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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Billy Graham in Heaven by Bill Branyon is a science fiction tale that delves into an otherworldly landscape following the death of the titular character. As promised, the setting for a great deal of the book is in heaven, but not the heavenly vista that has been pitched to most since the concept was introduced. Branyon's paradise is a realm within the black holes of the solar system, with celestial venues and activities that might rival the best country clubs and fun fairs on Earth. One can even choose to line up for a chance to meet God, although He is quite popular so the queue can take months to get through. Meanwhile, in a democratic process that combines reflection with conversation amongst some of the greatest minds in history, an account of actions and their impact is discussed during mandatory meetings throughout the novel. On Earth, love and technology converge between two couples, and war rages against a backdrop of economic strife, rampant drug use, and the materialization of a fundamental religious state.
Bill Branyon's writing in Billy Graham in Heaven has been likened in its subtitle to the work of the late, great Kurt Vonnegut. Naturally I scoffed at that for a moment, wondering who this Bill Branyon guy thought he was. And then I checked myself. “Hitchens blipped to confront Mother Teresa fans who were shaken when he claimed she actually loved poverty, even encouraged it, rather than fought it with birth control and political changes.” Alrighty then...I stand corrected. The parallels between these two writers and their objective, wholly unforgiving and sardonic examination of mankind exposes some uncomfortable truths even about those whom we have comfortably declared as irreproachable. This isn't done for the sake of just being malicious. Rather, Branyon takes a very human approach in showing us how flawed we all really are, and does so in an engrossing narrative set in...well, in Heaven, and also on Earth. I personally think the best science fiction comes to life when the frailty of humanity becomes raw. Branyon delivers this intelligently and with liberal doses of humor. Packaged up, this novel is a bite-sized bit of delightful storytelling that soars to meteoric heights.