Book Quote:

The sea is not for the likes of you I heard it say inside me. At least they had come far enough towards me—into me—that they were willing to talk.

Or is the voice I heard saying that just (just!) a voice that has always lived inside me, or inside every me, whoever it might be, the Resident Orator who tells you the one thing of all possible things that you most do not want to hear?

For whom is the sea, then, if not for me? And what do you (does it) mean by the likes of me? What are my likes?

I was just standing there in the aspens, trying to figure out why I hated this place so much. Because it hated me. ”

Book Review:

Review by Ann Wilkes (AUG 2, 2009)

An unremarkable boy named Billy sets out to find the spaceship that landed near the boarding house where he lives with his family in rural Philadelphia. He’s invited on this adventure by Eileen who also lives in the boarding house and is beginning to show signs of womanhood. Young Billy is driven to distraction by her smell, her silhouette, her touch. This part of the novel reads like an epic poem.

When they find the spacecraft, Billy is taken, leaving Eileen crying at the foot of a tree. Billy’s curiosity and wonder overshadow some of his fears at being abducted by aliens – until the vivisection begins. This is where the book gets bizarre. While Billie is conscious, the aliens replace his vital organs with mundane objects. Two live squirrels serve in place of his lungs, a shoe takes the place of his heart, a wind-up clock with bells on top replace his bladder – you get the idea.

I searched for some allegorical meaning around all these substitutions, but found none. No pattern, no symbolism, nothing. Meanwhile a duplicate of Billy, filled with his organs, is sent to Earth in his place.

Billy’s education by the aliens begins on board their ship en route to an island on another planet. When he arrives on that planet, he goes to school with people (presumably abducted) from other worlds. He learns many languages and reads alien books. The descriptions of the aliens and other people on that planet are scant.

The aliens bring Billy back as an adult to Earth to educate us about ourselves and our universe with wisdom from his journal, The Book from the Sky.

I appreciated the stream of consciousness at the beginning of the book and during some of Billy’s sojourn on that other planet. The book within the book, which is a sort of book of proverbs, had some interesting commentary. The following is from an essay written by a follower of the adult Billy about the United States:

“The government exists to protect merchants and manufacturers. Individuals are kept alive as long as they can produce economic activity—you can be in a coma and still be making a fortune for medical personnel. The proper business of other countries is to buy what we want to sell them, keep their own neighborhoods clean and picturesque, and to sell us their goods and services cheap. When other countries don’t do this, they become enemies and we try to destroy them. This is the American way. No other country has ever had a way of its own, a way that God intended for us. No other country really has a good relationship with God. … Sell us cheap goods and labor, buy our grain and meat and machines, and everybody will be happy. Choose leaders who know how to be polite. … They have to understand that we’re right—that’s the most important thing.”

It was difficult to understand the protagonist’s stoic acceptance of his circumstances. Yet, one can see that perhaps Billy ceased to really be Billy after the aliens altered him. But then, for whom do we feel sympathy? The Billy that was, the duplicate Billy or the new creature that he has become that doesn’t miss his family? It is difficult to determine if the altered Billy has become like his abductors, because we don’t learn enough about them to make that determination.

Someone with a more philosophical attitude may find meaning that I have missed. I hope so. Without it, I was left with only morbid curiosity to keep me reading.

AMAZON READER RATING: no customer reviews yet
PUBLISHER: North Atlantic Books (September 30, 2008)
REVIEWER: Ann Wilkes
AMAZON PAGE: The Book From the Sky
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Wikipedia page on Robert Kelly and Earthlink page
EXTRAS: Excerpt and another review and an Interview
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More books meta-physical or close to it:

The Way Through the Doors by Jesse Ball

First Execution by Domenico Starnone

The Scream Queens of the Dead Sea by Gilad Elbom


August 2, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Speculative (Beyond Reality)

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