THE BALLAD OF BILLY BADASS AND THE ROSE OF TURKESTAN
Yandro House, paperback (hardcover version available)
Publication date, November 1998
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There's a lot to say about this book, and some of it has nothing to do with the contents. William Sanders has been around the field for a long time. He writes wellvery welland he's published 16 books. So why haven't you heard about him?
You haven't heard about him, perhaps, because he doesn't write open-ended series books or Star Trek novels. You haven't heard about him because you don't have a true connoisseur's taste for the field: in other words, you don't (or won't) pick up books by authors you haven't heard of on the off chance they might take you for a helluva ride.
William Sanders will take you for that kind of a ride in BILLY BADASSif you let himbut you have to be able to handle riding on the back of an old motorcycle that has bad shocks with your skirt up around your butt, because that's what Billy Badass (nee Billy Badwater, a Native American war vet with good combat skills and no job prospects) rides.
Before I get too far into the review itself, let me say that Sanders published this book himself because no publisher would touch it. That's not becaue it's crude or because it sucks or because it's violent or pornographic. It does have some violent passages (but well done ones, in my opinion), and some sex (tasteful), but that's not why this book didn't find a mainstream publisher. The book wasn't published because more people won't take a chance on an author they haven't heard of. No, they'd rather read another BABYLON V novel. No offense to BABYLON V novels, but there's more to sf. Frankly, people, there never used to be BABYLON V novels or any other media tie-ins. And the field was better for it.
(Grunting noise while I get off my soapbox.)
Okay, on with the review.
Billy is sitting minding his own business (e.g. nursing a hangover) one day when his grandfather, who's been dead for five years, speaks to him from the body of a nearby blue jay.
And that's just for openers. Before Billy knows it, he's up to his Indian behind in love and intrigue. His grandfather has come back to warn him of something so bad that he doesn't even feel he can give Billy a good solid hint about it. Well, the old man is a bit obtuse, certainly - so might you be if you had to keep switching bodies all the timeand by the time Billy finds out exactly what has been stirring in the spirit world, it's pretty much too late for the human race and for his romance with the beautiful Kazakh scientist Janna Turanova.
THE BALLAD OF BILLY BADASS AND THE ROSE OF TURKESTAN is really a love story more than anything elseit's a love story about the human race. Like all love stories, there is a strong element of tragedy in it. But there is high good humor, bad craziness, country music, insights into Native American culture, a talking blue jay, some really nasty government guys and an even nastier monster. There are chases and last-minute rescues, and some trenchant observations about what absolute bastards human beings can be to each other.
Sanders's prose misses no beats and he keeps pulling off new plot twists with the ease of a seasoned expert. The novel is lean and mean like Billy, but soft in all the right places, like Janna. It kicks butt.
Do the good guys win? Well, now, this is a William Sanders book - which ought to tell you everything you need to know. Why not go make Sanders's acquaintence right now?
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