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The Best of Connie Willis: Award-Winning Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 9, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In her humble and reflective introduction to this collection, spanning 25 years of Hugo and Nebula Award–winning short fiction, Willis describes how she fell so “madly in love” with sf short stories in her youth that she’s still writing them 40 years later. Her passion comes through in the vision and variety represented in this collection, from haunting futures (“A Letter from the Clearys”; “The Last of the Winnebagos”) to wryly funny portrayals of scientists, academics, and aliens (“All Seated on the Ground”; “At the Rialto”). Famous figures such as Emily Dickinson (“The Soul Selects Her Own Society”) and H. L. Mencken (“Inside Job”) save the world in unexpected ways, and “women’s issues” take on new meaning in “Even the Queen.” “Fire Watch” expresses Willis’ fascination with the compassion and resilience of Londoners during the Blitz, while the eerie “Death on the Nile” philosophically confronts the inevitability of death, ideas that come together in “Winds of the Marble Arch” and are explored in later novels. Three signature award-acceptance speeches are also included. This is the essential Willis collection. --Krista Hutley


Praise for The Best of Connie Willis
“Filled with warmth and sadness, great drama, witty dialogue, characters you will care about and moments that you will remember for a long time.”—SFF World
“If anyone can be named ‘best science fiction writer of the age,’ it’s Connie Willis, and these stories are the best of her best. Truly.”Analog
“Ranging from the hilarious to the profound, these stories show the full range of [Connie] Willis’s talent for taut, dazzling plots, real science, memorable characters, penetrating dialogue and blistering drama.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Thank goodness [for] Connie Willis, who says many things that desperately need saying in more than one delightful way.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The Best of Connie Willis? Isn’t that like sorting through diamonds?”—Lytherus

Praise for Connie Willis
“A novelist who can plot like Agatha Christie and whose books possess a bounce and stylishness that Preston Sturges might envy.”The Washington Post
“One of America’s finest writers . . . Willis can tell a story so packed with thrills, comedy, drama and a bit of red herring that the result is apt to satisfy the most discriminating, and hungry, reader.”The Denver Post
“A wit with a common touch who’s read more great books, and makes better use of them in her work, than two or three lit professors put together.”Newsday
“A national treasure.”San Antonio Express-News
“Willis can tell a story like no other. . . . One of her specialties is sparkling, rapid-fire dialogue; another, suspenseful plotting; and yet another, dramatic scenes so fierce that they burn like after-images in the reader’s memory.”The Village Voice
“Willis’s fiction is one of the most intelligent delights of our genre.”Locus

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; First Ed edition (July 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345540646
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345540645
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #947,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I'm a fan of the "Best of" series, but how does an editor pick the best of a writer who won eleven Hugos and seven Nebulas, among other awards? Some writers are better at drama than comedy, some are better at comedy, but rare is the writer who is equally adept at both. Connie Willis is one of the rare ones. Her range of talent -- her ability to write hilarious stories alongside stories that are sad and moving -- is on full display in this anthology.

Willis excels at time travel stories, making "Fire Watch" a welcome addition to the volume. History student Bartholomew doesn't know why he's been sent to London during World War II, but he suspects he's there to keep St. Paul's Cathedral from burning down. Willis' time travel stories are often quite funny but this one is both an ironic tale of paranoia and a sad reminder that the real lessons to be learned from history are often concealed. "Fire Watch" won both the Hugo and the Nebula in 1983 and it's my favorite serious story in the anthology. A close runner-up, "The Last of the Winnebagos" (1988 Nebula, 1989 Hugo) -- a story about guilt and forgiveness that combines a mystery with a commentary on the loss of privacy -- imagines a sad world in which all the dogs have died.

The other serious stories are: "A Letter from the Clearys" (1983 Nebula), in which a letter written before the nuclear war reminds a family of everything they've lost. A visitor to London notices cold winds and smells death and decay at several tube stations in "The Winds of Marble Arch" (2000 Hugo), but when he investigates the phenomenon, he comes to understand some sad truths about life.
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Format: Hardcover
My exposure to Connie Willis has been, primarily, through the Blackout/All Clear books which were, in turn, brought to my attention through the Nebula awards. I was fascinated by the time travel aspect, especially when it coincided with another fascination of mine - WWII stories. So, when the opportunity came to me to read some of Willis's short stories, I immediately grabbed the chance and ran with it. What I found was a mind that felt... well, like a kindred spirit to me, to borrow a favorite phrase of Anne Shirley's that Connie Willis also loved.
One of the things I love about science fiction, and especially sci-fi short stories, is how everything seems completely normal at the start of the story until it suddenly is not. It could be as simple as a single word being said by the character that sets the hair on the back of my neck on edge, or a completely strange set of surroundings, or even the presence of Martians as factual creatures. All of these concepts were present, among others, in Willis's brilliant set of stories, but I want to talk in particular about one story as well as some other additions in the book that aren't fiction.

First, Connie Willis did something that forever endeared her to me when she took on Emily Dickinson and, in essence, created a research paper that centered around the reclusive poet writing from her grave and the connection that it had to H.G. Well's War of the Worlds. Written with humorous footnotes, research that thrilled the academic in me, and a knowledge of literature that branches through the classics (both sci-fi and literary), this story had me giggling uncontrollably and yes... even snorting with laughter a few times. The other thing this story did was make me wish I could sit down with Ms.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reviewing this collection was a pleasure. I love Connie Willis' writing. All of it. Short stories, novels, novellas, everything. In this volume, I especially enjoyed her introduction because I had already read the stories and loved them all. Getting additional insight into how she came to write them was enormously interesting to me.

Equally interesting were her list of the authors who influenced her, especially since they are the same authors who influenced me, notably (but not limited to) Shirley Jackson and Robert Heinlein.

My introduction to Connie Willis was The Doomsday Book. Not exactly one of her lighthearted humorous books, but it was written entirely for me. I have two huge literary passions: the 14th century and time travel. The Doomsday Book is about time travel back to the 14th century, so I was predestined to love it. After that, I worked my way through the rest of the Cambridge Time Travel series and then ...

I discovered her shorter works. All Seated On the Ground (included in this anthology) had me laughing so hard it woke my husband from a dead sleep to ask me what in the world was going on. This has got to be the funniest alien invasion in all of science fiction. Yet it also has a message. Willis is one of the few authors who can include a message without making you feel like someone's banging you over the head with it. It's there, not hidden, not obscure, but gently put. For your consideration.

I love every story in this collection, though All Seated On the Ground is my favorite. The Last of the Winnebagos is a must-read for every science fiction fan. Honestly, every story in this collection is a must-read. These are fantastic, wonderful, elegantly written stories.
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