On fire

I do love fantasy / sci-fi writer, Connie Willis. If you've never come across her before, a great place to start is with the anthology Time is the fire, a collection of her Hugo and Nebula Award winning short stories. I came across Connie last year, when I was blown away by her wonderful adventures in war-time London, Black-Out and All Clear. Time is the fire confirms that she's a great writer, but it also demonstrates her versatility moving from comedy to pathos, and everywhere in between. She's so good that I even forgave her for mixing up George II and George III.

Time is the fire contains 10 short stories. They range from the incredibly bleak A letter from the Clearys (if you want a short shot of post-apocalyptic fiction, this is the story for you) to the hilarious At the Rialto. The weird Death on the Nile (you'll never see Christie in the same way again) and the even more peculiar The soul selects her own society - I defy anyone not to laugh out loud at Willis's take on Emily Dickinson v Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Fire watch is a must-read for any lover of Black-Out and All Clear; while The winds of Marble Arch also deals with the effects of time, but in a rather different way.

The last of the Winnebagos brought tears to my eyes, at the thought of a dog-less world, while All seated on the ground made me chuckle. It's a wonderful paean to the power of music in society - a fable for all governments who are cutting music funding in schools to read and digest. Inside Job is a comical tale of fake mediums, and the unexpected problems that might sometimes occur when dealing with the supernatural; and Even the Queen is an odd feminist tale, that feminists will either love or hate (or perhaps remain neutral, as I did, it was my least favourite story).

Having said that though, there was nothing in this volume that I truly disliked, it was a wonderful mix of stories guaranteed to make you want to read more Connie Willis. She truly is a fabulous writer.

Also included are some of Willis' best speeches. Don't let the fact that they're speeches put you off. They are warm, hilarious, wonderfully written, and for any book-lover, completely heart-warming. This volume is a great way to get to know Connie Willis.


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