Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Willis at large, part 4

kw: book reviews, science fiction, stories, anthologies

The sixth section of The Marble Arch and other stories by Connie Willis, titled "Matters of Life and Death", has four stories:
  • Samaritan – Exploring whether animals (here, an Orang) have souls in the Catholic sense, and whether they can receive spiritual insight and qualify to be baptized. A bittersweet story, that probably imputes more to the ape's mind than is really found there, but is otherwise based on solid research.
  • Cash Crop – Another bittersweet story, of continuing human evolution. In this case, the environment appears to be a colonized planet.
  • Jack – A different kind of vampire story, set in the London Blitz, a favorite milieu of Willis's. It ends ambiguously, as do a number of her strongest stories. She seems eminently able to violate Campbell's Dictum ("Pose a problem, then solve it.") with impunity.
  • The Last of the Winnebagos – A dystopic near-future America: Dogs are extinct, it is a crime to kill any animal, even by accident, water is being trucked about the country (I suppose pipelines got too costly), and a hellishly intrusive "Society" has replaced the police force, mostly enforcing laws that harm all and help none. With this backdrop, a story of love and loss, in an unexpected direction.
To Ms Willis, life is like a game of Tetris. You gotta keep ahead of the falling blocks, until one falls on you.

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