Okay so a couple of weeks ago I promised you an IMPASSIONED PSA and it’s finally here!!
My latest entry in the canon of “you MUST read this author!! you absolutely MUST!!!” is Connie Willis and I honestly feel quite salty that I’d never really heard of her until recently because now I just want to inject all of her books directly into my veins.
She’s most well-known for her sci-fi and sci-fi-adjacent works, which have earned her Hugos and Nebulas which are basically the OSCARS AND GOLDEN GLOBES OF THE SCI-FI WORLD. Her style and syntax is so straightforward, with a wry sense of humor, and I’m going to need all of you to STOP SLEEPING ON HER ASAP.
Bellwether – Connie Willis
Despite the cover of this book, it’s actually much less sci-fi-y than Doomsday Book. The good folks of Bellwether Friends, a podcast I enjoy whose name comes from this book, describe as being more in the vein of a workplace romantic comedy. The main character, Sandra, is a “trends researcher” who works for a giant tech company that has corporate-speak team meetings, 40 page long incomprehensible funding requests, and an insolent interdepartmental assistant. Her attempt to discover what causes trends or fads takes on a new direction when a bizarre series of events brings her into contact with a chaos scientist named Bennett O’Reilly.
It’s very, very charming and a quick read [also according to Bellwether Friends the audiobook read by Kate Reading is also exceptionally good], managing to pull off a slightly judgmental narrator gloriously, and packing in lots of factoids about trends. While there’s a touch of the mysterious, it’s less “sci-fi” and more “what if the real world but MORE” and it’s very fun.
Doomsday Book – Connie Willis
OKAY. This book is about TIME TRAVEL, but time travel like I’ve never read/seen it portrayed in media before. [it might be an extra good tonic for those who were left thinking “sorry…WHAT?” re:Avengers Endgame] It just seems so…sensible? Set in a near-future version of Oxford, everything is basically the same except there’s TIME TRAVEL, and a very academic version of time travel, used by historians to visit other time periods. Maybe later books get more into the nitty-gritty (there are three more in this loosely connected ‘series’: To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout, and All Clear), but this one does an exceptional job at giving you just enough information to make sense, but not so much that you’re bogged down by a series of logic problems.
For the first time, the history department is sending someone back to the Middle Ages, which has long been off-limits due its many dangers. You know, like the Plague. Also the fact that people living in England in the 14th century literally spoke an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT LANGUAGE than what we consider “English” today. But Kivrin, a graduate student, is not to be stopped, even by the trepidations of her advisor Professor Dunworthy. Obviously, things…do not go as planned.
Willis is such a meticulous writer and can so sweep you off your feet that every quick turn is accompanied by a “dammit OF COURSE!” The dialogue is realistically witty and though the book runs towards the longer side, she brilliantly maintains tension throughout.
The one thing I did not like is that there’s some fatphobia in the portrayal of a minor character, which really sucked.
Okay peace out friends! I’ll be hunting down more Connie Willis and most likely shoveling all of the Big Little Lies jokes into my brain.