Crosstalk by Connie Willis

a review by Ant, in the genre(s) Science Fiction. Book published by Gollancz in July 2017

You hear about those couples having the ill-concieved notion of getting matching permanent tattoos shortly after they've met, despite the real probability their relationship may not last. Crossover goes one further with that premise.

Instead of tattoos it's a "simple" medical procedure (EED) that will permanently allow each to share what the other is feeling through an empathic connection. There isn't any way back from it.

Briddey thinks its a romantic, thoughtful idea of her boyfriend Trent to both have this operation before they get married. As you might expect from the title things don't quite go as planned and Briddey find's herself sharing a connection with someone else that goes way beyond simple sharing of emotions.

Crosstalk is near future, there a few technology advancements, smartphones and social media being the most obvious. It feels current and relevant. It explores how we communicate. How sometimes modern methods are not always the most effective. In a world of the persistant connection there is no down time and social niceties of not contacting someone too late in the day seem to have dropped by the wayside. Throwing in a modern version of telepathy highlights how over-connected we already are.

I didn't really like most of the characters, except Maeve (Briddey's neice who provides most of the humor) and C.B. (the man accidentally connected to Briddey). Briddey isn't the easiest to relate to, she works at Commspan, a competitor to Apple who are always looking to get ahead - to find a new gimmic that will outshine the iphone. She doesn't seem to actually do any real work, instead spending her time worrying about the EED and Trent. She seems infatuated with two dimensional Trent who just has to flash his Porsche and whisper a few nice words to get what he wants. It's also clear from the beginning that Trent isn't genuine and has his own endgame to all this EED business.

The story is engaging, if entirely predictable, with Briddey lurching from one crisis to the next through most of the book. There are lots of nice little touches and pop culture references.

The message of over communication is a clear and relevant one, our western society increasingly bombarded with email, text, notifications, adverts, news and the increasingly pervasive social media. It is suprising some people have time to work anymore. It is however a very broad view and the author doesn't really go into much detail.

I struggled to get past the idea that someone would voluntarily have a permanent medical operation to constantly share emotions, especially without knowing each other that well - Trent and Briddey only meeting 6 weeks before agreeing to the EED. Such an idea is an anathema to me and I kept thinking, why would someone so willingly agree to that. Like I said at the beginning though, it's clear people do such things already when they get an ill-conceived tattoo (there are many, many examples on the internet).

Crosstalk is an interesting novel, it's exploration of the invasiveness of modern life is thoughtful and there are some great ideas presented here. It's also well written with a good pace, but reads like one of those spoof films where the protagonist just lurches from one disaster to another. It does have an enjoyable story, even if it is entirely predictable, just don't expect much from the characters.

Written on Monday 30th October 2017 by .

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Crosstalk, a novel by Connie Willis

Book Details

  • Crosstalk
  • Publisher: Gollancz
  • ISBN: 978-0345540676
  • Published:
  • Pages: 512
  • Format reviewed: Paperback
  • Review date: October, 2017
  • Language: English
  • Age Range: 13-