Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Fire Watch by Connie Willis

Fire Watch is a collection of early short stories written by Connie Willis between 1979 and 1984. These stories show a darker more pessimistic view of Willis than is true in some of her later stories. The humor for which she has become known does not show up but in one of the stories - "Blued Moon."
Willis's stories in this book reflect the time period in which they were written. There is a genuine fear of communism and a view of the Soviets as the ultimate enemy. Nonetheless, there is an enduring timelessness to the stories that make them readable more than twenty years later.
The first story, "Fire Watch," enters the world that Willis returns to in Doomsday Book and in To Say Nothing of the Dog. This story has a distinctly frightful tone that does not show up in the later books. They give an interesting insight into one of Willis's favorite worlds. World War II England seems to hold a fascination for the author.
Likewise, Willis returns to another common theme for her - the ridiculousness of academia. Both "Blued Moon" and in some ways "Samaritan" both address questions about the validity of academic pursuits and the mix of the absurd with the theoretical.
I would definitely recommend this book to a fan of Connie Willis's other books. However, these stories do come across as dated and dark. This would not be the most logical place to start reading her books in order to create an affinity for Connie Willis.

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