Short works

Books : reviews

Connie Willis.
Fire Watch.
Bantam. 1985

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 4 December 1998

A mixed collection of short stories. Of particular note: "Fire Watch" is a classic; "All My Darling Daughters" is a very angry, painful piece; "Blued Moon" is very funny.


Fire Watch. 1982
A history student is sent back to the fire watch at St Paul's Cathedral, in London during the blitz of WWII. (Set in the same universe as Doomsday Book.)
Service for the Burial of the Dead. 1982
When Elliott turns up for his own funeral, Anne tries to shield the family
Lost and Found. 1982
It's all rather worrying when things that have been lost start turning up in the strangest places
The Father of the Bride. 1982
"And they all lived happily ever after". All?
All My Darling Daughters. 1985
A Letter from the Clearys. 1982
Why is the family so upset when the letter from the Clearys is finally delivered?
And Come From Miles Around. 1979
People will come a long way to watch a solar eclipse. What if it's cloudy?
The Sidon in the Mirror. 1983
A Mirror has some unfinished business on the burnt-out star of Paylay, if he doesn't Copy the wrong person first.
Daisy, in the Sun. 1979
It's snowing all the time, and the sun never shines, but it's not cold. If only Daisy could remember...
Mail-Order Clone. 1982
Why does his clone look nothing like him?
Samaritan. 1979
When apes learn sign language, can they be taught religion?
Blued Moon. 1984
Nobody seems to speak plain English any more

Connie Willis.
Lincoln's Dreams.
Bantam. 1987

Connie Willis.
Impossible Things.
Bantam. 1993


Even the Queen. 1992
There is at least one aspect of womanhood that is more than worth rejecting.
The Last of the Winnebagos. 1988
Schwarzschild Radius. 1987
Ado. 1988
After the PC brigade get hold of Shakespeare, all that is left of his complete works is four lines from Hamlet.
Spice Pogrom. 1986
Winter's Tale. 1988
Chance. 1986
In the Late Cretaceous. 1991
Time Out. 1989
Jack. 1991
At the Rialto. 1989

Connie Willis.
Uncharted Territory.
NEL. 1994

(read but not reviewed)


Uncharted Territory. 1994
Fire Watch. 1982
A history student is sent back to the fire watch at St Paul's Cathedral, in London during the blitz of WWII. (Set in the same universe as Doomsday Book.)
Even the Queen. 1992
There is at least one aspect of womanhood that is more than worth rejecting.

Connie Willis.
Bantam. 1995

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 24 December 1997

All Alis wants is to dance in the movies. But no-one is making movies, let alone musicals, with realpeople any more: it's all remakes with digitised actors. But Alis knows if you want something enough, you can get it, in the movies.

At 140 pages, this is closer to a novella than a novel. But there's a lot crammed into these few pages: a vivid depiction of a future Hollywood filled with decadent drugged-out people censoring alcohol and tobacco from old movies, and using computer graphics to remake those movies with different famous actors and different endings, interwoven with the references to the old movies themselves, all wrapped up itself as a movie plotline. Good stuff (it reminded me in some ways of John Varley's Steel Beach), if all too brief.

Connie Willis.
Bantam. 1996

rating : 2 : great stuff
review : 20 July 1997

Sandra Foster is a sociologist trying to understand fads, Bennett O'Reilly is researching chaos theory. They both work for HiTek, a research corporation with a Dilbert-esque Management from Hell, where, due to an amazing series of blunders and coincidences, they end up working together.

This is a sheer delight, breathlessly paced, and wittily observant. Sandy is a fun, believable character: her obsession with fads, which she cannot stop herself seeing in every event around her, and the consequent hilarious view of modern life, are beautifully drawn. Her technique to stop her public library selling classic but unchecked-out books -- by constantly checking them out -- is one of the many wonderful subplots.

We get good gobs of chaos theory; the story is full of appeals to Nonlinearity, and Self-Organised Criticality (though not to Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions). The fads, the chaos theory, the sheep, and everything else, are all tied together nicely at the end. It's fairly obvious who or what the various causative factors are before they are finally exposed, but it's a wonderful romp getting there.

Connie Willis, Cynthia Felice.
Promised Land.
Ace. 1997

Connie Willis.
Miracle: and other Christmas stories.
Bantam. 1999

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 24 December 2005

A collection of short stories, with a Christmas theme, ranging from sweet love stories, via horror, to fantasy/religious. The one that worked best for me is the title story "Miracle", where Willis displays the same love for old movies that she does in Remake.


Miracle. 1991
A Christmas love story, explaining why Miracle on 34th Street is a better movie than It's a Wonderful Life
Inn. 1993
Sharon discovers what happened when Joseph and Mary got lost on the way to Bethlehem
In Coppelius's Toyshop. 1996
A child-hating man gets stuck in Coppelius's Toyshop at Christmas
The Pony. 1985
What happens if you get the gift you've always wanted?
Adaptation. 1994
The ghosts of Christmas Present and Yet to Come have a hard time in the modern world
Cat's Paw. 1999
A Christmas murder mystery, with apes
Newsletter. 1997
Why write a Christmas newsletter, when aliens are invading under people's hats?
Epiphany. 1999
A priest gets a vision of the second coming, so heads west

Connie Willis.
Voyager. 2001

Connie Willis.
Gollancz. 2016

Briddey is about to get exactly what she thinks she wants…

The latest new communication technology is here: the EDD. No more cumbersome telling your partner I love you. Now they’ll be able to feel it for themselves, and it’s just one simple operation away. So Briddey and Trent are going to do it. They’re in love, in the midst of a whirlwind of flowers, long weekends and romantic dinners, and everything is perfect.

This is it.

After all, it’s a closer connection to the man she loves. What could possibly go wrong…?

Connie Willis.
Doomsday Book.
NEL. 1992

rating : 2.5 : great stuff

Connie Willis.
To Say Nothing of the Dog.
Bantam. 1998

rating : 2 : great stuff
review : 10 January 1999

Connie Willis just gets better and better. To Say Nothing of the Dog is set in the same Oxford time-travelling historian universe as "Fire Watch" and Doomsday Book, with a much lighter touch, although the same passion for history, and a dollop of chaos theory.

To Say Nothing of the Dog. Time travel for the least significant reasons possible.

-- Nully Fydyan, rec.arts.sf.written, July 2001

Ned Henry and Verity Kindle are two of the historians slaving on Lady Schrapnell's Coventry Cathedral restoration project. Ned has been travelling back to Coventry in 1940, trying to locate the Bishop's Bird Stump; Verity is in 1888 trying to find Lady Schrapnell's greatn-grandmother's diaries. But there are strange slippages and anomalies occurring, and Ned ends up back in Victorian England himself, with insufficient preparation for a very important mission to save the continuum, and something he can't quite remember. To say nothing of the dog.

"I haven't been prepped in croquet either," I said, looking at the banded wooden mallets.

"The rules of the game are perfectly simple. You score points by hitting your ball through a course of six wickets twice, the four outside hoops, the centre hoops, then back again in the opposite direction. Each turn is one stroke. If your ball goes through the wicket you get a continuation stroke. If your ball hits another ball, you get a croquet stroke and a continuation stroke, but if you ball goes through two hoops in one stroke, you only get one stroke. After you hit a ball, you can't hit it again till you've gone through your next hoop, except for the first hoop. If you hit a ball you've hit, you lose your turn. Those are the boundaries," she said, pointing with her mallet, "North, South, East, and West. That's the yard line, and that's the baulk line. Is that all clear?"

"Perfectly," I said. "Which colour am I?"

The book is structured as a classic detective novel with a complex time-travelling plot, chock full of clues, red herrings, and meta-clues amidst all the glorious detail. It's full of references to the detective genre, and it helps if you're a fan of Three Men in a Boat, Agatha Christie, and especially the Wimsey/Vane detective novels of Dorothy L. Sayers. Unlike the latter, however, most of the Latin here is provided with a translation. It is brilliantly witty, cunningly plotted, full of wonderful observations of Victorian life, hysterically funny in places, chock full of delicious detail, poignant during the Cathedral bombing scenes, and just a damned good read.

Connie Willis.
Gollancz. 2010

Connie Willis.
All Clear.
Gollancz. 2010