Monday, July 30, 2012

REVIEW: The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams

The Dirty Streets of Heaven The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review

The Dirty Streets of Heaven was unoriginal and underwhelming. It was another urban fantasy about angels and demons, meaning I didn't expect the series to break new ground. Nonetheless, the countless flaws in the book underlined how much originality the urban fantasy lacked.

The World Building

+++ the twist

TDSH put a twist on the eternal war between Heaven and Hell. Violent confrontations are prohibited, instead angels and demons fight for human souls in a supernatural court of law that is held immediately after a human death, an event commonly known as Judgement. Heaven in TDSH was like a government where bureaucracy reign supreme, while Hell was like a corporation where power is the only thing that matters.

The twist was interesting but its development made the world building mundane.

+++ Heaven

The story heavily took place in a fictitious California city where Bobby live and work. The rest of the time, it took place in Heaven — the only "magical" part of the world TDSH introduced to the reader. The story developed Heaven to be this mysterious and esoteric place high on the clouds. However, I found the place listless and unimaginative, dull as a gray sky.

Simply put, the only "magical" part of the world in TDSH was hardly magical.

The Characters

+++ Bobby

TDSH was told in 1st PoV from Bobby's side, a character who was every bit a cliché of an urban fantasy male protagonist. Bobby had scruffy look, a hero complex, an underdog persona, a snarky sense of humor, and an issue with commitment in romance. He attracted danger like he attracted women, which is to say little in the beginning but way more than he can handle later on.

To be fair, Bobby was smarter than some of the other urban fantasy male protagonists I have read. But I must reiterate: Bobby was cliché as rice is white. Even his full name "Bobby Dollar" is super common.

It wasn't till late in the book when I learned Bobby had a past as an angel avenger that Bobby began to distinguish himself, if only in a small way.

+++ Monica

Monica is Bobby's fellow angel and ex-girlfriend. They were pretty much each other's booty call, but the way Bobby regarded Monica was stupendously disrespectful and sexist. He tiptoed around her because he thought she wanted to get him back. He thought she was using sex as a way to pull him back into a relationship — as if women cannot have sex simply because they enjoy sex.

Yes, Bobby was two steps short of a bastard with Monica.

For the first third of the book, Monica was Bobby's main "love interest" (to put it kindly) but she was quickly overshadowed by the Countess of Cold Hands. And then the undercurrent of the misogyny in TDSH became a rampaging river.

+++ Caz

I loved the way the story introduced the Countess of Cold Hands: a potential villainess who is a force to be reckoned with. She was my favorite character in TDSH, but of course the book had to go and drive that one great thing about it off a cliff and into the rampaging river of misogyny.

The way the story developed Caz made her the worst character in TDSH — worse than character who betrayed Bobby at the end, worse than the character (Clarence) who was so annoying and dimwitted that I wondered why he just didn't die already. Gone was the kick-ass she-demon who wielded her sexuality as a weapon, replaced was an atrocious damsel in distress who used her sexuality as a shield. Readers learn how she was stuck in an abusive relationship one after another, that even then as a human her life was hell. Only difference between then and now is that she is literally damned to Hell which obviously changed shit.

Oh no, the book didn't stop there with Caz's fuck up of a character development.

Guess what Bobby did to her after she opened up to him? He had sex with her. Repeatedly. Girl comes crying to him, instead of consoling her, instead of offering solutions, he have sex with her repeatedly to make the pain go byebye. The fact that Bobby continued to push for an intimate relationship with Caz despite her refusal, ignoring Heaven and Hell's rules, disregarding how she's on the enemy side and how she'll be in a shittier situation — as if her afterlife wasn't already shitty enough — if her relationship with him were discovered revealed the depth of Bobby's sexism.

I stood corrected. Congratulation, Bobby. You are a complete bastard. Come and get your kick in the crotch.

I was struck aghast. The scenes with Caz and Bobby were so dreadful to read that I had to skim.

The Writing

The writing was fine, but the pacing was detracted by the enormous amount of expositions. Not that the expositions weren't interesting to read, but they didn't enhance the story. It was rather indicative of First Book Syndrome, i.e. too much world building not enough plot happening. There were long scenes of action, but they were few and far. The pacing was humdrum and left me 2-3 steps from landing into Boredom Nation.

Sadly, the biggest issue was the lack of a resolution. The villain was revealed and then the villain left and that was that. The final showdown between Heaven and Hell never happened. The suspense building up to it left me vastly disappointed. Not to mention that climax was so anti-climatic that it took me a couple pages afterward to realize that the scene I have just read was the climax.

In Conclusion

Big disappointment. The blurb misled me.
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.
No, it didn't. It got bad but no way did it got that bad.
You’ve never met an angel like Bobby Dollar.
No, but I have read other urban fantasies with that cliché of a male protagonist before.
And you’ve never read anything like The Dirty Streets of Heaven.
Actually, I kinda have:
Succubus Blues (Georgina Kincaid, #1) A Kiss Before the Apocalypse (Remy Chandler, #1)
Brace yourself—the afterlife is weirder than you ever believed.
Uh. It's Heaven and Hell. How is that weird?

I rate TDSH 2-stars for it was okay. I do not recommend the book unless you're specifically looking for another Urban Fantasy series with a male lead. It was not the worst Urban Fantasy series with a male lead I have read, but it was definitely not the best either. Readers sensitive to misogyny should look elsewhere.

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