Friday, January 20, 2012

Fire watch

Firewatch. Connie Willis. 1985. Bantam Books. 271 pages.

Firewatch by Connie Willis is the FIRST short story collection I've read for the 2012 Short Story Reading Challenge.

I am SO GLAD this was not my first introduction to Connie Willis. I've discovered that I enjoy her novels so much more than her short stories.

With one little exception, the title story "Fire Watch."

Fire Watch is the FIRST story set in the world of Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout and All Clear. It introduces readers to the alternate-world where time travel is the way historians LEARN their subject. Readers meet Mr. Dunworthy and Kivrin, though the narrator is another historian, one who is accidentally going to St. Paul's during the London Blitz of 1940. His original assignment had him traveling WITH St. Paul! Quite a difference! This novella is great. It won both a Hugo Award and Nebula Award. And I would recommend this story to just about anyone who likes science fiction and time travel.
There are no guidelines for historians, and no restrictions either. I could tell everyone I'm from the future if I thought they would believe me. I could murder Hitler if I could get to Germany. Or could I? Time paradox talk abounds in the history department, and the graduate students back from their practica don't say a word one way or the other. Is there a tough, immutable past? Or is there a new past every day and do we, the historians, make it? And what are the consequences of what we do, if there are consequences? And how do we dare do anything without knowing them? Must we interfere boldly, hoping we do not bring about all our downfalls? Or must we do nothing at all, not interfere, stand by and watch St. Paul's burn to the ground if need be so that we don't change the future? All those are fine questions for a late-night study session. They do not matter here. I could no more let St. Paul's burn down than I could kill Hitler. No, that is not true. I found that out yesterday in the Whispering Gallery. I could kill Hitler if I caught him setting fire to St. Paul's. (12-13)
You may read the novelette online.

Other stories in the collection include:
  • Service for the Burial of the Dead
  • Lost and Found
  • All My Darling Daughters
  • The Father of the Bride
  • A Letter From the Clearys
  • And Come from Miles Around
  • The Sidon in the Mirror
  • Daisy, in the Sun
  • Mail-Order Clone
  • Samaritan
  • Blued Moon
My second favorite story was The Father of the Bride. This short story is a fairy-tale retelling. It is the Sleeping Beauty story from the father's perspective. It was very enjoyable! Definitely one of the highlights of the book for me. 

I would say that most of the other stories just weren't me. Service for the Burial of the Dead, Lost and Found, A Letter from the Clearys, and And Comes from Miles Around while not quite wowing me had some enjoyable qualities to them.

My least favorite has to be All My Darling Daughters.

Read Fire Watch
  • If you're a fan of Connie Willis
  • If you're a fan of short stories in the science fiction and fantasy genres
  • If you're wanting to read the first Willis time-travel story

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

5 comments:

Alex 1:05 PM  

Every time I see a post about Connie Willis I want to reread all her work again. Glad you found her this year and that you enjoy her work so much. Nice reviews on everything you have read of hers so far.

Sherry 9:39 AM  

I'm just not a short story fan at all. I've read all the time traveling historian books by Willis and loved them, and I've read Passage and liked that one. I'm wondering what I should read next. Bellweather, maybe?

Becky 10:19 AM  

Sherry, really the only author whose short fiction I love is L.M. Montgomery.

I've only read the time travel books by Connie Willis. I've not read her other novels...at least not yet. So I don't have any recommendations.

Laura Fabiani 9:40 PM  

I've not read any Connie Willis books but have heard SO MUCH about them, especially Doomsday Book which I want to read. Thanks for including the link to read this short story collection online. I'm going to sneak over to see if I can catch the first story. Oh, and thanks for linking this review to the Short Story Challenge Review page!

Elizabeth 10:08 PM  

So glad to read here about Connie Willis' short stories. I'm new to her work and am really enjoying Doomsday Book. I just might try Fire Watch when I'm done.

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