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A Lot Like Christmas: Stories Paperback – October 10, 2017
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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“A perfect stocking stuffer for Christmas—celebrating fans of [Connie] Willis’s humorous SF.”—Publishers Weekly
“A collection of Christmas stories with just the right blend of sugar and spice . . . sweet and sharp, whimsical and heartfelt, funny and warm . . . Fans of Willis’s gently comic speculative fiction will love this collection, and it will also appeal to readers looking to get into the holiday spirit.”—Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Connie Willis is a member of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and a Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She has received seven Nebula awards and eleven Hugo awards for her fiction; Blackout and All Clear—a novel in two parts—and Doomsday Book won both. Her other works include Crosstalk, Passage, Lincoln’s Dreams, Bellwether, Impossible Things, Remake, Uncharted Territory, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Fire Watch, and Miracle and Other Christmas Stories. Connie Willis lives with her family in Colorado.
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Willis’s writing style is fairly straightforward. Her prose is concise and informative, with nothing superfluous or, on the opposite side of the scale, inadequate or distracting. The characters are a mixed bunch when it comes to personality and motives, but all with the exception of one or two are relatable, likeable, and even endearing. Where this collection really shines is in the content of the stories themselves. Willis has a deep knowledge of Christmas, which she displays in many of the stories in the form of miniscule details or through the sheer breadth of her knowledge. For example, All Seated on the Ground is a journey through decades of holiday music, with nuanced references to particular passages that relate directly to the story. As for the science fiction angle, you’ll encounter aliens; Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come; advanced Christmas decorating technology; and even the biblical parents who risked everything for their unborn child.
While Willis’s holiday knowledge—or at least her ability to research—is impressive, there are times when the magnitude of details piled onto the reader almost becomes a burden and the stories themselves far too long. All Seated on the Ground is, again, a good example. Apart from all other stories in the collection, this one struck me as far too long with an ending which is not very satisfying. At times, it seemed Willis was extending the narrative simply to justify the amount of time she must have spent sifting through holiday verses.
One of the more enjoyable stories was Cat’s Paw, which is a mystery in the spirit of a Hercule Poirot novel. A visit to a country estate where apes and other primates have been given the ability to speak soon turns into a whodunnit murder mystery where it seems everyone in attendance has some motive. Good thing the renowned Inspector Touffet is on the guest list. Soon the game is afoot and a murderer revealed, but only after much intrigue and a series of misdirections lead everyone but Touffet down the wrong path.
If you’re looking for something beyond the traditional Dickens to read this holiday season, A Lot Like Christmas may fit the bill for you. Despite a couple of the stories feeling like duds to me, I’m giving it four rockets because there are many more stories I enjoyed than not, and even a few which stand out as holiday gems that I’d love to read each and every year.
A Lot Like Christmas is an expanded edition of Willis’s previous publication Miracle and Other Christmas Stories and includes an additional five stories that have not been published until now. Willis writes with spunk and intertwines humor and science fiction and the result delightful storytelling that entices readers to read each chapter of the 17 stories that are succinct of 10 to 40 pages. Regardless of the length of each short story, it is the unique characters and how they engage in the most interesting conversations; one may think they have heard much interaction and subject matter before in one’s own memorable Christmas topics such as in the first story “Miracle” where the center of the debate is with which Christmas classic is the best between “It’s a Wonderful Life” to “Miracle on 34th Street.” And that is not the end of it, typical of holiday gatherings and when everyone is a part of, especially the song selections of a Christmas carol or a standard. Willis reminds readers that a contemporary and modern day Christmas would not be Christmas without Radio City and the Spectacular of the Rockettes. But she takes a respite of the array of popular culture and tells an endearing story called “Inn” that mentions where the holiday first began with Joseph and Mary.
Every story may appeal to the reader young or old because each story has a contemporary trait of timelessness. A few of the stories show their date because of the material references of more than a decade ago, while others simply have a unique quality in its own time and place. A perfect book read, especially during the busy holiday season cuddled in a soft chair with a cup of coffee, tea, or cocoa and carols playing in the background or even better before viewing “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street.”