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Billy's Book
Terry Bisson
PS Publishing, 98 pages

Billy's Book
Terry Bisson
Terry Bisson was born in Owensboro, Kentucky. He attended Grinnell College and the University of Louisville (1964). He teaches SF writing at The New School and occasionally Clarion and Odyssey. With Judy Jensen, Terry Bisson owned and operated a revolutionary mail-order book service, Jacobin Books, from 1985 to 1990. Bisson's many published titles include Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, the long-awaited posthumous sequel to A Canticle For Leibowitz, which he wrote for the estate of Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Terry Bisson Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Numbers Don't Lie
SF Site Review: Numbers Don't Lie
SF Site Review: The Pickup Artist
SF Site Review: In The Upper Room and Other Likely Stories

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Matthew Hughes

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In case you've forgotten, childhood is hard, mean and nasty. Although sometimes it's also a lot of fun. And, sometimes, it's all of those things put together.

Billy is a little boy who lives in a world of imagination. It might be his imagination. It might be Terry Bisson's. But it's certainly a place where lots of interesting things happen.

Like the time a boatload of tiny Vikings appear in Billy's backyard pond and shanghai him into an expedition to kill frogs. Normally, Billy doesn't mind killing things. In "Billy and the Ants," he kills a lot of ants, one of them as big as a dog. In "Billy and the Bulldozer," he tries to kill the kid next door, the objectionable Vernon, by running him over with his bulldozer, which got bigger when he left it out in the rain.

But besides being frog-killers, the Pond Vikings force Billy to row their dragon ship, which makes his hands sore. So, on the next expedition:

They saw three frogs sitting on a big lily pad. The Pond Vikings snuck up on them from behind. The Viking ship didn't make any noise.

Just when they were about to attack, Billy shouted, "Look out!"

The frogs turned around. They had big green eyes. They saw the Pond Vikings just in time.

The Vikings jumped out with their axes but the frogs killed them with their teeth. The blood made the water pink.

Then they sank the Viking ship.

Afterwards…
"I didn't know that frogs had teeth," said Billy.

"We keep them a secret," said the frogs. "They are for getting even."

"Billy and the Pond Vikings" is just one of thirteen Billy stories in this novella-length collection from PS Publishing. Most of the stories have been seen in print before, in Postscripts, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and other venues where fine and funny surrealism is known and appreciated. But four of the stories are original to the collection.

I suppose they will not be to everyone's taste. But if you're the kind of reader who would have liked having Gahan Wilson or Charles Adams for a grandpa, so he could come over and read you bedtime stories that start like this...

One day Billy got sent to the office. The principal said, "Run home, Billy. Your grandfather has fallen down dead."

Billy ran home. It wasn't very far.

His grandfather was on the couch in the living room, but he wasn't dead yet.

"He wants to watch TV while he passes away," said Billy's mother.

"They should call it the dying room," said Billy's grandfather. He was always making jokes.

...then Billy's Book will offer you thirteen introductions to sweet dreams.

My only complaint: the collection does not include "Billy and the Circus Girl," which begins:

Billy had a little dick. When he rubbed it, it got bigger.

That seemed to defy the laws of physics as Billy understood them.   So he decided to show it to his science teacher, Mr. Smart.

* * *

"Why were you sent to the office?" asked Mrs. Sutton, the Principal. "Mr. Smart wouldn't tell me."

"I showed him this," said Billy. "I don't understand why it gets bigger when I rub it."

* * *

"Home from school already?" asked Billy's mother.

"They let me out early," said Billy. "They said I took the prize."

But "Billy and the Circus Girl" is available on the web for free at: http://www.flurb.net/1/bisson.htm

Copyright © 2009 Matthew Hughes

Matthew Hughes
Matthew Hughes writes science fantasy. His stories have appeared in Asimov's, F&SF, Postscripts and Interzone. His latest novels are Template, and Hespira: A Tale of Henghis Hapthorn. His web page is at http://www.archonate.com/.


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