Shivam Bhatt's Reviews > The Dirty Streets of Heaven

The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Sep 11, 2012

really liked it
Read from September 11 to 17, 2012 — I own a copy

With The Dirty Streets of Heaven, Tad Williams upends the sacred geography of the Bay Area, and creates a brand new alternate reality within which angels and demons spar for souls in an eternal cold war. The angel Doloriel, our titular Bobby Dollar, is an advocate for souls of the recently departed--a defense attorney pleading his client's case for a trip to eternal salvation. One day, however, his client does not show up for the trial, which is not possible under the laws of heaven and hell--once you die, your soul shows up for judgement, period. In the chaos and confusion that ensues, Bobby Dollar becomes an unwitting investigator in a neo noir mystery involving complex alliances, shady dealings with The Opposition, and doubts about his own side.

Tad Williams is an incredibly strong writer on an average day, and he weaves a rich story here, with believable characters and a detailed world. What sets this book apart from his standard is that the story starts from page 1, and never lets up. The average Tad book normally wouldn't get started until 750 pages through book 1! His recent experiences with writing children's books really shines here, as this is perhaps the tightest, best paced story he has written.

What I personally found the most intriguing were the ideas on religion presented throughout the book. Historically, Tad has always treated religion with respect as a cultural institution, while gently poking fun at some of the more ludicrous notions that suffuse it, writing it in a manner that theists and atheists alike can enjoy. Dirty Streets by necessity deals with religion in the post dawkins world, with a protagonist who is a doubter himself. Imagine that, an angel that has never seen God, and is full of the same questions a mortal might have. This book sets up a lot of interesting questions about belief in an absent creator, but leaves them for sequels to explore.

Finally, the reimagined Bay Area is absolutely wonderful to explore. Tad excises my hometown of San Jose, replacing it with a fictional San Judas (which would be on the sunnyvale/palo alto side of the bay instead of the milpitas side). It is both St. Jude the protector and Judas the betrayer, and a lush character unto itself, almost like gormenghast or other such settings. Exploring the subtle differences and similarities between the roads I drive daily and the haunts of Bobby Dollar became an obsession of mine throughout the book, and added a rich vibrancy that an otherwise fictional town might not have. That Dollar is a Giants fan doesn't hurt, either!

This book isn't perfect. The ending leaves a little too much to the sequels to answer, and some plot points could have used more delving into. That said, it is vintage Tad, and a fantastic, fast read, especially for folks who have been daunted by his other massive multi-volume tomes. If you want urban fantasy that is dark, gritty, and explores tropes outside of your standard vampires and werewolves, The Dirty Streets of Heaven is the best thing going. See you in San Judas.

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Dirty Streets of Heaven.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.