Saints, on the other hand, tells the story of the rebellion from the other side. This time, Yang invents a character named Four-Girl (the word for "fo...moreSaints, on the other hand, tells the story of the rebellion from the other side. This time, Yang invents a character named Four-Girl (the word for "four" in Chinese is a homophone for "death," and because of her family's superstitions, she's never given a real name) who has a poor home life, and finds some solace in Christianity. She doesn't adopt Christianity for its religion, but to better embody her devilish nature, which her family tells her she has. She practices making a face whenever people look at her, to warn them that she's like a demon, and for them to stay away. When she hears people in her own culture refer to Christians as demons, she believes this is a better way to have people stay away from her.(less)
Boxers, the larger of the two works, tells the story of the events leading up to and including the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. It focuses on one characte...moreBoxers, the larger of the two works, tells the story of the events leading up to and including the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. It focuses on one character, Little Bao, who essentially is the single person who organizes the rebellion to take China back from the imperialist foreigners who are taking away their culture. Like Yang's other works, there is magic realism in the story, but unlike his other works, there's actually a historical precedent behind that magic realism. That isn't to say that the Chinese actually used magic in the rebellion, but the history tells us that the leaders of the rebellion did believe that they were channeling their Gods when they went into battle. The story is fictionalized, in that Little Bao wasn't a real person, but merely an invention to make the story more interesting, and to relate the events back to the reader through the character.(less)
With Goliath, Scott Westerfeld has wrapped up his Leviathan series, an alternate-history look at the events leading up to World War I. In his history,...moreWith Goliath, Scott Westerfeld has wrapped up his Leviathan series, an alternate-history look at the events leading up to World War I. In his history, the two sides are either Clankers — people who rely on steam-powered mechanical machines to drive their technology — or Darwinists — people who derive new functional species by splicing and combining DNA from existing animals — or some combination of the two. I think the two technologies represent the two conflicting ideologies of the two sides of the war, but to be honest, I don’t know my history well enough to know if it’s a firm demarcation, and besides, in this volume, Japan and the US use a combination of the two technologies instead of favoring one over another. Regardless, Westerfeld uses the two ideals as a way to represent the ingrained prejudices people have for different groups and races.
The series is a little bit of everything. It’s one part science fiction, one part historical fiction, one part adventure fiction, and one part romance fiction. It’s a YA series, and Westerfeld does a good job of making it appealing to all audiences of his target audience. The main subplot of the series involves Prince Alek and Deryn Sharp, the Austrian heir to the throne and the young woman commoner who disguises herself as a boy to serve in the Royal Air Force, and their developing friendship. With the Uglies series, Westerfeld proved that he could write strong female leads, and he does the same here with Deryn, who often proves herself to be just as strong — and usually stronger — than Alek. Deryn could have easily fallen into an anti-stereotype, but her strength is never forced, nor does it ever ring false. Westerfeld does the character justice, which is part of the reason why the story succeeds.
Like the previous books in the series, Goliath got me interested in the real history that inspired the novels, which got me to do a little research to learn more about what really happened. The book also features Nikola Tesla as a character (who, as a real person, has always intrigued me), so of course it makes me want to read more about him. I’m not much of a history buff, so any time a story can inspire me to learn more about real events, I take that as a sign of success for the story itself. Oftentimes it’s a lot easier to get into history by framing a real event with a fictional story (look at Titanic for a popular example), and here we get a fictional setting, as well. In the afterword of Goliath, the author notes the liberties he took with the real history, but also notes where the real history diverted, and indirectly encourages the readers to look into it themselves.
I was pleased with how the series wound up. It wasn’t perfect, and I think it would have been hard for the author not to take it to its logical conclusion, but even though one plot ended the way I expected it would, there were enough unexpected events throughout the rest of the story to keep me interested in the plot and keep asking questions. Scott Westerfeld is a great writer, so it comes as no surprise to me that he could take those talents and apply them to a historical series. It makes me curious to see what he’s going to do with his next series.(less)
I’m a fan of Stephen King’s from way back. I mean, I started getting into him when I was in high school, and that’s now over 20 years ago for me. I’ve...moreI’m a fan of Stephen King’s from way back. I mean, I started getting into him when I was in high school, and that’s now over 20 years ago for me. I’ve been one of his constant readers since then, and defended him to people who would try to tell me that he’s a hack without any real talent, but even though I find something very familiar whenever I read his latest book, I also find myself being surprised by what I find in his stories. In this case, I found myself being intrigued by his deliberate sense of pacing. Like Under the Dome, the book is lengthy, and seems like it gets bogged down in tedious detail, but also like Under the Dome, if you try to go back and figure out what to cut out to make it less so, you’ll find yourself at a loss as to what to cut. It’s very conflicting, but when you look at those details, you find that a lot of the setting, characterization, and pacing is buried there, like a hidden message between the letters. And those three characteristics make up the bulk of what makes King’s novels so readable.
The story is ostensibly about a man who travels back in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination, but really the story is about Jake Epping’s post-divorce life. That his life takes him back to the late 1950s is just a plot device, as is the sense of responsibility he feels about preventing the assassination. Kennedy is just the framework to tell Jake’s story, to the point where when King goes from Jake to Oswald, I found myself being a lot less interested in what was going on. This isn’t a terrible surprise; King paints Jake out to be a very likable guy who’s honest, dependable, and sincere (well, as much as anyone from the future could be while living in his past), and Lee Harvey Oswald has enough real history to make him the despicable character he really was. In fact, at first glance, it’s very easy to look at Oswald as the antagonist of the story, but this isn’t really the case. Jake is both the protagonist and the antagonist, as he’s the guy who’s gone back to try to change history, and also the guy who refuses to drop that responsibility to live the life he wants to live. It may sound like a grandiose comparison, but it reminds me of the decision that Jesus has to make at the end of The Last Temptation of Christ. And I wouldn’t even consider Jake to be a Jesus figure in this story.
Something else I found pretty intriguing was the way that the novel had a couple of different stories written into the overall plot. I’m not even talking about subplots here, because the first 200+ pages of the novel were an experiment that Jake undertook to see how serious the consequences would be if he made such a drastic change to the timeline. It had its own beginning, its own middle, and its own end, and had the sorts of trials one would expect a character to have to overcome to be successful in the story. It helps explain how some of King’s novels can wind up being so tremendous, and now I find myself wondering if he’s done this in previous books and I just never noticed it. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised.
Like any Stephen King book, 11/22/63 will reward faithful readers with interconnected places and characters that appear in King’s other books. Years ago, I read an interview with James Cameron about Titanic, where he talked about using recurring extras in different scenes in the movie. They didn’t have any speaking lines or serve any other purpose than to humanize the drama, but he chose to have them show up over and over again in different scenes to give a sense of familiarity to the viewers to give them more reason to sympathize with them. It worked pretty well, and I now realize that King does the same thing with his connected characters over all of his different books. They may not be the same characters, but they’re related, and that gives the reader more reason to feel for them. In a way, it’s still a little annoying, but I can’t deny that it’s effective.
Overall, I think this is a profound book. I’m not sure that I would call it standard King fare (the pacing and characterization will be familiar to his readers, but the theme is very different), but I found it to be very moving, thoughtful, and compelling. King still receives a lot of flack from literary folks for his success, as does Dan Brown, but while Dan Brown’s writing skills fail when compared to his storytelling skills, King has them both, and I think much of the flack he receives is just jealousy. He manages to keep telling interesting, compelling stories without making them seem formulaic, and that’s a damn sight better than what can be said for most popular authors these days. 11/22/63 isn’t perfect, but it’s an compelling, intriguing read, and the best book I’ve read this year.(less)
Yep, The Help. I heard about it when it came out, and know a lot of people who liked it, but I just wasn’t all that interested. I avoid non-genre fict...moreYep, The Help. I heard about it when it came out, and know a lot of people who liked it, but I just wasn’t all that interested. I avoid non-genre fiction, book-club books, and bestseller books (mostly) by practice, and The Help was all of those things together, so there wasn’t much there to make me want to read the book. It wasn’t until I saw the trailer for the movie and realized what the story was about that my interest finally got piqued. Somehow, I had managed to miss out on the most important point — what the story was about — and almost missed out all together on the book.
I probably don’t need to tell you anything about the story, now. The book was a runaway bestseller, and by now you’ve probably seen the previews a hoopty-jillion times over, so there’s really no need for me to cover that this book is about a young woman from 1950s-era Jackson, Mississippi who takes on the role of collecting the stories of all the black maids from the town to reveal the social ills behind those roles of employer and employee (which were actually closer to master and servant, when you get right down to it).
There were a few things that were a disservice to the story, overall. For one, in order to illustrate the full impact these stories would have on the town and its social structure, the book had to be published, to there was never any real tension over whether or not the book would be completed. It had to be, otherwise a large part of the drama of the story would be lost. That’s not to say that Stockett didn’t write the story in such a way as for me to realize this; I was still hanging on with Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minnie as they waited to hear the news about the book. There was also one scene that served to prove to Minnie that Celia viewed her as a person and a friend more than she viewed her as a maid that was just plain random. I kept thinking that there were a ton of other ways for the author to create a scene where Celia had to come to Minnie’s aid than that, and as a result, I kept expecting that random encounter to come back up at some point later in the story (it didn’t). Finally, the story is told by the three main characters in alternating first-person narratives, but there was one chapter that was told from a third-person perspective, which just didn’t make any sense to me. I can sort of see why — the scene wasn’t seen from any one of those three characters completely — but there’s so much more of the story about other characters that’s narrated by the main characters as a “Guess what I heard?” anecdote that I didn’t see why Stockett didn’t do the same with that one chapter. It was jarring, more so because the voice of the chapter was so similar to the other characters’, anyway.
All that doesn’t change the fact that this is a very readable book, made so because of the characters. The protagonists were all working toward a great good against a large challenge, and it was very easy to sympathize with them because of that situation. Stockett did a great job of piling one hardship on top of another for the characters, to make their challenges even more difficult, which in turn makes the reader more supportive of them. And the antagonists were so despicable and so easy to hate that it was very easy to take sides in the battle. There was no moral ambiguity in the characters to muddy the waters of who the heroes and villains were.
When I first started reading the book, I was struck with how the author was trying to address a serious social issue that reflected the truth of race relations during that time through something as trivial as “The Help.” I understand that it reflected the truth of race relations at that time, but it seemed a bit pithy. Once the story really got underway, though, Stockett used real historical events to remind us that we might be reading a fictional story, but that the issue at heart was very, very real. It helped ground the story in reality, and remind us that we weren’t going to get through the story without some serious reflection.
I don’t know that this book really needs my recommendation for folks to read it, but I will say this, to folks who are like me and don’s usually read books like this: Don’t ignore it just because it’s popular. It’s serious, enjoyable, readable, and effective. And above all, it’s just a damn good story.(less)
There’s not a whole lot more I can say here that I haven’t already said in my review for Leviathan, the first in this trilogy by Mr. Westerfeld. Like...moreThere’s not a whole lot more I can say here that I haven’t already said in my review for Leviathan, the first in this trilogy by Mr. Westerfeld. Like its predecessor, Behemoth got me thinking a lot about the circumstances leading up to World War I, enough so that I did a lot of research while reading this novel to see how much of it followed the historical record. Considering that I’m not much of a history buff, that’s pretty impressive, at least to me.
It makes me wonder, though, if people who are versed in history would get a lot out of the story. Knowing where things are going would remove a lot of the tension from the story, because while Westerfeld tells the story well by using interesting characters, knowing the general direction of the story might take a little bit away from the overall feel of the book. Of course, the book was written with young adults in mind, and Westerfeld admits in his afterword that he took some dramatic license with some of the facts, so maybe it was an attempt to get his audience more interested in the real history behind the story. Besides, if I’m an adult who doesn’t know the history that well, and sought it out while reading the novel, certainly there are a few others out there like me who would do the same.
I still think this series is a slightly better read than the Uglies series was, if only because the historical context seems to make it a little more grounded and realistic, despite the futuristic steampunkiness of the books. I’m looking forward to reading the third book, if for no other reason than to get caught up on the historical details behind it.(less)
Despite my being in the middle of another unique and interesting book, I had to set it aside to come back to it when All Clear finally hit the market....moreDespite my being in the middle of another unique and interesting book, I had to set it aside to come back to it when All Clear finally hit the market. I mean, not only is it the latest Connie Willis book, but it’s also the second half of the story told in Blackout, released earlier this year. Note that I didn’t write “sequel”; that’s because this book isn’t one. The story of Blackout and All Clear are one massive, 1100+ page novel, broken into two volumes due to publishing constraints. As such, this isn’t a complete story, any more than Blackout was. And since Blackout ended on such a cliffhanger ending, it was pretty necessary for me to start reading it right away.
Anyone familiar with Connie Willis will know that she enjoys the idea of time-traveling historians, and with England during World War II. With these two stories, Willis puts them both together, with great effect. She follows a handful of characters who have been sent back in time to observe events during the Blitz, and then proceeds to put them into a comedy of errors where they struggle to find their way back to their own present. This isn’t anything new, really, but Willis manages to bring a new twist to this idea, and manages to do so with great success. In fact, what she manages to do with the entire story makes you wonder how long she’s been planning this grand conclusion, since it doesn’t just tie together the loose ends in this story, but also manages to bring all of her Oxford historian time-travel novels together into a single thread. It’s brilliant, really, and came as a real surprise to me.
As usual, the author brings a lot of her trademark symbolism and imagery to the book, but this time, there is a lot less comedy in her story. This time around, the struggle of finding their way back to their present becomes more of a nightmare, where they find themselves blocked at every turn. In a way, this kept the story going, but at the same time, it became almost frustrating in how repetitive it was. There were times when I thought that if I had to read one more character trying to remain brave in the face of her friends, that I was going to lose it. Amazingly, Willis pulled even this off, to the point where I can’t complain too much about it now.
My biggest complaint, I suppose, is the novel’s length. There was a lot of detail, and a lot of back-and-forth with the characters going all over England trying to find a way home, but it all turned out to be very necessary, because of the main point of the novel: One act may not have been enough to alter the course of the war, but all of the infinitesimally small acts of a number of people during the war could have a cumulative effect on how it progressed. In a way, this point is obvious in the way that Willis tells the story, but it’s easy to overlook this as the theme of the novel, as she gives praise to all the people in England who supported their country and sacrificed much to help their country endure. It’s almost an antiquated notion, but it’s hard to leave the story without thinking that everyone who lived in England during World War II was a hero. And I think that’s what makes the novel so important.
It would have been easy to give up on the novel because of its length (and I’ll admit I was almost tempted), but I’m glad I persevered. I’m not sure that this will ever take on the status of either Bellwether or Doomsday Book, but honestly, it should. Together, the novels make up a grand story that’s well worth the effort to read.(less)
Hard science fiction tends to elude me. First of all, I feel like I’m having to make too much of an effort to understand the science of the stories, b...moreHard science fiction tends to elude me. First of all, I feel like I’m having to make too much of an effort to understand the science of the stories, but I’m a pretty smart guy, and besides, the stories usually work without the reader knowing all the details of the science. Secondly, hard science fiction novels tend to read like papers, and lack some of the “oomph” that I like in my fiction. Eifelheim is a hard science fiction novel, and I almost gave up on it three different times because it was so technical. What kept me going was the basic premise of the story.
The novel goes back and forth between modern-day times, where a theoretical physicist and historian are a live-in couple, each addressing their own research challenges, and Medieval times, just as the Black Plague is devastating Europe. The historian is trying to figure out why a city named Eifelheim disappeared from the map in the 14th Century, never to be resettled, and the physicist is trying to figure out why the speed of light seems to be slowing down over time. The portion of the book set in Medieval times is set in the city of Eifelheim, where the events that forced the town to disappear are taking place. The story focuses on the priest at Eifelheim, a man who respects science and scientific thinking, but also has a strong faith in God.
The portions of the story intersect nicely. There’s more to the Medieval story than the modern one, but it’s arranged so that, when the historian is trying to figure out a certain part of the puzzle, we’ve already read what happened, and know the answer. It’s also interesting to note that, while the residents of Eifelheim are discussing the possible causes of the plague, and how it moves from place to place, the author focuses in on the dead rats in the city, and the dogs scratching at their fleas. It’s an interesting form of foreshadowing, and one that increases the reader’s sense of dread. I’ve come to learn that any book centered around the Holocaust or the Black Plague will be tragic, but that the stories themselves resonate because of the tragedy, and Eifelheim is no exception.
The book focuses on the minutiae of Medieval life, so much so that it tends to bog the story down. I had trouble keeping up with the different characters in Medieval times, but the author included a cast of characters at the front of the book, and he also structured the story so that you really only need to know about a handful of characters. You can follow them, and understand what’s happening to everyone else through them. The author also went to great pains to make that era authentic, all the way down to using particular terms and styles of language that jarred me out of the story, because I couldn’t make sense of it immediately. Still, though, not understanding all these details won’t detract from the story, but for those of you willing to make the effort, I expect it will add an extra level of depth to the story.
Another interesting aspect of the story is that it focuses strongly on the presence of faith, and its usefulness in old and modern societies. This comes to full light in the Medieval times, as the residents of Eifelheim struggle to come to terms with the foreigners who come to reside in their city. The clash of cultures forces both sides to reinvestigate their feelings about science and faith, and the result is a fine balance of understanding both. In this respect, I think the novel succeeds brilliantly.
There’s a moment of serendipity near the end of the novel that resolves the issues of the modern day setting, but it’s a minor quibble compared to the artistry of the story set in Medieval times. There’s a blurb on the back of the book about how Michael Flynn grants a very human presence to his stories, and while I doubted that ability through the first two thirds of the novel, by the time I finished the book, I understood the praise.
Eifelheim is not an easy read, but I think it’s well worth the effort. This and Rainbows End were both tough books for me to finish, but the resulting themes and conflicts more than made up for the extra time it took me to read the books. Just be forewarned that it may take you longer than you expect to finish them.(less)
It's hard to pick favorite works by a favorite author. With Connie Willis, it's even harder. Bellwether is a fine example of how she crosses science f...moreIt's hard to pick favorite works by a favorite author. With Connie Willis, it's even harder. Bellwether is a fine example of how she crosses science fiction with a romantic comedy of errors; Doomsday Book showcases her ability to tackle serious subjects with finesse; To Say Nothing of the Dog is just a fun, crazy romp about time travel and Victorian England. They're all good, but for some reason, her best work centers around England during World War II. It's no suprise; she's done so much research into the time, and clearly has enough knowledge and interest in the subject to write well about it.
Blackout covers that same subject, but like the differences between "Jack," "Night Watch," and "The Winds of Marble Arch," it does so without seeming like it's an imitation of those stories. For one, Willis populates the novel with three different time traveling historians for Oxford; for another, it covers the Blitz in great detail. In fact, she covers the subject in such great detail that this is only the first half of the story. The rest of it won't be revealed until this fall.
That underlies my biggest gripe with the book. I'm not a very good series reader, because I forget a lot of details from one book to the next. By the time All Clear is published, I will have forgotten most of what happened to all the characters. This is partly due to the fact that there are three historians, whose stories are told more or less simultaneously, and who typically go by two different names during the story. They have their real names and their assumed names, and it makes it hard to follow in parts. Additionally, since this is only half of the story, it means that the novel is all setup, with very little resolution. It's still a good read, and it means that you will really care about the characters by the time you get to the end of the book, but had I known this story would be told over two books, I would have waited until I had them both before reading them.
Still, this isn't to say that I was disappointed. The setup was well done, and the events were brought together in a sensible way. I'm eager to read the rest of the story to see how it resolves. I just hate that I will have to wait until the end of the year to do so.(less)
When I was in school, history was my most-dreaded subject. Now, I’ve found that there are a lot of fascinating facts to find in history, it’s just a m...moreWhen I was in school, history was my most-dreaded subject. Now, I’ve found that there are a lot of fascinating facts to find in history, it’s just a matter of finding a way to get the information in a way that appeals to me. I think that historical fiction is one way to catch up on the history I missed, even though in cases like Leviathan, it’s a little … well, different from the way history actually told it.
In this book, the start of another trilogy by the author who brought us the Uglies series, we see the development of World War I, through the eyes of the Clankers and the Darwinists. In this history, there are two different approaches to technology: One creates mechanical beasties that can be used as weapons of warfare; the other mixes DNA from different creatures to fabricate living, breathing pieces of warfare that draw on different animals in nature. It’s definitely a steampunk novel, where it’s set in the past, yet populated with modern technologies, but it’s an appealing, interesting background against which to see a different outlook on history. Plus, making the main character one of the key players in the outbreak, even when he isn’t representative of any historical figure, makes the drama and intrigue come to life a lot more than reading something out of a history book. Of course, I don’t think novels like this one will ever replace nonfiction, but it’s nice to see a novel that draws enough on reality — and acknowledges it in the afterword — that it will encourage readers to learn more about the subject on their own.
The story itself was gripping, since it flip-flopped between two characters, one from the Darwinists’ side (England), and one from the Clankers’ side (Austria). It’s sort of a cheap tactic to build suspense by going back and forth between characters, leaving them at critical points to ensure that the reader will keep reading to see what happened, but I can’t deny that it works. It was also a little more readable than the Uglies series, for a reason I can’t identify. Maybe it was the setting, or the backdrop, or the lack of necessity in creating a new slang to identify the characters’ cultures. Deryn, the main Darwinist character, has some slang so that she can swear without actually swearing in the book (like saying “Blisters!” instead of something that the publishers may not approve of), but other than that, the narrative flowed naturally, and never pulled me out of the story. I adore the premise behind Uglies, but this novel had a better flow.
I was a little disappointed that this book turned out to be the start of a trilogy, but I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series. I just hope I don’t forget too many of the details from one book to the next.(less)
With Farthing, Jo Walton looked at an alternate history where England fell into fascism as a way to stave off the war with Germany. With Ha’penny, she...moreWith Farthing, Jo Walton looked at an alternate history where England fell into fascism as a way to stave off the war with Germany. With Ha’penny, she looked at that same England, six years later, and how well the country had adopted that rule, with all their misgivings and concerns. Now, with Half a Crown, she concludes the story, bringing the story to a logical conclusion where the country has fallen deep, deep into the well of human tragedy, and the inevitable transition that the country takes.
I love the way Jo Walton writes. She’s very understated with her prose, but still manages to convey a lot of emotion for her characters. She writes her horrible scenes as well as she does her joyful ones, and it’s hard not to get attached to her characters along the way. I wasn’t thrilled with the way the trilogy concluded (the message was right, but the presentation wasn’t; it seemed very rushed), but I was glad to see that she didn’t sugarcoat the journey there.
There was a part of me that kept thinking that the characters from this novel were the same as the characters from Farthing, or Ha’Penny, but the only character consistent among all three books was Inspector Carmichael, though some other characters popped up in cameos among the last two books. At first, I figured that the author had just slipped the other characters in, like easter eggs waiting to be found, but it turned out that the recurring characters were clearly noted. I’m not sure if that was the case with Ha’Penny, but here, at least, there was no doubting it.
I recommend the book to anyone who started the trilogy, and if you haven’t read the first two books, then I recommend you start with Farthing. That volume is really the best of the bunch, if only because the concept is new and intriguing. The author manages to make each book different enough to keep readers from reading the same story over again, but the introduction is always the best.(less)
Ms. Willis has done a lot of research into the bombings of London during World War II. This is evident through her inclusion of three (three!) differe...moreMs. Willis has done a lot of research into the bombings of London during World War II. This is evident through her inclusion of three (three!) different stories in this collection that have some connection to that theme. “The Winds of Marble Arch” is one; “Night Watch” is another; and “Jack” rounds out that triptych of stories.
Now, am I complaining? Heck no! Ms. Willis is a fine, extraordinary writer, and she has a knack for writing stories that are a lot like those zany romantic comedies from the 1950s. But she really shines and shows her talents when she tackles serious subjects, like war, sexuality, humanity, and religion. And the fact that these three stories all center on the same central theme, yet still manage to be very different stories with very different tones, just goes to show that when you’re reading a Connie Willis book, you’re sure to be impressed.
It is impossible for me to give this collection of her short stories an objective review, because Ms. Willis is one of my favorite authors. It’s very, very difficult to pick a favorite story from the collection, because they’re all so very, very good. I love her screwball romantic comedy stories, and I love that she manages to incorporate hard science into those stories, sometimes even going so far as to incorporate that science into the characters of those stories (you’ll just have to read “At the Rialto” and “Blued Moon” to understand what I mean). I also love her heavier stories, especially “Night Watch,” which I really think should be made into a movie (and considering how aggravated I get with Hollywood’s habit of adapting something that is already a success instead of creating something original, that’s saying something). “All His Darling Daughters” is just about the darkest, most disturbing story I’ve read, but I still find something very significant in the story to tell people, “You have to read this!” She has some gentler stories in there, as well, including her Christmas stories (”Epiphany” and “Inn” are touching stories of faith and perseverance), a tribute to a fellow science-fiction author who inspired her (”Nonstop to Portales”), a back-handed tribute to Emily Dickinson (”The Soul Selects Her Own Society…”), and a satirical, clever story of aliens, romance, and holiday newsletters (”Newsletter”). Really, I can’t think of a single dud story in the collection. Some had more of an impact than others, but none are bad, and each one of them had something important to say.
If you’ve already experienced Doomsday Book, Bellwether, To Say Nothing of the Dog, or Lincoln’s Dreams, then it won’t take any more prodding from me to get you to read this book (be forewarned, though, that you’ll see a lot of reprinted stories here, but they’re all worth re-reading, that’s for certain). If you haven’t discovered the wonder that is Connie Willis, though, I could think of no other better place to start than with The Winds of Marble Arch.(less)