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crosstalkWhen I picked up Crosstalk by Connie Willis from the library last week, it was a leap of faith.  Willis is an author who I always think I should like but, in reality, I find most of her books incredibly frustrating.  Of the five I’d read, the only one I’d really loved was Doomsday Book and, to be fair, I really, really do love it and spend a significant portion of my time trying to push it on unsuspecting acquaintances.  My love for it almost makes up for how disappointing I’ve found most of her other books.  I’m still disgusted with the lazy mediocrity of Blackout and All Clear, books that felt so promising and delivered absolutely nothing.

But I remain hopeful. And this time I am happy to say that my optimism paid off: Crosstalk was delightful.

Set in the near future, we meet our heroine Briddey Flannigan just after her boyfriend of only a few weeks has proposed they undergo the very trendy EED procedure, which purportedly allows couples to feel one another’s emotions and use this as the basis for building deeper, more emotionally transparent relationships.  It is, her gushing coworkers remind her, a very big and very romantic gesture.  Only C.B., the office tech geek and communications skeptic, seems to think it is a bad idea.

All too quickly, Briddey finds herself undergoing the procedure.  But when she wakes up, it is not Trent, her boyfriend, whose emotions she can sense.  It’s C.B.  And more than that, she finds they have a telepathic link.  But soon it’s not just C.B.’s voice she hears in her head and, rather than a blessing, the ability to hear other people’s thoughts quickly comes to seem like a curse that could drive her mad.

There are a few trademark weaknesses in the story.  It is overlong, like many of Willis’ books.  Some of the plot twists are so clearly flagged beforehand that you almost become impatient waiting for the reveal.  And it gets a little too wrapped up towards the end in the imaginary structures created by each of the telepaths (there is in fact no need to invite a fellow telepath over to explore your imaginary garden when you are both physically standing in the same room.  Just saying).

But those are minor quibbles.  The most important thing about Crosstalk is that it is gloriously fun.  Fast-paced and full of delightful banter, it is a wonderful romantic comedy wrapped in a sci-fi plot.  The best of all possible combinations.

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