November 20th, 2009

Stone & Sky

Two Novellas by Connie Willis



Title:
D.A.
Author: Connie Willis
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Format: Hardcover
Year: 2007
Pages: 76
Genre: Young Adult SF

Jacket Description
Theodora Baumgarten has just been selected as an IASA space cadet, and therein lies the problem. She didn't apply for the ultra-coveted posting, and she doesn't relish spending years aboard the ship to which she's been assigned.

But the plucky young heroine, in true Heinlein fashion, has no plans to go along with the program. Aided by her hacker best friend Kimkim, in a screwball comedy that has become Connie Willis' hallmark, Theodora will stop at nothing to uncover the conspiracy that has her shanghaied.

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Title:
Inside Job
Author: Connie Willis
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Format: Hardcover
Year: 2005
Pages: 99
Genre: Paranormal? I guess, for lack of a better category. . .

Description (from Booklist)
Professional debunker Rob, proprietor of the Jaundiced Eye magazine, considers himself incredibly lucky to have Kildy as his sole employee. Smart, dedicated, gorgeous, and, thanks to her last movie before she hung up on Hollywood, rich, she's a pleasure to oblige when she says Rob has to witness this channeler Ariaura's act--on her, not the Eye's, nickel--despite channelers being so last year. It's quite a show, all right, for in the midst of Ariaura's particular ancient wise guy's basso spiel, a gravelly baritone interrupts (both voices emanate from the channeler's female mouth) to berate the audience as "yaps" and the act as "claptrap." Why is Ariaura undermining herself? Or is she? After all, she angrily accuses Rob and Kildy of scheming to destroy her. Could the baritone belong to a genuine channeled spirit? Willis, one of sf's most spirited writers, rounds on the New Age; pays tribute to a great, skeptical journalist; and affectionately parodies pulp fiction at its best (Fredric Brown, that would be) in this irresistible entertainment.

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My Reviews
D.A. is a slight story, probably not worth the $20 list price, but enjoyable if you have an hour to spare some sunny afternoon. It is very definitely YA fare, complete with goth-girl illustrations and texting (though thankfully, no txt-spk). However, its comic version of Orson Scott Card's Battle School is a delight, and its message of the importance of independent thought is always timely.

Inside Job is in another league altogether, Willis at her screwball best: witty and humanistic. Its motif (because all of Willis' novels and most of her novellas have some motif) is H.L. Mencken and con artists, and its tale of a professional debunker faced with the channeling of that greatest of American debunkers is pure delight. I think I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Bellwether, my favorite of Willis' novels.

Neither of these novellas has the emotional punch of Willis' more serious stories (The Doomsday Book and "Fire Watch" are excellent examples of that branch of her writing), and as I said Inside Job is most certainly to be preferred, but I'll be putting both on my keeper shelf, to pull out some day when I just need to smile.
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