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Uncharted Territory

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Findriddy and Carson are two explorers sent to Boohte to survey the ridges and scrub-covered hills of the planet. Back home, their adventures are followed by countless breathless fans, but the reality is far less romantic as they deal with dust, nitpicking regulations, and uncooperative aliens. Teamed with a young intern whose specialty is mating customs, and a native guide of indeterminate gender, the group sets out for a previously unexplored sector of the planet. As they survey canyons and cataracts, battle dangers, and discover alien treasures, they will soon find themselves in alien territory of another kind: exploring the paths and precipices of sex. And love.

149 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1992

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About the author

Connie Willis

265 books4,078 followers
Constance Elaine Trimmer Willis is an American science fiction writer. She is one of the most honored science fiction writers of the 1980s and 1990s.

She has won, among other awards, ten Hugo Awards and six Nebula Awards. Willis most recently won a Hugo Award for All Seated on the Ground (August 2008). She was the 2011 recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA).

She lives in Greeley, Colorado with her husband Courtney Willis, a professor of physics at the University of Northern Colorado. She also has one daughter, Cordelia.

Willis is known for her accessible prose and likable characters. She has written several pieces involving time travel by history students and faculty of the future University of Oxford. These pieces include her Hugo Award-winning novels Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog and the short story "Fire Watch," found in the short story collection of the same name.

Willis tends to the comedy of manners style of writing. Her protagonists are typically beset by single-minded people pursuing illogical agendas, such as attempting to organize a bell-ringing session in the middle of a deadly epidemic (Doomsday Book), or frustrating efforts to analyze near-death experiences by putting words in the mouths of interviewees (Passage).

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 169 reviews
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
July 13, 2018
2.5 stars. Uncharted Territory is a short, farcical science fiction novel about a team of explorers of a planet called Boohte that is filled with strange alien life - almost as strange as the relationships between the humans on this planet. Findriddy (Fin) and Carson are two planetary surveyors who embark on a trouble-plagued expedition to map the largely uncharted planet. In an excess of concern about cultural insensitivity and imperialism, the government has imposed some ridiculous constraints on exploration. The surveyors are also required to hire an indigenous guide, the alien natives of Boohte, and their native guide Bult is delighted to take every advantage of the situation.

Connie Willis's works seem to alternate between farcical, even slapstick humor, and more serious books that include incredibly detailed research (occasionally both together, as in To Say Nothing of the Dog). Uncharted Territory is on the far end of the humor side of the spectrum, but it's kind of a quirky, satirical humor mixed with quite a bit of oddness and frustration. (Why do so many of Willis's books seem to involve frustrated people running around vainly trying to accomplish near-impossible tasks?) It didn't really grab me.

I'm tempted to say "for Connie Willis completists only" but that would be a bit harsh. Anyway, think of it as a very short novel (or a longer novella) that explores the ideas of sex, love, territorial exploration and excessive political correctness, with tongue firmly in cheek. It was a decent read with some funny moments and a few surprises, but generally the plot kind of wanders aimlessly around, rather like our intrepid explorers. Personally I expected more from a Connie Willis book.
January 27, 2021
Well well well, would you look at that? Here I am, giving 4 stars to a book with a Most Miserable Average Star Rating (M²ATR™)! How very surprising indeed. I mean, it’s not like this happened fairly recently. Nor is it a regular occurrence or anything. Nope, not at all.

Anyhoo and stuff, everyone seems to have read this one wrong, so set the record straight I most graciously shall.

Okay, so I have to admit that the People of Despicable Book Taste (PoDBT™) are quite possibly right (maybe) when they say that this is Super Extra Lite Willis Material (SELWM™), compared to some of her other books. BUT. The story is still Pure Willis Deliciousness (PWD™) and comes fully equipped with her trademark:

a) Quirky/witty/slapstick-type humor.
b) Jabs at bureaucracy and its glorious absurdity.
c) Serial misunderstandings and blunders and stuff.
d) Characters-with-a-propensity-to-run-aimlessly-around-like-a-bunch-of-headless-shrimp.
e) a + b + c + d.
f) All of the above.

No, the most scrumptious perfection that is To Say Nothing of the Dog this book is definitely not. BUT. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Lite Willis a day keeps stressful Covid Times away, so there.

Anyway, in case you were wondering, this ridiculously underrated story *waves at the PoDBT™* is about an ever-bickering duo of explorers who are rude, dirty, and have a tendency to break all the rules (aka yum). Other expedition members include a local alien guide—sorry, “indigenous sentient guide” is what I meant to say —in charge of making sure the above mentioned explorers respect the many ludicrous rules and meaningless regulations set by Big Brother (aka “the morons back home”)— sorry, “the government” is what I meant to say—and fining them, trigger-happy style (whatever that means), whenever they fail to comply. There’s also a socioexozoologist intern with fangirling tendencies and a logistics chick whose shirts seem to have perpetual low coordinates issues (don’t ask).

The book is also about: Tight Pants, Fancy Mustache and the Accordion, luggage stampedes, dust storms (or lack thereof), Tongues and Dead Soups (I told you not to ask), appetizing—or not—mating customs, technocentric enslaving imperialists, umbrellas and Mary Poppins, Evelyn vs. Eleanor vs. Ernestine, cultural contamination and corrupting the poor aliens native sentients with Earth table manners, plaster-spitting birds, inappropriate tones and manners in speaking to aliens indigenous persons, and ponies with tim-berr tendencies. But you know what the really, really, really, Super Extra Cool Thing (SECT™) about this book is? That twist. That twist! This was my second time reading this book but that twist still made me feel like...

Nefarious Last Words (NLW™): I was going to come up with something super clever here (as usual), but it seems my two ever-decaying grey cells are on strike today, so I’ll just quote the best description of Connie Willis’ work ever written (shamelessly copied from Jack’s review):
“Whenever I read something by Connie Willis I start out confused, and finish wanting to have her babies.”
Truer words were never spoken, methinks.

[Pre-review nonsense]

It's light! It's funny! It made me feel despicably fluffy inside!

Pretty revolting for a nefarious being such as my little self, huh? Quite right about that you are. But what can I say, that's Connie Willis for you 🤷♂️.

Review to come and stuff.

[January 2012]

This is actually the first Connie Willis book I've read that took me a while to get into. At first it feels like your "basic" science fiction book: planetary surveyors exploring a planet with a "native" guide, exactly what I don't like in science fiction. Still, as the story developed I found myself enjoying the book and its characters quite a lot. It's typical Connie Willis material: well-written, witty and refreshing, with a great attention to detail. I also love the way Willis constantly ridicules bureaucracy, the government and political correctness. What really did it for me however is the very clever narrative twist that Willis uses at some point in the novel. It completely changes the reader's outlook on the story, I loved it!:)

This was a quick, entertaining read. Yet another Connie Willis treat:)
Profile Image for Jeffrey Caston.
Author 8 books130 followers
May 6, 2021
I really don’t like leaving negative reviews. Truly I don’t. Even for a book that is 149 pages I recognize there is a LOT of work that goes into the writing and all the stuff beyond that to bring a paperback book to market. Especially in pre-Kindle days like 1994, when this book was published. So that disinclines me to be overly critical.

That being said, this simply wasn’t great. It lacked any real logic. As the reader I’m supposed to believe that Carson and Finriddy, the two main protagonists endure a planetary survey system in which they are constantly fined by the alien chaperone, Bult, who was apparently born on the planet. Fines accrue at Bult’s whim. Some conceivably make sense – if you believed that Bult hadn’t seen and experienced enough of the world to know what was a violation of some policy or not. But then why do they need to have the human surveyors? That seemed a contradiction. And you are supposed to believe Carson and Finriddy have to pay these fines personally out of their own wages instead of the “Big Brother” employer. AND they endure this for eight years before the story starts? Who in their right mind would agree to that? Why does the survey need to happen? And then they bring in a new volunteer to the team who seems to have nothing to add to any given conversation other than a reference to animal mating customs on other planets.

Worse, I thought the story made science fiction and planetary exploration, well, frankly really dull. How that is possible I’m still trying to puzzle out. I have seen from other reviews that the author maybe tries to make some social or historical commentary. It wasn’t well drawn out, at least in my humble opinion. The whole book was only 149 pages but nothing really happened except for a few incidents, that weren’t that exciting and maybe filled five pages.

Just my opinion, but I just didn’t care for this.
Profile Image for Trin.
1,751 reviews549 followers
July 30, 2007
The best and worst of Connie Willis, in one slim volume! The first half of this book annoyed me so much I almost considered not finishing it. In describing the problems facing interplanetary surveyors Carson and Findriddy, Willis, as she often does, pokes fun at the stupidity of bureaucracy; however, it felt like all the humor in this book totally missed the mark. It was like actually being stuck in line at the DMV as opposed to reading a funny satire about such a situation. But then, Willis does something very, very cool—a little narrative trick that I admire immensely and don't want to spoil here. It turns the whole narrative on its ear, and while it doesn't cure the other problems, it certainly made me want to keep reading.

The novel, however, remains uneven. The romance plotline(s) never seemed believable to me, which rather lessens the impact of the end. Still, that one twist—I do feel like all the annoying stuff was worth wading through for that. I'm glad I did.
Profile Image for Jack.
264 reviews3 followers
November 7, 2009
this is just a tiny novella, but lovely. ever have an itch of cognitive dissonance when you read? it could be lazy, inconsistent writing, or it could be the author skillfully setting you up for a slow realization later on. Whenever I read something by Connie Willis I start out confused, and finish wanting to have her babies.
Profile Image for Shira.
55 reviews2 followers
August 16, 2021
וויליס נהדרת כתמיד: מצחיקה, מפתיעה, מרגשת ומעוררת מחשבה.
Profile Image for Bandit.
4,461 reviews446 followers
July 2, 2019
This seemed like a good way to try a new author, a book so short, it’s barely longer than a novella. And such a fun cover. The plot has to do with intergalactic surveyors, Fin and Carson, bickering their way through a distant planet. They are accompanied by a native guide with heavy bureaucratic tendencies and a young intern, who specializes in mating rituals of various species. The premise is perfectly set up for some slapstick comedy and sure enough, slapstick comedy peppers the narrative. It also satirizes gender politics and political correctness quite consistently and quite entertainingly. The powers that be are so obsessed with not repeating the mistakes of the past, they set an impossibly rigid set of rules and regulations for the surveyors to follow, resulting in their guide amusingly slapping them with increasingly ludicrous fines at every chance. There are also budding romances trying to blossom, even the native guide might have amorous intentions, although everyone seems to have tough time with determining one’s genders. But the thing is that other than the comedy of it all, there isn’t much to the book, they survey, the bicker, they survey. Not exactly a plot driven story. More of a comedy sketch, light, amusing, entertaining enough. And such a quick read too. From reading reviews of others here on GR, one might get the idea this isn’t the best representation of the author’s body of work, but you get a pretty decent idea of how it might read and it isn’t at all an unflattering introduction. The writing is enjoyable, the imagination and dialogue are too. And so yeah. Fun was had. New author checked out. All in a day’s work, or in this case, more like 140 minutes or so.
Profile Image for Daniela De Los Santos.
59 reviews52 followers
November 5, 2021
3.5. Sigo sintiendo que esta novela breve o cuento largo, al igual que otros de Connie Willis no son su fuerte, es decir está muy bien, pero creo que Willis es muy buena construyendo personajes y la brevedad imposibilita eso.
Me pasó algo extraño con esta obra, hasta la mitad no me di cuenta que Findriddy era una mujer, me la había imaginado como un hombre por la dinámica "masculina" que tiene con Carson. No sé si fue algo intencionado de la autora (ya que algo que Fin le critica a Carson es que no la vea como mujer, cosa que empieza a reclamarle a la mitad de la obra y fue cuando me di cuenta 👀) o se debe a que yo no le estaba prestando la debida atención y soy una boluda nomas 🙈.
La obra está bien, hay una crítica dura a la conquista y colonización, a la burocracia estatal (que los personajes llaman "Gran Hermano" y "Tercer Reich"), se burla e ironiza sobre cómo se denominan a las cosas y seres que se descubren, y cómo se adaptan las especies originarias a las conquistadores.
Algo nuevo en esta obra y que se diferencia bastante con las anteriores de Connie Willis es el sexo que está presente no sólo en la observación de Dr. Evelyn Parker que es socioexozoólogo (o sexozoólogo como lo llaman Fin y Carson) sino de los personajes.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Greg.
82 reviews
June 5, 2014
I love Connie Willis' prose - I was going to reference her masterpiece "Doomsday Book" in passing, which I'd finished just prior to diving into "Uncharted Territory," and it almost turned this into a review of the wrong book. Suffice it to say she writes with the elegance, wit and British flavor of H.H. Munro, but she's from...Colorado? Go figure. Anyhow, the alienness of "Uncharted Territory" just knocked me out of my chair. It took at least two chapters just to wrap my brain around the places, the creatures and the activities she was describing - then I got yanked right off of my unsuspecting duff for a fascinating and quietly hilarious ride across the Boohteri back-country.

The constant thread of satirical humor comes from the alien character Bult, who serves as both guide and "PC"-meter-maid-on-steroids to the planetary surveyors. He assesses fines on the latter in enforcement of a mountain of absurd regulations - for everything from "Disturbance of land surface" (for leaving footprints,) to "Introduction of foreign body into waterway" and "Disturbance of water surface" (for sticking a finger into a stream and making ripples,) to "Destruction of indigenous flora" (for flattening a weed under one's bedroll,) to "Inappropriate tone and manner" (for virtually any expression of disagreement or annoyance with him.) The Earth-based company that sends the surveyors to Boohte takes the endless fines in stride as an expense of the expeditions and just pays them - which situation Bult and his tribe have long since learned to milk shamelessly for a huge windfall.

The continuous thread of satire at once provides an unforgettable character in Bult and an edifying feast for any who've ever had to deal with bureaucrats who a.) know they have a measure of control over you because they're the only game in town, and b.) can be neither fired nor avoided. The wider lampooning of the intellectual toxin that is "PC" (Polite Censorship,) and the cultish misanthropy that is "green"-ism, is just icing on the cake and, unfortunately, only a slight exaggeration of conditions in present-day (2013) America.

This is listed as a "novella," but by the end you feel as though you've read only a handful of chapters of a much larger, unfinished novel. I'm really hoping "Uncharted Territory" is just a prelude to such a full-blown novel, because the setting and characters, which are as richly, utterly alien as those of Clarke's Rama or Herbert's Arrakis, scream for a wider plot and theme. This seems like a mere snippet from a much larger story - as such, it seems to begin in the middle and to end arbitrarily, with no deeper, more engaging story to latch onto. It's almost journalistic in that sense. "Uncharted Territory" is nevertheless well worth the trip, and you'll find yourself thinking back to the characters you'll meet on this short journey days after you've finished the last page. The problem is that it will also leave you wishing you could have the other 80% of the story.
Profile Image for Melissa McShane.
Author 58 books738 followers
July 17, 2008
What I love most about this book (now that I've read it many times and its secrets are known to me) is watching the way the plot unfolds in tandem with Ev's talk about sex and mating rituals. It's a contrivance, but Willis's skill with characterization and dialogue makes it work.
Profile Image for Tomislav.
958 reviews68 followers
November 28, 2021
10 October 2008 – ***. This is a short, clever, book - different from many of Connie Willis's more well-known books, but recognizably hers. The humor is sometimes overt, sometimes subtle, but I enjoyed it all. I can easily imagine this as a movie. Though I seldom go to movies, this would be one I would love to see.
Profile Image for Trike.
1,429 reviews153 followers
September 22, 2020
Just as good as I remembered. Willis deconstructs both sci-fi exploration stories and tales of the old west in one go, while also turning in a fun character study, no mean feat. This is a thoroughly enjoyable novella.
Profile Image for Laura.
146 reviews
December 18, 2021
Leave it to Connie Willis to have hilarious, and unexpected twists and turns in a story. Language warning for those who are offended by the the occasional s drop.
Profile Image for Tim Hicks.
1,474 reviews116 followers
November 26, 2012
Nah. In the end it turned out to be a mildly interesting plot, but the first half had a problem that turns up in several Willis works: it's frustrating and boring, as nothing much happens. The whole thing with Bult's fines became infuriating.

You could say that the description of the setting never got in the way of the plot. Or that it was just weak, and failed to give us anything we could work with to build a useful mental picture.

Plot twist? I suppose. Saved the story from being a total waste of time.

I'm not going to say it's a bad book, but I will say that I didn't like it.
Profile Image for Heather-Lin.
1,008 reviews37 followers
March 23, 2021
Ok, this wasn't quite my cuppa after all.

Cool world building, really cool, but the constant snark about protecting indigenous resources from the alien explorers just smelled bad to me. Some sexist comments (about both women and men) meant to be funny that weren't. The running theme about mating rituals was interesting... Until it wasn't. Ugh.

Still, for world building, fantastical landscapes, and a few good laughs averages this out to 3 Stars. ⭐⭐⭐


GR Personal Rating System:
2 ~ MEH
1 ~ NOPE
Profile Image for Chrissie.
939 reviews33 followers
September 10, 2020
2.5 stars

Meh. This was just okay. This novella was more like the short stories from Willis than her epic-length books in both tone and plot. The characters and setting were very typical old-school Sci-Fi. In fact, it felt a little like an excerpt or a short story that would've been featured in a high school English/Literature textbook. The characters felt very just written that way rather than their actions being demonstrative of their personality — lacking a certain level of complexity that I think is seen in a lot of short stories and novellas.

The thing this did have that was very Willis was the topic her characters circle and helicopter around and around the entire time ... here it was really rather hokey because it was about sex/mating rituals. I mean, it almost worked, but then it was just really very obvious and not as cleverly used as the other everyday topics she's covered in the previous works of hers I've enjoyed.

Audiobook, as narrated by Chelsea Stephens: Stephens did a great job, lending some gravity to a silly sort of story and her voice was nicely paired with the gritty characters, Fin and Carson.
Profile Image for Karith Amel.
549 reviews22 followers
July 8, 2021
This book was short . . . but I think I still may have wanted it to be shorter. A short story, rather than a novella / short novel. It was fun with a cute ending . . . could make an interesting romcom, perhaps. But I still can't help feeling that I want MORE from the most awarded sci-fi writer of all time . . . (And the world, and its people, did not feel real to me. More like a prop / backdrop for the punchline.)
Profile Image for Laura.
364 reviews
December 31, 2017
Short story, rife with bureaucracy -- and still a good read, because Willis. Kinda feels like cheating to add this toward the book challenge, since it's so short, but it was a legit book with pages and a cover and everything, so suck it.
Profile Image for Redsteve.
1,049 reviews14 followers
September 21, 2020
Meh. This one didn't do much for me. A little bit funny (in places); a little bit interesting (in places). It felt somehow older SF-wise than it's 1994 publishing date.
Profile Image for Alice.
64 reviews
July 25, 2021
Delightful space-cowboy adventure, with the usual Connie Willis flair. Took this camping and it was perfect for reading way up in the mountains!
Profile Image for Gail.
64 reviews
July 26, 2021
My first Connie Willis book! Very amusing. A perfect backpacking trip read.
Profile Image for Melanie.
723 reviews41 followers
April 6, 2014
Eh. Not Connie Willis' best work. I did like the voices of Findriddy and Carson et al. This is in contrast to the Ursula K. LeGuin classic I just read, in which otherwise promising characters in a lovely complex story were quite monotone. But--damningly--the dustjacket of Uncharted Territory was more exciting than the actual story: "As they survey canyons and cataracts, battle dangers, and discover alien treasures, they will soon find themselves in alien territory of another kind: exploring the paths and precipices of sex. And love." Not to spoil the fun, but it didn't seem like they really explored either. Even the "alien" character was weirdly heteronormative/cisnormative. Bult, their native guide, is a male and only likes the human explorer Carson because he's mistaken Carson for a female? Fill in a couple more rounds of this with different characters substituted, and you've got a sense of the romantic dynamics happening. We travel to a whole new star system and this is as interesting as it gets? Maybe I was hoping for something more Octavia Butleresque. Anyway, two stars.
Profile Image for Julie Davis.
Author 4 books264 followers
August 16, 2010

A short and witty story by Connie Willis. Carson and Findriddy, are planetary surveyors who have their hands full doing a map of uncharted territory on Boohte. The book clearly makes fun of political correctness as the government (nicknamed Big Brother) is intent on being sure that indigenous species have the fullest power possible over their planet. Right down to the point where Bult, the indigenous guide, spends most of his time levying fines for things like "destruction of indigenous flora" when one of the surveyors steps on a plant. The unspoken uncharted territory this novella explores is that of the human heart as various pairings of people come and go as well as consideration of various mating tactics. The romance and mating is all approached without physical contact or crudeness as it is displayed during a scouting expedition which introduces a new person to the planet while trying to figure out how the indigenous people built The Wall which divides a great part of a major land mass.

Most enjoyable and highly recommended.
November 29, 2013
I like Connie Willis, but this novella didn’t quite work for me. The premise is nice: planetary surveyors Finriddy and Carson are scouting the planet of Boohte. They’re famous back home because of TV shows based on their adventures, but their reality is unglamorous as they deal with over-the-top govt regulations and an indigenous guide all too eager to enforce them. The book reads like an extraterrestrial Western of sorts, albeit one that serves mainly as a vehicle to (1) satirize govt bureaucracy and political correctness (imagine Star Trek’s Prime Directive taken to insane levels of caution) and (2) explore gender identity and politics. Willis excels at the former, as always, but the latter doesn’t really gel until the end, and in a way that doesn’t really pay off. I do get what Willis was trying to achieve here, and due credit for trying, but she doesn’t quite pull off the balancing act required to make it work.
Profile Image for Leah.
509 reviews66 followers
June 13, 2016
Great fun, intelligently deceitful, and ever so slightly too long.

Her characters are instantly recognisable for their vim and vigour and resourcefulness, their slightly one-track-minded insistence on things like naming places after them (no matter how forbidden), and for their charming obtuseness in the face of overwhelming evidence. The romantic potential is realised, of course, and the alien frontier mystery solved, but not without just a tad too much repetition of the facts for my liking.

However, it is classic Willis, and I, of course, thoroughly enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Sora91.
120 reviews
April 15, 2012
Novela corta que explica una salida de reconocimiento de terreno de dos exploradores (más parecidos a dos cowboys) en otro planeta.

Se lee con facilidad gracias a los diálogos que son ágiles y están llenos de sarcasmo, pero la historia no da para mucho mas. Tiene toques de humor y quiere ridiculizar cosas como lo "políticamente correcto" y la burocracia. No creo que para hacer esto fuera necesario el contexto de ciencia ficción.
Lectura prescindible.
Profile Image for SR.
1,645 reviews48 followers
February 9, 2016
Clever and snappy, and avoids the difficulty of Willis's later work where everyone is always interrupting each other for some important call or another. The dynamics of the exploration crew are realistically hilarious, and the commentary on media coverage of romanticized jobs is really funny. I'm glad I found this!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 169 reviews

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