I like science fiction, but it has been a while since I’ve read anything in this genre. I’ve also never heard of Connie Willis, who is apparently quite well known in the science fiction world. This novel has been getting a lot of hype so I decided to check it out!
In the not-so-distant future, everyone is eager to increase and enhance communication with those around them. There are multiple apps and phones promising to improve your ability to connect with those around you. But the biggest breakthrough is the development of a simple outpatient surgery that will increase romantic partners’ ability to emotionally connect. And Briddey is delighted when her boyfriend, Trent, suggests undergoing this procedure before getting engaged. He wants to be able to truly show her how much he loves her, and what better way to do that than through a procedure that makes you open to your partner? But the operation doesn’t go quite as planned, and Briddey finds herself connected to a completely different person in a way far beyond anything she could ever imagine. With her life already so complicated, what with the stress of her job and her overly-eager-to-communicate-always family, Briddey is on the brink of mental collapse. But this is just the beginning. As things go from bad to worse, Briddey is soon going to find out the dark side of having too much communication.
When I first heard the premise of this story, I had expected it to be a lot more sinister. Maybe it’s because of all the mysteries and thrillers I’ve been reading. What I found instead was a comical novel that explores the dangers of communication, with a fast pace and a romance that is both cute and creepy all at the same time.
The author begins by showing the reader a glimpse of Briddey’s daily life. And it is hectic. To be honest, I never really figured out what exactly Briddey’s job was but after reading about a “normal day at the office”, I myself was mentally drained. In that sense, the author did a good job of portraying the obsession society has with communication and technology. Briddey was barraged by phone calls, texts, emails, and messages from all sorts of other apps. Reading about the craziness of her life made me really glad that I stick to the bare minimum when it comes to apps.
Briddey herself was the most annoying and ignorant character I have ever read about. I’m serious, she actually pissed me off. She can’t do anything on her own, she constantly jumps to conclusions, she acts irrationally and does stupid things that cause her more problems, and she is a pushover. These characteristics remained throughout the novel and so I never really had much sympathy for her. She sort-of wizened up towards the end but I still never liked her.
Most of the other characters also felt underdeveloped. There were only a couple of characters that I actually liked and they were mostly the reason that I continued to read the story. The characters could definitely have had a stronger personality and more nuances; if you have read any of my other posts, you will know that one of the things I truly don’t like are one-dimensional characters. If this had been different, I think I would have liked the novel more.
The story itself was quite funny. It didn’t have as much depth as I would have liked; most of the plot was a bit on the shallow side in the way that it dealt (or didn’t deal) with issues. I also feel like the story didn’t really show me anything that I wasn’t already aware. Yes, too much of something can be a bad thing. Yes, there are positives and negatives to everything. And the pros and cons that the author talks about were ones that I already knew. However, despite that, I had a fun time reading this story and enjoying the comical scenes involving Briddey. There were some science aspects of the story that were interesting, like the mention of genes and feedback loops. However, I got lost in the explanations that the author gave near the end of the book. It felt like a whole bunch of information was just thrown at me and I wish the delivery of it had been smoother.
My verdict is on the fence for this novel. The characters were not as well-developed as I would have liked and the concept itself was a bit simplistic when it came down to it. However, I liked the lightheartedness of the story as well as the fast pace. I finished this book in just a few hours and found myself laughing and enjoying the overall flow of the story, but there definitely things that disappointed me. If you are looking for something funny with romance and a bit of science fiction, then give this novel a shot. But this is definitely not going to win any praise from die-hard science fiction fans!