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Book Review: The Best of Connie Willis by Connie Willis

The Best of Connie Willis by Connie Willis

  • Method of Obtaining: I received my copy from the publisher.
  • Published by:  Del Rey
  • Release Date:  7.09.2013

Few authors have had careers as successful as that of Connie Willis. Inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and recently awarded the title of Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Willis is still going strong. Her smart, heartfelt fiction runs the gamut from screwball comedy to profound tragedy, combining dazzling plot twists, cutting-edge science, and unforgettable characters.

From a near future mourning the extinction of dogs to an alternate history in which invading aliens were defeated by none other than Emily Dickinson; from a madcap convention of bumbling quantum physicists in Hollywood to a London whose Underground has become a storehouse of intangible memories both foul and fair—here are the greatest stories of one of the greatest writers working in any genre today.

All ten of the stories gathered here are Hugo or Nebula award winners—some even have the distinction of winning both. With a new Introduction by the author and personal afterwords to each story—plus a special look at three of Willis’s unique public speeches—this is unquestionably the collection of the season, a book that every Connie Willis fan will treasure, and, to those unfamiliar with her work, the perfect introduction to one of the most accomplished and best-loved writers of our time.

I also recommend:

My Review:

My exposure to Connie Willis has been, primarily, through the Blackout/All Clear books which were, in turn, brought to my attention through the Nebula awards.  I was fascinated by the time travel aspect, especially when it coincided with another fascination of mine – WWII stories.  So, when the opportunity came to me to read some of Willis’s short stories, I immediately grabbed the chance and ran with it.  What I found was a mind that felt… well, like a kindred spirit to me, to borrow a favorite phrase of Anne Shirley’s that Connie Willis also loved.

One of the things I love about science fiction, and especially sci-fi short stories, is how everything seems completely normal at the start of the story until it suddenly is not.  It could be as simple as a single word being said by the character that sets the hair on the back of my neck on edge, or a completely strange set of surroundings, or even the presence of Martians as factual creatures.  All of these concepts were present, among others, in Willis’s brilliant set of stories, but I want to talk in particular about one story as well as some other additions in the book that aren’t fiction.

First, Connie Willis did something that forever endeared her to me when she took on Emily Dickinson and, in essence, created a research paper that centered around the reclusive poet writing from her grave and the connection that it had to H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds.  Written with humorous footnotes, research that thrilled the academic in me, and a knowledge of literature that branches through the classics (both sci-fi and literary), this story had me giggling uncontrollably and yes… even snorting with laughter a few times.  The other thing this story did was make me wish I could sit down with Ms. Willis and just talk with her because a mind that was capable of writing that story would be a mind I would love to just engage with in conversation for hours.

That leads into one of the other things I loved about this book – the author’s notes at the end of the story.  The afterword on the Emily Dickinson story was brilliant, but so were many others.  It’s fascinating to me to see where authors get their inspiration, and Ms. Willis employed humor and honesty into each afterword and the result was an enriching of each story after it was read.

Furthermore, at the end of this grouping of stories are copies of Ms. Willis’s speeches at award ceremonies.  In those speeches she credits the authors who influenced her and taught her to write and the people who have supported her.  They are a mishmash of literary references, inside jokes, and favorite quotes and one of the speeches actually brought me to tears.  It made me want to know Ms. Willis, want to know someone who had the same appreciation I have for the works that she was citing.  It made me feel as if I wasn’t alone by being someone who randomly referenced Anne Shirley or thought that Laurie and Jo really should have married.

This anthology of stories was released just this month, so I highly recommend you pick it up.  Even if you aren’t a fan of hardcore science fiction, I think you will find a story or two in here that may start you on a path to being able to appreciate it a bit more.  And if you are a fan of science fiction well.. what are you waiting for?

Check out what these bloggers had to say!

Val’s Random Comments | Reading Envy| A Step to the Side




Blackout by Connie Willis

Over the next few weeks I’ll be reading the nominees for the 2010 Nebula Awards. While I won’t get to every book, I do plan on reading those novels listed and those listed for the Andre Norton award as well.
Order from:
Reason(s) for Reading:
  • This title is one of the awards for best novel in the 2010 Nebula Awards

Summary from GoodReads:

Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place. Scores of time-traveling historians are being sent into the past, to destinations including the American Civil War and the attack on the World Trade Center. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser, Mr. Dunworthy, into letting her go to VE Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz. And seventeen-year-old Colin Templer, who has a major crush on Polly, is determined to go to the Crusades so that he can “catch up” to her in age.

But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments for no apparent reason and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, unexploded bombs, dive-bombing Stukas, rationing, shrapnel, V-1s, and two of the most incorrigible children in all of history—to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past.

My Review:

I am so incredibly grateful to the Nebula awards for bringing titles to light that I would have overlooked.  Blackout by Connie Willis is one of those titles.

I’m a big fantasy lover – but I haven’t really delved that much into the world of science fiction and alternative history, so this book was a bit of a stretch for me.  I loved it though, I loved how different events were looked at from all points of view, how beliefs were so firmly stated that I had no problem believing them – and then sharing in the disbelief and doubt that began to emerge in the main characters.

And the history.. it was such an intimate picture of unsung heroes at times I felt as if I was standing outside a building, peeking in through the windows to watch these characters, supporting characters and more go about their daily business.  It brought home to me a personal, relate-able view of what London during the blackouts was like and just how frightening it had to have been.

Fantastic fun and I cannot wait to check out more of Connie Willis’ books.  I just love being introduced to a new author!

Check out these review(s):

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