Reviewed by Galen Strickland
I received a free e-book of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I didn't investigate anything about the plot or characters of this book beforehand. Didn't even read the blurb at NetGalley, just saw Connie Willis' name and immediately hit the request button. Based on the cover image I thought it might be for YA or younger readers. There is one pre-teen character, and she is prominent, but all the rest are adults, although the story should appeal to all ages. It's fairly long, over 500 pages in print, but fast paced, so it was a quick read. The beginning didn't impress me much, but due to Connie's typical wit and penchant for dropping in obvious clues, I continued to see if my speculations were correct. Most all of them were, and I think any astute reader will figure out Crosstalk long before plot points are revealed.
Several times throughout the narrative, C.B. Schwartz, a researcher at tech company Commspan, says that telepathy is a bad idea. If it was a reality, and anything like it's portrayed here, I'd have to agree. It would create many more problems than it would solve, and very few people could be trusted not to abuse its power. The setting is obviously very near future, with multiple mentions of current pop culture personalities (Beyoncé, Kim K., recent movies), along with a few fictional ones. Apple and the iPhone, along with other tech companies, are identified as Commspan rivals. One technology that is (hopefully) fictional, is a medical procedure known as EED. There were a couple of times a character was about to explain the acronym, but was always interrupted and we never learned what it meant. It is surgical in nature, and supposedly a way for a couple to have a closer emotional connection, to actually "feel" their love. Definitely a "new age" sort of concept, but very expensive, embraced by many of the rich and famous. So how can two executives from Commspan afford it, and how and why are they moved up on the waiting list so rapidly?
It was enjoyable enough to finish, but I doubt I'll ever read it again. A fairly long book as mentioned above, but it could have been much shorter. There is at most a novella's worth of plot, stretched out with many hints and teases. Just as EED is never explained, there are multiple times someone is about to reveal information but are interrupted. If this were to be adapted to film it would take the form of a rom-com, with someone like Emma Stone playing the main part of Bridget "Briddey" Flannigan. Not sure about her fiancé Trent or C.B., since the only character's age I know for sure is Briddey's nine-year-old niece, Maeve. A lot of other quirky characters, a little bit of suspense, multiple misdirections, it would probably work much better as a film. If you like a light comedy touch to your SF you could do much worse than this, but I don't give it a hearty recommendation. I only rated it 3 stars on Goodreads.
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