October 19, 2012

Book 35: Fire Watch

Fire Watch
Connie Willis

After reading Doomsday Book and the eponymous story in The Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century, I knew that I had to read more Connie Willis...and I was absolutely right. I don't know what it is about her stories, but Willis continually finds ways to amaze me. Perhaps it is her range- from time travel to post-apocalyptic landscapes to a more typically futuristic space station, Willis pulls it all off seamlessly. Perhaps the power of Willis's talent lies in her ability to make the science fiction conceits almost vanish behind the raw emotional power of her stories: despite sometimes employing standard science fiction tropes, these are not (merely) gee-whiz-wow tales. Willis writes fiction that should be considered alongside the work of the lit-fic critics' darlings, haunting stories that stay with you long after you turn the final page. To choose standouts in a collection like this feels at best like a hilarious understatement, but the stories that have had the strongest effect on me are the horrifying "All My Darling Daughters" (I was continually shocked by the brutality of this story, yet couldn't stop myself from reading forward) and "A Letter from the Clearys," which might actually be more devastating despite employing a far more subtle emotional touch. Fire Watch may have been Connie Willis's first published group of short stories, but it is simply superb, the work of a living master.

Grade: A