Book Review: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlepig by Tad Williams

24 Dec

On Christmas Eve, certain classes of people have to work, whether they like it or not.  Gas Station Attendants. Grocery store stockers. Clerks at electronics stores for those last minute purchases.

And angels. Specifically, angels whose job it is to deal with the souls of the recently departed. Angels like Bobby Dollar.  What looks like a relatively routine death soon becomes trickier, as the recently departed soul seems ready to consign himself to Bobby’s opposite number. You see, the late Petar Vesić was a werewolf, and he thinks that the things he did, the horrors he committed, are not forgivable. While Bobby’s opposite number in the Demon hierarchy is willing to call things a day and a win for his team, Bobby is not so easily swayed. A bargain is struck with the soul of Peter to see to the matter of the recently departed’s son. A bargain that is going to have Bobby call upon the help of a certain werepig friend of his…th_b_williams_gentlepig-187x300

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlepig is a novella set in Tad Williams’ Bobby Dollar Universe (The Dirty Streets of Heaven, A Happy Hour in Hell, Sleeping Late on Judgement Day). While the novella’s setting is indistinctly set in terms of when it occurs in Bobby’s career, a throwaway line indicates to a careful reader that the novella is set at least *after* A Happy House in Hell. However, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlepig stands very much on its own, and even readers who have not read The Dirty Streets of Heaven should have no difficulty in picking up the basic details of the universe from context. Even the major “metaplot” of Dirty Streets makes no appearance or mention here, giving the novella a relatively timeless quality, save for the fact that it DOES take place at Christmas. I think the novella works best for previous fans of the series, but I could see it as an entry point for those new to the series.

In addition, the novella proves that a Christmas tale doesn’t need snow or eight tiny reindeer or sugar plum fairies in order to be a cracking holiday tale. While most Christmas themed novellas do not feature evil Nazi doctors, lycanthropes of multiple stripes, or gun toting angels, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlepig DOES feature Santa Claus. But to say just how he features into the novella *would* be telling and perhaps spoil the story.

The novella is also full of the humor and compulsively readable voice that Williams brought to the Bobby Dollar novels, but in a relatively concentrated and pure form. Bobby is a great character, and so is George “Fatback” Noceda, the werepig with a twist. They make an excellent duo, and aside from the opposing counsel, soon offstage, they are the only characters previously seen in the series. Williams wastes little time in getting to the good stuff — dropping Bobby into the soup, as it were.

Humor, action, fun, and yes, a small Christmas miracle, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlepig was a trifle of a story — not long, but very welcome. It’s a tasty Christmas-themed return to San Judas and the life and times of Bobby Dollar.

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