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Crosstalk: A Novel Hardcover – October 4, 2016
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“A rollicking send-up of obsessive cell phone usage in too-near-future America . . . [Connie] Willis’s canny incorporation of scientific lore, and a riotous cast . . . make for an engaging girl-finally-finds-right-boy story that’s unveiled with tact and humor. Willis juxtaposes glimpses of claimed historical telepaths with important reflections about the ubiquity of cell phones and the menace that unscrupulous developers of technology pose to privacy, morality, and emotional stability.”—Publishers Weekly
“An exhilarating and laugh-inducing read . . . one of those rare books that will keep you up all night long because you can’t bear to put it down.”—Portland Book Review
“A fun technological fairy tale.”—BookPage
“One of the funniest SF novels in years.”—Locus
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
“If anyone can be named ‘best science fiction writer of the age,’ it’s Connie Willis.”—Analog
“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
“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
“The Best of Connie Willis? Isn’t that like sorting through diamonds?”—Lytherus
From the Inside Flap
Briddey Flannigan is an expert in communication, working on the frontlines of the smartphone arms race at a major telecom company. When the new boyfriend shes bonded over an upcoming product launch withthe dreamy Trent Worthproposes after just six weeks, her main concern is keeping the snoopy office gossips from alerting her family, the sure-to-disapprove Flannigan clan. The issue is that Trent hasnt proposed marriage, hes proposed something far more intimate: an EED. A simple surgical procedure that allows an emotionally bonded couple to sense each others feelings. What could go wrong? Everything at least, according to her family members and C.B. Schwartz, the eccentric genius who works out of her companys basement. Briddey decides it might be easier to just get the EED done fast, and have some relative peace and quiet with Trent as they race to outdo Apples new phone. Too bad it turns out her familyand C.B.may have had a point. Briddey leaves the surgery with a far different outcome than she could ever have planned.Beloved, multiple Hugo- and Nebula Award-winner Connie Williss unparalleled wit and ability to create unforgettable characters are at their peak in this timely new romantic comedy. Crosstalk will indeed have everyone talking, with its incisive and hilarious commentary on not just matters of the heart but our cultures obsession with making the private into the public.The Subterranean Press edition will be signed by the author and limited to 500 numbered copies. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Also, I live with a 9-yo child. In no world does the character Maeve resemble a child of that age, and from the first moment that child speaks I was thrown out of believing the world Willis wanted to place me in.
Her previous work, BLACKOUT/ALL CLEAR, a novel in two parts that won the Hugo in 2011, was large in scope and even larger in word count. The story was so huge that it was broken into two books, which were both released in the same year. ALL CLEAR picked up right where BLACKOUT left off, with no "the story so far" kind of lead in, letting the world know that "no, this was intended to be one book but it was two big, so we made it into two". CROSSTALK suffers from, in my opinion, needing an editor, and as a result I don't think the book is as good as it could be.
Briddey Flannigan and her boyfriend Trent work for a communications corporation named Commspan. The folks at Commspan are worried about Apple's next iPhone release, which is probably going to revolutionize communication (never mind that Apple hasn't come out with a revolutionizing version of the iPhone since the early days, but I digress). That's not the big news, though. Briddey and Trent are going to get EEDs. An EED is a device which allows two strongly emotionally bonded people to know each other's emotions without even having to talk about them. That is, there will no longer be any doubt as to whether your loved one is really your loved one.
Commspan is a center of gossip, a place where communication has gone wild. People know about things that happen long before they should. As an example, we all know someone who, if we want to spread some salacious gossip, we tell first. The word will spread like wildfire. At Commspan, that would be Suki Parker. But she's not the only one, just the best. All the employees we meet during the novel seem to be one big interconnected information network - except for C.B. Schwartz. C.B. is the nerd that works in the basement and stays away from everyone. His hair and clothes are a mess, he has no friends, and everyone thinks he's weird and creepy. No one wants to go down to his basement office to talk to him.
Trent and Briddey are able to get their EED operations moved up on the doctor's busy schedule. They are trying to get this done in secret because Briddey has a meddling family and Trent has his reasons (which I will not spoil here). Trent and Briddey are perfect subjects for an EED - their compatibility scores are off the charts. Briddey has her operation first. She wakes up after the surgery, and not long after she begins to not feel Trent's emotions, but to hear someone speaking to her - and it's not Trent.
CROSSTALK is billed as a romantic comedy involving telepathy. It certainly is that - or at least it tries to be that. It's the comedy part that I have a hard time with. Granted, romantic comedies are not my cup of literary tea, and I understand that to qualify as a comedy the reader is not required to laugh out loud for a majority of the book. Yes, there is witty banter; yes, there are awkward situations that arise from circumstances at the time, but this book never grabbed me in that fashion. What did grab me was the inclusion of telepathy and how it was dealt with in the book (and maybe that's just because I'm not a romantic comedy fan - your mileage may vary).
It is clear that once again, Willis has done her research with regard to her subject matter, in this case reported cases of telepathy (and some that weren't reported as such, but in terms of convenience Willis uses them as such - Joan of Arc is the major example here). But much like in BLACKOUT/ALL CLEAR, not too much happens for a long period of time, and when it does happen here, it comes on so fast that the reader's head is spinning. The other half of the Duel Fish Codices and I were discussing one night the subject of writers that need an editor. The feeling was that some writers eventually get so big that editors let them have their way without much restraint. It seems that Willis, with her last two novels, has entered that category.
CROSSTALK, for all its faults, is a wonderful look at how our society is *over*connected. There are too many ways for people to be in touch, to share thoughts, to communicate. Willis is telling us that we are too connected, that people need a break, that the voices can be overwhelming and come at us like a torrential flood, and that maybe we just need to cut ourselves off from the world now and again. In that regard, Willis' message succeeds, and it ultimately makes this a better book. It's not a great book, it's not a good book. But it's okay, and sometimes that's good enough.
Clearly this latest, Crosstalk, took some in-depth research to understand the concepts and history behind the science and myth that propels this tale of a near future where a small implant in our brains can ramp up the emotional ties between two people. But Ms. Willis is creating a future, not tweaking a past, and sometimes that works and sometimes...it still works, but it puts her readers to the test, as she does this time around.
Our heroine, Briddey, is persuaded by what she thinks is love to receive a surgical implant that will enhance her empathetic connection to her co-worker and (hopefully) soon-to-be fiancé, Trent. But there’s more going on with Trent’s proposal than she realizes and she soon discovers why the company geek, C.B., tried so hard to persuade her from having the procedure done. Briddey finds herself connected to a whole lot more than Trent’s emotions, but she’s also finding out who really cares about her, and what real love truly means.
Great concept, right? But throw in the MOST annoying family and co-workers, mix with more guessing and second guessing and interrupting just when a character is about to reveal vital info (MULTIPLE times!), and stir it all together with far more words than are necessary and you have a recipe to stress and challenge even the most ardent Connie Willis fan. But I persevered! And I was glad to finally reach the end and a satisfying conclusion, if not also one constantly interrupted by another family member! (I get it...maybe all this confusion is designed to make us feel some of what Briddey feels, but still...).
So here's my advice about this book. If you love Connie Willis read it-you gotta, it’s part of the package of being a fan. If you love Sci-Fi in general, you might love this. We’re not talking Classic Sci-Fi here (Dune, War of the Worlds, 1984), it’s a future that’s right around the corner...but contemporary references probably will date this book in an equally not too distant future. If you love characters-and relationships-worth rooting for, this fits the bill too. But if you don’t have patience with a little more of the written word than really is necessary and endless rehashing of facts and science...maybe you should start with Doomsday Book.
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This is a surprisingly terrible book.Read more