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Billy Moon
by Douglas Lain
A Tor Book, 2013, $24.99, 269pp
Release Date: August 27, 2013

Christopher Robin Milne has spent a lifetime distancing hisself from the childhood his father wrote into the Winnie the Pooh stories. At the same time, he capitalizes off of that notoriety as the proprietor of a bookstore, so you could say his relationship with … himself, and his heritage, is ambivalent. Ironically, his own son Daniel lives in a world of his own, some internal version of the Hundred Acre Woods, a world for which the term ‘autism’ has yet to come into parlance. As his father’s estate is settled and sold off, Chris sees relics of his childhood for sale, or lost, or destroyed.

Alice dove down a rabbit hole and found herself in Wonderland. Dorothy got caught up by a tornado and found herself in Oz. On a family vacation to Paris , Chris finds himself caught up in a student uprising, one fueled by perennial discontent, existential angst, and raging hormones. Professors pursuing youth, students pursuing aimless, purposeless freedom, and idealists intent upon annihilating the status quo become a second-generation of Les Miserablés, briefly finding meaning, even joy, in argument, passion, and conviction. The author perfectly captures the mood and sensibilities of his characters, and the young protagonists, Natalie and Gerrard, are extraordinarily engaging.

But Chris, as he struggles to find some way of rescuing his son, or at least connecting with him, is bewildered by mysterious appearances, disappearances, paw prints and crumb trails, glimpses of a bear, and snags in the timeline continuum. Can alternative realities be evoked, conjured? If so, what needs, what longings call them into being, and what voices? Interestingly enough, it is Chris’ wife, Abby, who has the key insight at the end.

Here is a novel length koan, shot through with brilliance and told with… what is the opposite of deceptive simplicity? Revelatory simplicity? The story is like a puzzle assembled on one of those multi-tiered chess decks you see in Star Trek episodes, so that the images only resolve when you see them from a certain perspective: from above, or by turning your head sideways, or from just this angle…. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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