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Fire Watch

Connie Willis is quite simply my favorite female sci fi writer. She has a lot of really good qualities, all of which are emphasized in this collection of short stories. First, she gives all the stories little introductions, not like “this is what I was thinking when I was writing this...” but often little teasers, giving you an idea of what you are getting into without explicitly telling you what is going to happen. Something like “this story did not turn out at all what I epxected it to be like.” or something. As a result, you read with anticipation which makes the stories come to life even more than they already do. Second, she uses many different techniques in different stories. Her stories can be satirical, straight up sci-fi, historical fiction, or a combination of those. Willis is comfortable in all genres, it seems, and seems to delight in her abilities to agilely manipulate the language to suit her plots and characters. Lastly, her stories are complicated, sometimes so much so that I’m not really sure, at the end of them, what exactly happened. This can be maddening if it happens too often, but more often than not it just points out my own sloppy reading styles and then I get to re-read her pieces with more attention to detail.

This book contains stories about the Blitz on London, some of her time travelling students, some biting satire and some really sad characters. You never forget that Willis is a female writer which I also think is one of the strengths of her writing. She tackles many complex societal issues having to do with sex and relationships as a sideline of writing truly readable and captivating stories.