crosstalkFor Connie Willis fans who loved her novel Bellwetherhere at last is another zany sci-fi book about corporate culture, information, and falling in love.  This new one, Crosstalk, could not possibly be called anything else.  There doesn’t seem to be a good synonym out there for the word “crosstalk,” but unwanted communication interference drives this plot every step of the way.

At the start of the novel, Briddey, the protagonist, is the very caricature of the harried, much-too-connected, device-dependent consumer of the Information Age.  For the first few chapters, I wanted to rip her phone out of her hand and throw it into the nearest river, just to give her five minutes’ peace.  In addition to her communication stress, Briddey is confronted with the decision of whether or not to agree to a new and trendy surgical procedure called an EED, which is designed to increase empathy and emotional intimacy in romantic partnerships.  What could go wrong?

In twists typical of Willis’s complex plotting, just about everything can and does go wrong, in comic and unexpected ways.  This is a hilarious novel with terrific dialogue, but it isn’t mere fluff; it’s also a questioning look at communication in our society, and how much is too much.

Only Connie Willis can write like this. And she can pick the perfect title, too.

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