be solidly based on a familiar capitalist framework. You need money to eat, you need shelter and you need water (of a type) to drink. There are cars, boats and machines but don't expect any environmentally friendly Hybrids or a clean air act.
Making friends and powerful enemies on his journey Bobby (in a snazzy new demon body) makes his way through several of Hells entries in this years Lonley Planet guide.
The pacing of the book is excellent and even when there doesn't seem to be a lot happening you get drawn along by Bobby's constantly running interior monologue. Less Chandleresque than the first book HHiH still retains its noir style and Tad displays a dry sense of humour that I really enjoyed. Bobby is an Angelic hero by accident not choice and his witty come backs at times when he is on the receiving end of some pretty brutal torture reminds me of Robert Mitchum in those old B&W films I used to watch on Sunday afternoons.
I have a couple of gripes but nothing major that will prevent me from counting down the days till the third instalment. After reading MS&T, Otherland etc I found the 400+ pages a little short but then worry that if it had been longer Tad would have spent that time filling pages with even more nightmarish images of Hellbound torture and suffering so maybe it's a good thing. The sex, I've never read anything similar in Tad's other books and it just doesn't seem to sit right. I'm no prude but some of it just didn't seem necessary (saying that Bobby's encounter with the Lady Zinc will give most guys nightmares!).
All in all a good follow up to TDSoH, second books can be notoriously difficult to pull off, but I think that Tad has done well here, the politics of Heaven & Hell make for an interesting storyline and just who is Kephas?
One final point, Bobby, Bobby, Bobby. Scoolboy error pal, what's the saying, "the Devil is in the detail!".
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on 6 June 2014
I loved the first book and the character is still good in this. The guy can write. But bobby Dollar is alone in this book without any of his friends to bounce off. You lose the familiarity of the San Judas community and that also means a lot of the humour which arises from the incongruity of hard-drinking angel living in the States is gone. The story's is still strong but I find I'm reading this one to get to the third IFSWIM.
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on 14 October 2015
Tad Williams writing is always good but some is definitely better than others. This was not in his top bracket. Contrary to what other reviewers have said this is very clearly an integral part of a trilogy and is pointless to read on its own. It's finish definitely leaves feels like a pause in the story rather than an end to a book. Tad possibly took on too much trying to create a realistic hell that actually contained characters you could like or empathise with. With all the horror and the extensive torturing of the hero it left me with the slightly bitter taste of feeling I was participating in a voyeuristic form of sadism. Having been so negative I should say I will follow the series to the end as the hero is a likeable character and I'm curious to know where the storyline will lead.
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on 21 February 2016
Like others, I have been a fan of Williams for many years. When this new series came out I was a bit unsure whether it would work for me. I enjoyed the first book but I found this second instalment even better.

I love his storytelling abilities and descriptions of multi-layered hell was great. A lot of it is a bit of a tease. You know something bad is round the corner, but generally the vividness of his imagination keeps things moving at a great pace from one huge setback to the next.

I'm just about the start the third book. Really hoping it's as good as the second one.
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on 7 April 2014
I loved the first book in the series and could not wait for the second one to come out. I struggled with the first half of this one but not because of the writing style or the plot which were still quite entertaining but because of the clash with my own ontological views. Second half was easier to read as major principles of the book's reality have already been set and I could focus on the action which was fun. Though I preferred the way theology and action were balanced in the first book, I would still recommend it.
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on 18 October 2013
I read this book recently and am a bit disappointed.

The whole book was as expected, entertaining and a good read. I am not really satisfied by it, however.

The description of Hell and Dollar's experiences are over-the top and not convincing. His constant reminders to the reader are confusing and there is little point to them, they do take something from the story
continuity, and wear thin after the first 20 times. I mean this "let me tell you about it", " you will be grateful if I don't tell you how much it stank" ... so on.

It piles the horrible experiences on top of each other, trying to overwhelm the reader, not a bad thing but this was not done as well as I would expect.

There is a different modern story about a visit to hell - the "Surface Detail" by Iain Banks, that was I think done with more skill.

Also, I am very disappointed by the lack of the character development - Surely angels are supposed to be built from sterner stuff then humans - but even so after all the torture he experienced, there would have to be some changes. As it is, once back in his own body, it is as if nothing happened.

I did enjoy the book, quite a bit, but I was expecting a bit more. In fact, I am re-reading Surface Detail.
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on 17 March 2016
This is the second in the Bobby Dollar trilogy. It tells the story of Bobby’s journey into Hell in his search for Kaz, the Countess of Cold Hands, after she was taken from him by Eligor, a very senior demon, at the end of the last book.

On the face of it, this book looks like it’s going to be as good as The Dirty Streets of Heaven but the truth is that it takes far too long to get going to fulfil that promise. This really is the central crux of my criticism of the book as it wasn’t until around page 160 that I though that the book found its stride. Once this happened then the story really came alive but until then it was hard going and I can see a lot of people giving up in the early stages.

Once Bobby does find his way into Hell then things get interesting. Tad Williams vision of the inferno is varied and entertaining. He has managed to avoid any repetition of description with regards to the surroundings and the people he finds on his journey are entertaining and repulsive in equal measure. Tad Williams has clearly given his vision of Hell a lot of thought and it’s paid off as each of the varied levels (yep, he’s gone for different levels of Hell approach) are distinctly different with each having its own purpose and landscape. My only gripe was that, again, the pacing was a little slow with the book only really getting a true feeling of imminent danger in the last 100 pages or so. That having been said it’s difficult to keep up a constant sense of fear in a book like this without blunting the story’s edge.

when he finally meets Kaz, it is actually a bit of a let down but as this element of the story proceeds it unfolds into a convincing and tragic love story which forms the central part of the story. This is where I think Tad Williams is at his strongest. He fills this world with characters that are convincing and make you really feel for them. Eligor is brilliantly brutal in his way of torturing those that cross his path and his contempt Bobby is portrayed in an understated fashion which lends a lot more conviction to the character than would have come across if he had been all about the red cloak and pitchfork.

For all of that the character I found most interesting was the one with almost the least amount of time in the story. Temuel was a rather one dimensional archangel from the first book but in this one it is clear that there is more to him than meets the eye. He is far more empathetic in this book and is instrumental in Bobbie’s journey to Hell, although strictly on the quiet. It is clear he cares about the outcome of Bobbie’s venture and that he is willing to do what he can to ensure the odds are, if not in Bobbie’s favour (this is Hell after all) then not so far out of sync as to ensure that his mission is not a suicide one.

Whilst I found this book very entertaining I can only give it three starts as I felt it was too long and could have done with the start being restructured. That having been said I’m looking forward to the final book to see how Tad Williams wraps up the story.
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on 1 April 2014
And so Bobby does a Dante. Whereas the first book was a noir thriller ( albeit with angels and demons etc) the second is a road movie in hell alà Dante. Nasty and atmospheric . You might almost describe it as a rouge as the overbearing ambience is red. From the flames to the scales on the demons - or at least that's how I saw it when reading. Very Good. Looking forward to the next one.
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