I feel like I’m overdue on keeping up with my reviews. I read a lot these days, and get a good two hours of audiobook time in during my commutes each day, which adds up to a lot of books devoured each month. Last month, I listened to Connie Willis’ latest novel, Crosstalk, during my ride.
First, the audio quality of the book itself was fine. So many books seem to have a reduced volume that, even on max, I can barely hear the narrator at highway speeds in my car with all the wind noise. Toss in some rainy weather, and I can’t listen to them at all. This one was fine, and the woman who did the narration did a great job with her reading.
The story itself was quality Connie Willis. She’s always great at giving us full characters with strong voices, each of whom has their own arcs. I found, however, that the main character often annoyed me. She’s a young woman in love, and she and her fiancee plan to get an emotion chip implanted which will allow them to feel each others true feelings. It’s apparently all the rage. But when things go awry, as they so often do in Connie’s stories, she exhibits a continual need to jump to conclusions and ignore what people are telling her. I found that annoying at times, but it was consistently portrayed throughout the story and I came to accept it as simply part of her character, not a plot device used to further the narrative (though it often does complicate things).
Most of the other characters are fine. But sometimes other characters are rude and obnoxious, or simply so self-absorbed as to be annoying. Some of this is explained later in the novel (no spoilers here) and can be forgiven, but I feel like this novel reflected more of an antipathy towards the world in general, the way the author feels people are becoming self absorbed and, thus, ignorantly mean to the main character. That can be insightful, but also can be a little annoying at times. I feel the world is less unintentionally cruel as it is more likely to simply ignore you.
I found myself often guessing what was going on far more quickly than things were revealed. That’s partly because Connie is so deft at giving us subtle clues and I’ve learned her style well enough to pick up on them. And there were enough complications I failed to pick up on that I was kept guessing and hooked into the story. I found this story felt more like her novella, Bellwether, then it did her time travel works, which is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. That’s simply the tone of voice she was striving for.
All in all, I give this audiobook an 8 out of 10 Reynolds Wraps. Quality writing, deft story telling, and an intruiging science fiction premise overcome some of the annoyances of the main character’s personality and the vacuous cruelty of the world around her. And a really cool plot premise and neat twists that bring the whole thing to a satisfying conclusion.