Crosstalk / Connie Willis
New York: Del Rey, c2016
This was one of my favourite reads of this year -- I've already read it 3 times! Yes, twice in pre-pub and once immediately after it was released this October. It's so much fun.
I really like Connie Willis' work so was looking forward to this one anyhow...but wasn't expecting to like it so much that I'd read it twice in one week ;)
It's an entertaining story with lots of great banter, a clever idea driving it, and two fun leads. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that it has a great scene in a library - it's the heart of the book, in my opinion. Willis takes the idea of constant connectivity, the modern fear of being alone, FOMO, and our dependence on technology to their extremes here, as the drive for 24 hour availability turns into telepathic connection...which isn't as great as it might seem.
Briddey Flannigan is an exec at a phone company that is trying to come up with something that will outdo Apple's next release. Her office is both frenetic and weirdly underpopulated, but like other Willis books, corporate life is bonkers and part of the chaos of the heroine's life. Her family of women is also a bit frenetic; she gets constant calls and texts from her sisters, aunt, and 9 year old niece Maeve. She has definite issues with boundaries; she takes all the calls, she lets her family show up in her office and at her home whenever they feel like it, and now her new boyfriend Trent (a coworker) has asked her to get an EED -- a new technology implanted into the brain to help you sense your partner's emotions better -- and she just says yes without much concern about the effects. Her family and another coworker, the basement dwelling genius/nerd CB Schwartz, both think it's a terrible idea.
She goes ahead with it, and the effects are not quite what she expected... and that's just in the first few chapters! I loved the story around Briddey, her family and her love interest. I thought the romance was engaging and entertaining, and I was swept off my readerly feet by CB. Some of her coworkers and the corporate plot are a bit sketchy, in both senses...up to no good and also pretty thinly drawn. But the main characters were fun.
Willis' habit of having characters miss their connections, run around madly, miscommunicate, and more, is in full flower in this book. Briddey can't seem to slow down long enough to look at her situation and figure out how to solve it, instead she bounces around like a pinball, reacting instead of acting. I did find her a bit annoying at the start and the chaos a little bit over the top -- but I quickly adjusted to the story and ended up enjoying it despite Briddey's flaws -- ie: she is apparently a gorgeous red-head but feels awkward to herself - quite Bridget Jones-like, actually. I read that some people felt Briddey was too 'dumb' or clueless, but I thought she was fine; she was preoccupied and distracted a lot, and didn't figure things out as quickly as the reader, but it works for the book. Besides, I have a real-life friend who can come across as what some might think of as ditzy like Briddey, but despite the whirlwind that follows her around, she is extremely intelligent and superbly capable -- so Briddey was easy for me to believe in. The most annoying thing about Briddey is her name: I pronounce it Bride-y in my head as that's the Irish name I know, but the spelling here seems to indicate Bridd-y -- which is a terrible name -- though there's no standard spelling I prefer a more readable one.
Anyhow, this book was a romp. Despite some inconsistencies in the plot and a tendency to go on a bit at times, it's a nice light read from one of my favourite authors. There's no dark twist or heartbreak in it, just light, sparkling, amusing storytelling. The use of the library in the middle of the story is really special and is a part I went back to - imagining that beautiful space and the peace that Briddey finally finds there.
If you like classic romantic comedy that is a bit speculative & a lot about the characters, you will probably like this one too. For any Willis fan, it echoes both plot points from Bellwether and the light humour of To Say Nothing of the Dog. A must-read/reread for me!