Parke Godwin,
Waiting for the Galactic Bus
(Doubleday, 1988)

Barion isn't your typical academic graduate. Neither is his sophomore brother, Coyul. In fact, they come from a race of metamorphic energy beings vastly superior to ours. So, when they find themselves stranded on a primitive planet, the result of a drunken stunt during a graduation party, they begin to toy around with the native life forms. Sure they really shouldn't, but....

Several million years later, Charity Stovall, a nice young girl from a little American town, falls in love with Roy Stride, a small time fascist. With her intelligence and his hate, they could produce a child that could spell the end for all mankind.

Barion and Coyul must work together, along with the help of some of the more colorful characters of the afterlife, to prevent this from happening, and clean up their mess quickly. The bus is on its way back to pick them up, and there's the little matter of the experiments with those monkeys....

Parke Godwin has put together a great sci-fi read. His writing style is quick and very descriptive. Godwin brings to life characters out of the past convincingly. At the same time, he weaves a tale through an afterlife turned upside down from anything we've seen before.

But the main hook of the story is the commentary on hate and the state of spiritual affairs here in America. By way of clever dialogue, situations and witty puns, Godwin dares to look into the heart of American ethics and religious views though the twists and turns of the overly dramatic "Below Stairs" and, the stanch, fundamentalist "Topside." Take, for instance, the American views on Jesus. He is overlooked by those Holy Men seeking him in "Heaven" because their Jesus is a tall, long-haired white man; and who is this short Jewish guy, anyway? Or the hate-spewing reverend of a small town and his twisted doctrine of anger and greed that stirs on young Roy Stride to invision himself the great white hope of America. Even the very nature of the collective afterlife, how it mundanely reflects the physical world, and thus, the firm grip on narrow-minded thinking we have.

And yet, this book never seems to lose track of its humor or lighthearted wit. Even as you follow Charity through her journey through "Hell" and her realization of the emptiness of her desires in life, there always seems pause for a chuckle or two.

I thought the book to be a good, solid read. It had me riveted to my seat, laughing out loud, and left me thinking a little more about how I look at the world.

[ by Charlie Gebetsberger ]