Good Minds Suggest: Connie Willis's Favorite "In Over Their Heads" Books

Posted by Goodreads on September 6, 2016
Connie Willis

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Science fiction luminary Connie Willis is known for her masterful, genre-bending novels that unite, for example, time travel and comedy or chaos theory with romance. Her illustrious career has produced classics such as Doomsday Book, Blackout, and To Say Nothing of the Dog while earning her 11 Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards. Now Willis is back with her first novel since 2011, Crosstalk, a satirical take on our cell phone-, social media-obsessed world that is also—rather than another "unbelievably grim and depressing" book about the consequences of galloping technology—a romantic comedy. The novel explores the perils of hyperconnectivity in a not-too-distant future where telepathy becomes possible, thanks to an outpatient procedure that leaves people able to sense one another's feelings. It sounds divine to newly-in-love Briddey Flannigan, whose fiancé, Trent, suggests having the operation to perfect their emotional empathy. But there is a dark side to so much information.

Willis tells Goodreads, "Crosstalk is about an ordinary person who finds herself in over her head, trying desperately to stay afloat and figure out what's going on, and there are tons of great books about that."

Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein
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"All Kip Russell's trying to do is fix up a secondhand space suit he won in a contest (he was trying to win a trip to the moon) when a spaceship lands on him and carries him off not only to the moon, but to Pluto and the Lesser Magellanic Cloud—with a ten-year-old girl genius in tow and the prospect of the Earth being destroyed to deal with. This was the first science fiction novel I ever read, and it hooked me on the genre for a lifetime."


Descent into Hell by Charles Williams
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"Of all the Inklings (J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, etc.), Charles Williams is my favorite. His books are like nothing else you've ever read and beyond tough to describe—someone called them 'supernatural thrillers,' which is totally wrong but closer than any other description. Suffice it to say that Descent into Hell is about the burning at the stake of a medieval saint—and that it begins with a young woman walking home from a suburban play rehearsal who comes face-to-face with her own doppelgänger."


Computers Don't Argue by Gordon Dickson
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"This little cautionary tale by one of science fiction's best short story writers is the ultimate man-against-the-system story—and funny, besides. All the poor guy did was try to return a book he didn't order (and didn't want) to the Book of the Month Club, and he finds himself on trial for murder. Anybody who's ever had to deal with automated phone menus, tech support, or customer service will totally relate!"

*You can read Computers Don't Argue in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Treasury.*


Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
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"My favorite play and my favorite heroine, who nearly drowned before the story even started and then landed in enemy territory and now is so far in over her head, she has no idea how to get out of the trouble she's in. Plus, Viola's in love with the Duke, and he thinks she's a guy, and he's in love with somebody else and wants her to go court her for him! And now Olivia's in love with Viola, and people are accusing Viola of doing things she didn't do—and she's been challenged to a duel! If all this sounds like something Preston Sturges could have written and Claudette Colbert could have starred in, that's because it is. (And if you're going to cheat and watch the movie, make sure it's the Ben Kingsley/Imogen Stubbs/Helena Bonham Carter version.)"


Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart
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"Mary Stewart's one of my favorite writers. Her books are nearly always about young women who abruptly find themselves in trouble, often in foreign countries, and I actually recommend all of them, from Nine Coaches Waiting to The Moonspinners, but Touch Not the Cat has the added plus of being about telepathy! And very romantic!"





Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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message 1: by Tess (new)

Tess I have read almost all of them and entirely agree


message 2: by Gaea (new)

Gaea at age 12-13 i was never without a Victoria Holt novel


message 3: by Patricia (new)

Patricia I love Mary Stewart! I've read all of her books since I was a teenager in the the 70's. Touch Not the Cat is a favorite, and of course, her Merlin series is absolutely brilliant. I'm looking forward to reading your new book, Crosstalk!


message 4: by Tracy (last edited Sep 07, 2016 08:53AM) (new)

Tracy Thorleifson Heinlein juveniles, Stewart, Dickson, and Twelfth Night. Solid! I've not read Williams, but I'll remedy that post haste.

A longish time ago, Marcus Aurelius wrote, "When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can't tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own - not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine."

Nobody captures that quintessential element of the human condition like Connie Willis. Honestly, whenever I'm down on humanity, I pick up a Connie Willis novel - instant cure. I can't wait for Crosstalk to magically appear on my Kindle. :-)


message 5: by E.L. (new)

E.L. Davis Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, Mignon Eberhart were all great writers!! I can't wait to read your book!!


message 6: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten Brørs The doomsday book had me hooked, so I am overjoyed that a new Willis book is on its way! Have read Heinlein and might read some of the others when a holiday comes around.


message 7: by Magdalena (new)

Magdalena Have spacesuit-will travel, was my absolute fav as a young teenager, read in translation as I am not English speaking to start with. I have read it loud to my children and they loved it as well. This was a great list and I have just ordered the new Connie Willis and look forward to share it with my (now grown!) children.


message 8: by Catherine (new)

Catherine O'Connell Love Mary Stewart, have almost of her novels in my collection and re-read my favourites on occasion, Madam, will you talk being my top favourite.


message 9: by Lyn (new)

Lyn Hill I love books in which women (and men) transcend themselves and their situations--where love triumphs over death/existence--which is why The Doomsday Book is one of my favorites. It is in the "woman-transcendent" category on my Goodreads data base.

In Bellwether, you ask why thinking for yourself can't be a fad. The illusion that one is thinking for oneself seems to be fairly constant.

The (male) author of Women's Dress for Success did extensive studies in the 70's on the response of male CEO's to women's wardrobes. He concluded that traditional women's tailored suits in conservative colors were associated with success and respect. In my experience, the suits work in terms of career success but meet resistance from the fashion industry and other women.

"Thinking for oneself"--the spirit that seeks truth in the face of groupthink and/or the majority has been present in every generation and in every country--paying the price of ostracism and even persecution. It cannot, by definition, be a fad.


message 10: by Sue (new)

Sue Corbett I love Mary Stewart's books and am currently having a re-reading binge. You have to remember that the early ones were written fifty or sixty years ago, and there is a shocking amount of smoking and "restorative " brandy drinking in them!


message 11: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Keenan I just finished Crosstalk last night and I loved it. I lost my husband of 40 years 6 weeks ago and reading this, and re-reading Passage have done me a world of good. Thanks Connie!


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