Continuing with the Genre Challenge:
Read a Science Fiction Romance
I had never read Connie Willis before, although I certainly had heard of her. But, a few weeks back I came across a book by her while browsing at B&N. The book was Crosstalk, published in 2016.
At 498 pages, I didn’t know what to expect – possibly something epic. Instead, the story turned out to be much more claustrophobic and manic and bizarre. The setting is somewhere in the U.S. – guessing near silicon valley? — in the near future. The plot begins with Briddey Flannigan, an associate at a consumer technology company called Commspan. Smaller than Apple, Commspan hopes to beat its rival to the next step in communication technology. Briddey is dating Trent, a fellow executive at the company, who is an intense go-getter and workaholic who will stop at nothing to outdo his competitors. So, Briddey is surprised when Trent suddenly decides that he wants the two of them to have a newly popular surgical procedure, called an “EED,” that is supposed to enhance the empathetic communications between couples who are emotionally bonded. It’s all the rage with celebrities, the wealthy, and the powerful. Immediately word about their plans gets around the company and all the women are jealous of Briddey’s good fortune. However, Briddey is terribly afraid of what her family might say. She’s from a very close-knit Irish “clan,” which is constantly butting into her life, calling for advice, showing up at her job. She knows they wouldn’t approve. What she doesn’t expect is that fellow employee C.B. Schwartz would also vehemently object. C.B. is an inventor/developer who works in the solitude of the company’s basement lab. As opposed to enhancing communication, C.B. is way more interested in finding ways of keeping people out, maintaining privacy, and cutting off intrusive communications. While trying to keep her family and co-workers in the dark and avoiding C.B.’s haranguing, Briddey and Trent manage to each get the procedure. But while waiting anxiously to emotionally “connect” with each other, something goes haywire and soon Briddey is connecting not just to one person – the *wrong* person – but to multitudes of others in a way that is literally driving her insane. Instead of being able to sense her boyfriend’s devotion, she’s hearing the thoughts of everyone in her immediate vicinity!
Although this story is supposed to be set in the near future, there’s very little about it that’s different from today’s society except for the EED procedure, so that was a little disappointing. On the positive side, I found it well written and it definitely gave me the manic feel of a world closing in on one, via the lead character’s dilemma. And even though the minute details of how Briddey discovers what her problem is and how she learns to manage it served to give the reader a taste of “the craziness” of it all, I felt the story could’ve been told in half the time. Another down side: the initial explanation of why certain people were more susceptible to this telepathic hiccup, for me, didn’t quite meet the smell test. And towards the end, the story became so convoluted, I still have my questions as to why it happened to some and not others, and how they managed to control it. I don’t want to give all of it away, if I could even explain it, but a romance does develop between the two people you would expect – Briddey and C.B. Still, I can’t say the romance was as interesting to me as were the other aspects of the book. I have to admit, the whole thing kept me reading but I can’t say the conclusion was totally satisfying. I guess I’d give it a B? I don’t know! In any event, I have a couple of Willis’ more critically acclaimed books in my TBR pile, so I’m looking forward to giving her another try.
The Cocktail Challenge – 10 down – complete
Alphabet Challenge – 10 down (A, B, C, G, H, J, K, M, P, & Q) – complete
Genre Challenge – 6 down, 4 to go