The Dirty Streets of Heaven – Tad Williams

About the book

Bobby Dollar is an angel—a real one. He knows a lot about sin, and not just in his professional capacity as an advocate for souls caught between Heaven and Hell. Bobby’s wrestling with a few deadly sins of his own—pride, anger, even lust.

But his problems aren’t all his fault. Bobby can’t entirely trust his heavenly superiors, and he’s not too sure about any of his fellow earthbound angels either, especially the new kid that Heaven has dropped into their midst, a trainee angel who asks too many questions. And he sure as hell doesn’t trust the achingly gorgeous Countess of Cold Hands, a mysterious she-demon who seems to be the only one willing to tell him the truth.

When the souls of the recently departed start disappearing, catching both Heaven and Hell by surprise, things get bad very quickly for Bobby D.End-of-the-world bad. Beast of Revelations bad. Caught between the angry forces of Hell, the dangerous strategies of his own side, and a monstrous undead avenger that wants to rip his head off and suck out his soul, Bobby’s going to need all the friends he can get—in Heaven, on Earth, or anywhere else he can find them.

You’ve never met an angel like Bobby Dollar. And you’ve never read anything like The Dirty Streets of Heaven.

Brace yourself—the afterlife is weirder than you ever believed.

400 pages (hardcover)
Published on September 4, 2012
Published by DAW
Author’s webpage

This book was provided for me to review by the author (his wife, actually).

Click on the following link to purchase this book: The Dirty Streets of Heaven: Volume One of Bobby Dollar


Tad Williams and I go way back. Not literally, of course. If I walked up to him on the street, he wouldn’t know who the hell I was. No, we go back far because Tad was one of the first epic fantasy authors I read and actually fully enjoyed. I have been an avid Tad Williams fan for years and years, both because I’m old (I’m almost 30. I feel fossilized, but I think cancer can do that to someone.), and because he really deserves my regard due to the high quality of his work, and his obvious talent. That being said, I was chomping at the bit to read The Dirty Streets of Heaven, a very adult urban fantasy is completely out of Tad’s epic fantasy zone. I was very excited to see how he’d handle the change.

I’m not really big on religious themes in my fantasy. Usually books that talk a lot about angels, God, heaven and things of that nature are a big no-no as they make my inner non-theist cringe. However, I’ve recently run into a number of urban fantasy books that have proven to me that religiously themed fantasy isn’t always a subtle sermon and even though the discussion of God, Heaven, sin and angels are quite common in The Dirty Streets of Heaven, the title alone should tell you that the religious qualities of the book aren’t really typical . Bobby Dollar is not your normal angel; instead he’s surprisingly human. He drinks beer, swears, has sex and occasionally ventures into Heaven to talk to his bosses. His job is to fight for the souls of the dearly departed so they can make their way to heaven rather than hell. It’s in the midst of one of these cases that Bobby Dollar unwittingly finds himself in the middle of a situation that is much bigger, and more complex than he had expected.

The tone in The Dirty Streets of Heaven really is different than most of Williams’ other books, which seemed to appeal to numerous age groups. The Dirty Streets of Heaven is very much adult, peppered with adult language and adult scenes. This (in my opinion) is a wonderful thing, but potential readers should be aware that they aren’t getting Memory Sorrow and Thorn Tad, but an adult, sarcastic creation which might surprise some people.

The Dirty Streets of Heaven is, essentially, a mystery novel couched in an urban fantasy setting. Time-tested readers of mystery novels might find aspects of the plot to be a bit predictable, but it’s impossible to predict the whole thing. Readers like myself (who don’t read mysteries or noir that much) will probably find the whole book to be a fun, rather unpredictable romp. However, both types of readers will appreciate the ending that nicely ties up all plot points and leaves nothing open or hanging. While there are more novels planned in the Bobby Dollar series, each can be read as a stand-alone, which is incredibly refreshing.

Williams’ does an amazing job at making the San Francisco area come alive. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment is how Williams’ not only manages to make San Francisco come alive, but he believably overlays it with fantasy elements and makes it mix together so naturally. The fantasy isn’t forced, nor does it feel out of place. Setting is, in my opinion, where The Dirty Streets of Heaven really shines. The plot is plenty dark, but Williams balances out the darkness with plenty of humorous asides, some frankly hilarious descriptions, and enough wonder to balance out the darkness and make the mounting tension more manageable. Williams takes a book that could easily be overly tense or bleak, and makes it fun and fast paced. This is something to applaud, because when it’s said and done The Dirty Streets of Heaven is one hell of an entertaining novel, and that’s what will stick with you.

Being so different from the other books I’ve read by Williams, I will admit I was a bit worried that the dialogue and plot would feel a little forced or unnatural. I didn’t need to worry. Yes, The Dirty Streets of Heaven is continents away from most of Williams’ other books, but the plot is tight and the world is vivid and enthralling. Williams’ keeps the witty dialogue flowing. Bobby Dollar is one of the most fun, unique protagonists I’ve had the joy of running across. Williams hits the ball out of the park with The Dirty Streets of Heaven.

Really, when this review is written all I’m left with is one important question only Tad can answer:

Please, sir, can I have some more?


5/5 stars

5 Responses

  • 5 Stars. Sounds like this totally was in your wheelhouse.

    I’ve been reading Tad since Otherland myself…

    • BookwormBlues

      Yes. It was unexpected and brilliant.

  • Holy crap…

    I’ll be reading this next week for sure. No excuses.

  • This one sounds like one I’d enjoy. I don’t usually mind religious elements in my reading materials, so long as they aren’t beating me about the head and trying to convert me and/or making major morality statements. I’ll have to see if I can get a copy of this book at some point so I can give it a read, too. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Sam

    What about all those tense changes?

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