Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams

(8.5/10) Love can be Hell!

Book of the Year 2013 (see all)

Bridge off stone, upon the flame,
Path of ash for those unclaimed,
The door ajar for those not shun,
Angels love not undone.

Lords abound in Perditions realm,
Run little Angel, run to Hell,
Her love for you, cold and fleet,
You heart may break once you meet.
Angel broken, Noble defeat,

Loves grasps not within reach,
Friends unseen and friends returned,
Woe to love, hearts defeat.

Controversially, I skimmed the chapters that formed the lead up to Bobby’s journey through Hell. Suffice to say (in my opinion) they were fairly mundane and a bit of a basic preamble to his voyage. However, two pieces of important information can be gained for these initial chapters. First, his supervisor helps get him into Hell, for a price of course. The second a deranged grotesque assassin, formally a serial killer whom Bobby saw destroyed twenty years previously, returns to try and kill him. Great, super, all loose ends tidied for his long journey. Hell GO!

Book one ended with the Countess returning to Hell and this is where book two really kicks in, with Bobby in Hell to rescue his love. There is a very human theme here, the urge and desire to keep safe the ones we love, but is this the Angel or the human side of Bobby coming though? Who would win the internal battle between Celestial host and human soul? One thing stands out for me in this scenario, how can an Angel love? If love is an extension of free will and Angels serve the will of God, doesn’t that mean they have no free will so can’t love? Maybe that’s a little too much heavy thinking…

That aside, in book two we begin to delve more into heavenly and demonly (yes I know that is not a word) affairs.  We are reminded that Bobby is a small fish in a big pond, mostly by himself. However, for such a small fish those in power are very interested. I am unsure if there is a hidden path for Bobby or if it's just the depths of his abilities and determination flow from his forgotten history. I am currently favouring two options at the moment. One: Bobby is an Arch-Angel, disillusioned with Heaven and trying to regain some faith by doing some leg work on earth. Two: Bobby is actually a Fallen Angel who has been granted access to Heaven again. More than likely it’s neither, but it’s fun to guess.

Finally Bobby makes it to Hell through a long forgotten conduit and as he walks this path from Hell’s outer regions to find the Countess we get to see people and souls trying to survive in a world on the brink. The portrayal of the damned actually begins to make you empathise with their plight; condemned as they are for all eternality with no chance of redemption.

There is symbolism here, where all you know, see and feel is pain, everything around you is death and a struggle to exist. Wouldn’t the best of us can succumb to our darker natures?  It is this sentiment that even Demon Bobby surrenders to during his low moments and it is very human.

The imagery of the different levels of Hell as Bobby traverse through them is sublime, not just descriptive but immersive. You can really see the path and world around you as you walk with Bobby. Williams has given us a place of texture and realism that resembles Dante’s. A nice touch is the additional commentary surrounding Hell's geography and its reason for being, provided to Bobby at certain junctions by his Hell sponsor, which helps him survive Hell’s infernal extremes. This helped anchor the reader to both the place and Bobby.

Inevitably, Bobby’s own needs and desires play him for a fool but a new resolve is born from this broken man.  Battered, bruised and barely coming out alive Bobby steals himself towards a new purpose.

I like how Williams ended this story and found that the race was better than the price. It would have been too easy any other way. This leads the reader nicely to the next installment with just the right level on uncertainty for the character.

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