Thomas E. Sniegoski: A Hundred Words For Hate

A Hundred Words for Hate is the fourth book in Thomas E. Sniegoski’s Remy Chandler series, dedicated to the ongoing adventures of an angel-turned-private-eye. If you haven’t been following the series thus far, A Hundred Words for Hate is a tough place to climb on board. There’s precious little time allocated to sketching out who the players are, from Marley the dog to Remy’s dead wife Madeleine. There’s too much going on, and either you buy in or you’re lost.

If you do buy in, however, things start fast and then speed up. The narrative structure is a little more ambitious than in previous installments, weaving together an amnesiac old woman in Boston, flashbacks to Louisiana speakeasies, vivisections in hell and biodomes in Arizona. The cast is similarly diverse, bringing in continuing characters like Remy’s cop buddy Mulvehill and ex-angel watchdog Francis and mixing them with the keepers of ancient bloodlines, monsters from the dawn of time, deranged angels and Adam. Yes, that Adam. Sniegoski deserves full credit for tackling a more more ambitious narrative and a bigger cast, and he does a nice job of tying everything together in a way that makes sense. There’s a lot of characters showing up just in the nick of time, but never in a way that feels arbitrary or cheap. Nor do those last-minute rescues come for free – there are prices to be paid here, and Sniegoski makes sure we know how high those prices are.

Tonally, the novel fits somewhere between season 5 of Supernatural and prime Jack Kirby comics. There’s a war in heaven, or more accurately across all Creation, with angels (fallen and otherwise) taking up arms and smiting each other mightily. But the power level definitely keeps escalating, with full-blown angelic throwdowns everywhere you look.

Nor are these nice angels, the sort of shiny happy New Age window sticker-types who apparently just exist to look over our shoulders. Sniegoski wisely goes old-school with his angels, making them individuated aspects of Divinity with flaming swords and serious anger management issues. And while that makes for some epic action, it also has a real impact on the normal everyday folks who get caught in the middle when three-faced supporters of the Throne of Heaven start crashing through Boston with homicidal intent.

That’s really what the book is about – the contrast between the angelic and the mundane, and how each needs the other to survive. For three books, Remy’s been losing his grip on the balance between his human side – Remy – and his angelic one, which wants nothing more than to cast off the trappings of humanity to get down to some serious smiting. Here, that’s pushed to the breaking point, and if Remy doesn’t find a modus vivendi with his “better” nature, both of them may be doomed.

A Hundred Words For Hate doesn’t resolve much in the ongoing Remy Chandler saga, but it does move it along at a good pace and in an interesting way. Nitpickers may have issues with a few of Sniegoski’s choices – traditionally Cherubim and Seraphim are plural forms, not singular – but on the whole it’s a fun, fast ride that takes advantage of a strong setting and interesting characters.

And when a book combines that with serious angel smackdowns, really, what else do you need?

(Roc, 2011)

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