Sunday, October 9, 2016


Crosstalk by Connie Willis
Random House Group: 10/4/16
eBook review copy; 512 pages
ISBN-13: 9780345540676

Crosstalk by Connie Willis combines social satire, science fiction, and romantic comedy in a very highly recommended novel.

Set in the near future, a new procedure called the EED has been developed. It is touted as minor brain surgery, an "enhancement procedure" that creates a neural pathway which makes partners more receptive to each other's feelings, resulting in a deeper emotional connection. Briddey Flannigan and her boyfriend, Trent Worth, both work at Commspan, a small communications technology company. Trent is pushing hard for the EED. He implies that he will propose after the EED is done and he and Briddey have achieved the perfect relationship with complete empathy and understanding that should result.

Briddey's very connected and outspoken Irish American family opposes the procedure, as does her coworker C.B. Schwartz. She is used to her family being too involved and intrusive in her life, but she is surprised by C.B.'s insistence that it is a bad idea. When Trent somehow manages to get them in for the operation in a few days rather than spending months on the waiting list, Briddey goes ahead with the EED. What is shocking is that when Briddey finds herself connecting to someone it isn't Trent. She's hearing C.B.'s voice in her head, and the connection is telepathic.

To read a novel by Connie Willis is to know you are in the hands of a master. She is an incredible, awarding winning writer who know how to handle dialogue, character development, and plot advancement, all while mixing social commentary on our ever increasing need to be connected with a romantic comedy. I was actually surprised to see the number of pages in Crosstalk because they just flew by effortlessly in this engaging, fast-paced story. The way that Willis addresses our addiction to smart phones, social media, and an increasing amount of information in an intelligent, funny plot that is a little sci-fi and a little romance, is brilliant. 

Now there are parts that go over the top, like Briddey's over-involved family, but don't be too quick to dismiss or judge the novel based on their boundary issues. Step back, after you're done with it, and consider the novel as a whole. As someone who can easily (and happily) turn off their cell phone and doesn't always have to be connected, I can see that I'm the odd one out in the current trend to be more and more connected and how all this information and over-sharing on social media is, perhaps, not heading in a healthy direction. Willis captures these extremes in an astute, and inventive way in this social satire.

The title is perfect in more than one way:
crosstalk (‘krostok) noun 1. a disturbance in a communication device’s (radio, telephone, etc.) transmission caused by a second device’s transmission, resulting in crossover, intermingling, and confusion; the presence of unwanted signals and/or interference due to accidental coupling 2. incidental, off-topic conversation during a meeting 3. witty, fast-paced repartee; banter

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher/author.

No comments: