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Tad Williams
Sleeping Late on Judgment Day
DAW Books / Penguin Group
US Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-0-756-40889-3
Publication Date: 09-02-2014
440 Pages; $25.95
Date Reviewed: 12-09-2014
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2014

Fantasy  Mystery  Horror  Science Fiction  General Fiction

The contradiction at the heart of any private detective character is a dynamic union of opposites. The detective may be on the side of the angels, but he's perfectly willing to mix it up with and like the devils he's supposed to hunting down. Generally, the detective seems to have more in common with those he's pursuing than those for whom he is supposedly fighting. He may end up on the wrong side of the law while fighting for right.

Given that Tad Williams' detective, Bobby Dollar, is in fact an angel, the complications are exponential. The first two installments of his story, 'The Dirty Streets of Heaven' and 'Happy Hour in Hell' are delightful stepping-stones to 'Sleeping Late on Judgment Day.' Readers are advised to begin at the beginning with the expectation of deliverance in the latest. This book successfully ups the ante for fun, charm and hilarity. Williams displays a mastery of hard-boiled vernacular deployed in and intellectually and ethically rich vision of religion brought down to earth.

As the novel begins, Bobby Dollar is in a pickle. He's been set up and served up to Powers that partake of Lovecraftian otherworldliness through Christian hierarchy. Having broken laws, most of them eternal to get into this mess, he's going to have break more to get out. Given that his earthly life ended in some as-yet unspecified past and this life began soon after, the potential for snuffing him seems ever real. Williams uses his fantastic settings to contrive a possibility of demise that no mortal detective could ever face, and uses it to evoke real tension.

It's just one of many smart moves to be found in these books, which combine a pitch perfect smart-ass voice with a smart mystery played out against an intricately developed backdrop. With world-build all the rage, Williams tasks himself to build a world within ours that reflects the Judeo-Christian mythos brought to earth, as it were. There, he uses the fantastic setting to complicate his mysteries while mixing human and inhuman motivations.

The upshot is that Williams can deal with knotty and often abstruse philosophical notions in a physical, character-driven story. Free will, universal love and eternal punishment for our sins are all up for grabs here, but dealt with out in the open. It makes the fun —and there is a lot of fun in Williams' consistently laugh-out-loud prose — even more fun.

If you've read the first books, this one will make you equally happy and impatient for more. If you like detective novels and hate urban fantasy, give these a try, as Williams has that voice down. If you like monsterific horror novels, where the monsters have character and purpose beyond killing, you'll be happy to read these. And if you like comedies, well Tad Williams profane comedy will evoke heavenly laughter. If you sleep late, it will only be because you stayed up late reading.

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