Thursday, December 28, 2017

#40 [2017/CBR9] "Crosstalk" by Connie Willis

Crosstalk by Connie Willis is one of the many books I've found from NPR's list of Best Books from 2016. I've also read To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, but Crosstalk had some mixed reviews and I wasn't too excited about reading it. I was afraid I was going to get stuck in an uninteresting slog of a book. Fortunately, I was very wrong. This turned out to be quite a fun and romantic page turner. I had a hard time putting it down while on vacation. Although not perfect, I was so entranced by the romance of it, I forgave all of its faults.

Briddey (short for Bridget) Flannigan works at a tech company, a small competitor to Apple. She has been dating an impressive up-and-comer named Trent Worth. Trent proposes that the two undergo a surgical procedure called an EED that allows couples to be able to feel each other's emotions and thoughts. Briddey is thrilled at the commitment, and they agree to get an EED. Briddey's nosy family and odd co-worker CB Schwarz are the only ones who both don't like Trent and don't want her to get an EED. As the plot progresses, there are unexpected consequences that throw Briddey and CB together in unexpected but incredibly sweet and romantic ways.

At first I found Briddey's family and work situation unrealistic, which initially took me out of the book. However, I was immediately entranced by the idea of the EED, how it would work, and how it would affect Briddey and Trent's relationship. I also liked Willis's exploration of technology and how it affects relationships. Although somewhat farcical, technology more often stopped meaningful communication than enhanced it.

This novel was not perfect and I sometimes got frustrated as I was reading. I found that Willis projected way ahead with where the plot was going. I only had to read one paragraph about Trent and CB to know who Briddey would end up with. Also, other plot points were obviously projected if you paid any attention to what was going on with the other characters. In addition, the book could get a little repetitive and long. I often wondered why I had to read Briddey's same thoughts on the same subject yet again.

Finally, Briddey could be (but not always) an incredibly frustrating heroine. For a large part of the book she is utterly passive, simply avoiding people around her, and not making any decisions for herself. For example, how in the world did she start dating Trent Worth? Sure, he's good looking, but he is a controlling asshole that could be spotted from one hundred yards away. And she just does everything he tells her to. "No, I have to go to the theater because Trent told me to." So many of her problems would be solved if she just said "no" and walked away.

When I thought of this novel more as a fun farce than realistic drama, I enjoyed it much more. Sure, the characters could be ridiculous, and the plot requires a large amount of misunderstandings and broken conversations, but it was fun. What kept it together for me was the relationship between CB and Briddey (I don't think this is a spoiler because it's obvious from the first time you meet CB). CB comes to the aid of Briddey a number of times during this book in what I found were just deliciously romantic situations. The science-fiction elements of the plot allowed Willis to create a romantic hero that could be everything you ever wanted (no matter how unrealistic): someone who wholly understands you, knows what you need before you ask, and is there for you when you're in trouble. I loved this part of the book and their relationship made some of the more frustrating aspects of the story more than worth it.

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