walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

"Inside Job", Connie Willis (kindle)

The 2005 Hugo Award winner for Novella, this is another of my attempts to get back into reading sf.

If you googled your way here, SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. I do believe in telling absolutely every damn detail so you should go away now. The thing won in '05, so I ought to be able to describe it in '12 without catching shit for it.

When exactly did pomo hit sf? Obviously, as with every other literary trend, it gets to sf last (okay, _that's_ not fair. I suspect post-modernism hasn't made it to romance or erotica yet -- but please feel free to give me examples of how wrong I am). I haven't tried reading Connie Willis in over a decade but again, I've got friends who love her and I figured I really should make a concerted effort to read women writers of sf as part of this project.

"Inside Job" is available as a stand-alone novella through Amazon and probably elsewhere. This is super cool (even at $4.99) and I hope it means that our world will contain more e-format novellas, because novellas require a lot less time commitment than a novel and thus whatever issues I might have with them are more likely to be issues than Issues. Willis took a sort of noir context: instead of a private investigator, a Debunker who writes and publishes a magazine called the Jaundiced Eye, and the Dame is an independently wealthy, rich retired (but youthful) actress who is annoyed by the gullibility of all Hollywood. She takes a job for our private dick, er, magazine writer/publisher and finds a channeler who might be channeling H. L. Mencken. Antics ensue, with the dialog at times more screwball comedy than Noir. Also, there is this massive amount of stuff about Mencken in it.

The protagonist's theory (that this is all a setup to help the channeler make it big by conning him) is too creaky to be believable. That's the central problem with the story. I just couldn't believe that he'd be _that_ narcissistic and still like him (that is, if he was really that narcissistic, I just couldn't like him). However, it's a novella so I could mostly ignore it.

Given the amount of infodumpage about H. L. Mencken, Willis does an uber-competent job of making the dialog snappy. And I was kinda charmed by the way the Dame reacts to the Dick accusing her of being part of the con. Of course the Twist is that she isn't part of the con (even though she has been lying to him) -- but the other fraudster the Dick has been pursuing _is_ part of the con (but not trying to con the Dick).

It's very pastiche-y, altho in a somewhat different way than Charles Stross. The infodumpage is the same (but this is sf -- that's what we're expecting when reading this stuff). The cut-and-paste multiple-genres is the same. The details are too subtle for me to capture with this small a sample. But I might like this a little better than Stross; perhaps I'll try Blackout/All Clear. Then again, maybe I'll pick up some more of her short fiction.
Tags: book review, sf
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