Saturday, November 24, 2007

Willis at large, part 1

kw: book reviews, science fiction, stories, anthologies

It takes me a little longer, per page, to read a story by Connie Willis. She wastes few words. Faced with a 700-page compendium of 23 stories—about half of them novelettes—I decided to review a few at a time. Though I've read about half of them already, they well bear re-perusing. The volume is The Winds of Marble Arch and other stories.

The stories are set in eight groups, which make convenient 'mini-books' on which to comment. The first four stories are headed "Weather" by the author. Though weather phenomena are a common thread, their themes are widely divergent:
  • The Winds of Marble Arch – A tale of love, betrayal, misunderstanding, and farcical hedonism, proctored by mysterious winds in the tunnels of the London Underground that herald, not what is to come, but what you're heading for if you don't change directions.
  • Blued Moon – With a backdrop of a shocking ecological premise (waste disposal in the stratosphere), a question: If "once in a blue moon" means rare coincidence, and that often unfortunate, will making the moon blue change your luck?
  • Just Like the Ones We Used to Know – Christmas is white, everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. Two guys are researching global warming, and argue whether this is a true discontinuity, heralding a novel climatic era, or a rare combination of "normal" phenomena. On this backdrop, several people's fortunes change significantly, either for better or for worse.
  • Daisy, In the Sun – A girl struggles to recover her memory, and wonders, are we waiting for the sun to go nova, or did it do it already, and my memories are all that is left?
Ms Willis is a master of making you care about a character, or several of them. If she were to confine her scenery to a corner of a room, the stories would be just as memorable. Yet the larger scenes in each story are thought-provoking in their own right. Amazing!

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