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Review of Crosstalk by Connie Willis

By Curlygeek04 @curlygeek04

I had mixed feelings about this book, although I can tell you that I read long into the night to finish it up (most books, even very good ones, put me to sleep pretty quickly).

Crosstalk is a near-future book written by science fiction author Connie Willis.  It’s about a young woman, Briddey, who falls in love with her perfect-catch co-worker Trent.  Trent asks her to have an EED, brain surgery that allows a couple to feel each other’s emotions, thus deepening their relationship.  Despite warnings from her family and co-worker C.B., Briddey goes ahead with it.  The problem?  Instead of connecting her emotionally to Trent, the surgery gives her a telepathic connection to C.B., meaning they can hear each other’s thoughts.

What’s nice about Crosstalk is that it’s written in a much lighter, more conversational tone than most science fiction.  It’s got the feel of a movie script; it’s dialogue-focused and relationship-focused, rather than concentrating on the science.

I like science fiction best when it’s a commentary on our own lives, and what Willis does brilliantly here is comment on our need to be connected in so many ways to so many people.  The characters joke about the need for technology to protect us from our connectedness, but it’s clearly no joke.

Briddey (short for Bridget) is a likable protagonist who is frustrating at times, particularly in the way she dodges her family without being honest with them (though I could sympathize).  She’s on the flaky side and you can see her mistakes coming a mile away.  Still, when she wakes up with someone’s voice in her head and goes into full panic mode, I was right there with her.

The book is highly predictable at times, yet Willis also takes the story in directions I didn’t expect.  It’s this contradiction that leaves me with mixed feelings about the book.  Many of the revelations in the story were so, so obvious.

Similarly, while I really enjoyed the romantic storyline and Willis’ relationship development, I had trouble with the hero being just way too perfect and wished he was quite a bit more flawed (beyond having sloppy hair and clothes).  He’s more savior than friend, and it’s hard to build a strong relationship between two characters when one is constantly rescuing the other.  (Ironically, Willis quotes Pretty Woman at one point in the book: “What did the princess do when the prince rescued her? She rescues him right back.” Only that line works better in the movie than it does here.)

So while I can see a lot of flaws in the book (for the science-minded, the telepathy doesn’t always make sense) – it’s also a fun, engaging read that is much more character-driven than science-driven.  It’s clever and funny and even sweet at times (and I don’t use that word often in a positive way).  This book will definitely appeal to those who don’t read a lot of science fiction or those looking for women-centric science fiction.  I think it would make a brilliant movie because the mental sparring between characters would be a bit easier to see as well as hear.

Challenges: I read this book for the TBR Pile Challenge and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Bingo Challenge.


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