"Variety is the soul of pleasure," And variety is what this comprehensive new collection of Connie Willis is all about. The stories cover the entire spectrum, from sad to sparkling to terrifying, from classics to hard-to-find treasures with everything in between - orangutans, Egypt, earthworms, roast goose, college professors, mothers-in-law, aliens, secret codes, Secret Santas, tube stations, choir practice, the post office, the green light on Daisy's dock, weddings, divorces, death, and assorted plagues, from scarlet fever to "It's a Wonderful Life." And a dog.
Famous for her "sure-hand plotting, unforgettable characters, and top-notch writing," Willis has been called, "the most relentlessly delightful science fiction writer alive," and there are numerous examples here. Among them, Willis's most famous stories - the Hugo- and Nebula-Award-winning "Fire Watch" and "Even the Queen" and "The Last of the Winnebagos" - along with undiscovered gems like Willis's heartfelt homage to Jack Williamson, "Nonstop to Portales." Her magical Christmas stories are here, too, from "Newsletter" to "Just Like the Ones We Used to Know..." which last year was made into the TV movie, Snow Wonder, starring Mary Tyler Moore.
We've collected stories from throughout Willis's career, from early ones like "Cash Crop" and "Daisy, in the Sun," right up to her newest stories, including the wonderful "The Winds of Marble Arch." There's literally something for everyone here. If you're a diehard Willis fan, you'll be delighted with hard-to-find treasures like the until-now uncollected, "The Soul Selects Her Own Society..." If you've never read Connie Willis, this is your chance to discover "A Letter from the Clearys" and, well, "Chance." To say nothing of, "At the Rialto," the funniest story ever written about quantum physicists. And Willis's chilling, "All My Darling Daughters."
And...oh, there are too many great stories here to list and pleasures galore. So enjoy!
Willis makes brilliant short fiction look easy in this collection of 23 novellas and short stories, which display a powerful range of sensibility, from poignant tenderness ("Inn") and heartbreak ("Samaritan") to close-to-the-bone satire ("Even the Queen") and blackest savagery ("All My Darling Daughters"). The title novella illustrates many of Willis's strengths. Starting from some inexplicable meteorological phenomenon like a blast of fetid air no one else in London's Tube tunnels can feel or smell, "The Winds of Marble Arch" whirls its hapless narrator through one strange event after another, until finally his troubled marriage reaches an otherwise impossible transformation into "leaves and lilacs and love." A bizarre snowstorm leads to a whole new fast-cut understanding of Christmas in "Just Like the Ones We Used to Know," and another eerie blizzard brings the collection to a masterful close in "Epiphany," opening a door between our puny reality and the Great Carnival around and above us all, even though we rarely perceive it. Willis's gift promises that signs are everywhere; we just have to learn to recognize them.