NESFA Members' Reviews


by Connie Willis

Bantam, ISBN 0-553-26045-6, 1998, 336pp, $6.50

A book review by Evelyn C. Leeper

Copyright 1998 Evelyn C. Leeper

The collection, first published in 1985 and long out of print, contains twelve stories--eleven reprints and one story original to this volume. The fact that not only is a publisher willing to publish a single-author collection, but to *reprint* one that was published thirteen years ago, is an indication of Willis's stature in the field. Nominated for 17 Hugo awards and 11 Nebula awards, and the winner of six Hugos (for DOOMSDAY BOOK, "Fire Watch," "The Last of the Winnebagos," "Even the Queen," "Death on the Nile," and "The Soul Selects Her Own Society ...") and six Nebulas (DOOMSDAY BOOK, "Fire Watch," "A Letter From the Clearys," "The Last of the Winnebagos," "At the Rialto," and "Even the Queen"), Willis has opportunities other authors just dream of.

The Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning "Fire Watch" is the story of one history student's time travel project- -to the London Blitz. Well-deserving of its awards, it is doubtless the best story in the book, and in many ways a precursor to Willis's DOOMSDAY BOOK and TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG. But other stories are worthy of note also. "Lost and Found" and "Daisy, in the Sun" are both strange apocalyptic tales, though in very different ways. "All My Darling Daughters" (the one new story) is a bizarre little piece--it's easy to see why this had difficulty finding a market, but it has become a classic. "The Sidon in the Mirror" was also nominated for a Hugo and a Nebula and its alien feel is an interesting juxtaposition to the "just plain folks" feel of most of Willis's other works. There is, of course, some fluff of the sort Willis has become known for: "The Father of the Bride," "And Come from Miles Around," "Mail-Order Clone," and "Blued Moon." The last, in particular, is highly recommended; it has some of the funniest scenes I've seen in print, and did garner a Hugo nomination. "Samaritan" covers some fairly old ground, though the characters do hold the reader's interest through it. I thought, though, that "Service for the Burial of the Dead" and "A Letter from the Clearys" were just average.

In 1985, I said that the $14.95 the trade paperback would cost seemed a bit steep and people might want to wait for a paperback edition. Since the paperback edition was thirteen years in coming, this was probably bad advice, even if it is somewhat cheaper now. Willis's more recent works can be found in the 1994 collection IMPOSSIBLE THINGS, also from Bantam and even still in print (ISBN 0- 553-56436-6, $6.50). The eleven stories in it share seven Hugo nominations (with two wins) and five Nebula nominations (with three wins). At the time it came out, the re-issue of FIRE WATCH was promised, but that took four years.

%T      Fire Watch
%A      Connie Willis
%C      New York
%D      May 1998
%I      Bantam
%O      paperback, US$6.50
%G      ISBN 0-553-26045-6
%P      336pp

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