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Crosstalk

Narrated by: Mia Barron
Length: 18 hrs and 45 mins
4 out of 5 stars (12 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Part romantic comedy and part social satire, here one of science fiction's most lauded authors examines the consequences of having too much connectivity, and what happens in a world where, suddenly, nothing is private. One of science fiction's premiere humorists turns her eagle eye to the crushing societal implications of telepathy.

In a not-too-distant future, a simple outpatient procedure that has been promised to increase empathy between romantic partners has become all the rage. So when Briddey Flannigan's fiancé proposes that he and Briddey undergo the procedure, she is delighted! Only, the results aren't quite as expected. Instead of gaining an increased empathetic link with her fiancé, Briddey finds herself hearing the actual thoughts of one of the nerdiest techs in her office. And that's the least of her problems.

©2016 Connie Willis (P)2016 Recorded Books

Critic Reviews

"An engaging and satirical look at relationships, technology, and connectivity in the digital age is expertly narrated by Mia Barron.... Barron does an outstanding job of distinguishing between the conversations in Briddey's head and those happening in real life as well as adding authenticity to each of the characters Briddey interacts with." ( AudioFile)
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My least favourite Willis still gets a high rating

Crosstalk is a story about Briddey who decides to have (is pressured into having actually) an EED, which is a device implanted in your brain to make you more emotionally connected with your other half. Obviously sticking anything into your brain just to be trendy is a bad idea and things don't go to plan. (If you're feeling all superior, thinking you would never do such a thing, get over it; no one heeds any warnings about mobile or airpod use). Briddey's other half, Trent, is a complete dick (I think it’s pretty obvious from the first chapter so I won’t say that's a spoiler) who is more worried about his job than Briddey's welfare. So, to the rescue comes CB, a techno whiz who works at the same mobile phone company as Briddey and Trent.

I would say Crosstalk, out of everything Connie Willis has written, is probably her most mainstream offering. Definitely in Australia it’s the only one of her titles I’ve seen readily available in paperback format. (I bought the Oxford Time Travel series in book form after listening to them on audible and I had to get them from overseas.) And, unlike her other books which only have a hint of romance, it's probably one which could almost be catergorised as a straight up romance. Or if I was getting technical, a scifi romantic comedy.

Although mainstream, it is still a very trademark Connie Willis book. Yes, Crosstalk is my sixth Connie Willis book and, as such, I am now very familiar with her style. Actually, I would say there is no other writer that I can think of (certainly none I’ve read of late) that has such a distinctive and familiar style.

She always includes communication issues for the characters. Here she has characters who can’t get through to others due to lack of mobile coverage, or phones not being turned on, or phones being taken off their owners for one reason or another. This is all rather ironic in Crosstalk as much of the plot is centred on Briddey's phone company (a rival to Apple) wanting to expand into a world where communication with others would be even more instantaneous and all encompassing. For those of you who have conspiracy theories regarding mobile phone usage, this is the book for you! (Or not, depending on the state of your nerves.)

The other Connie Willis ‘must have’ is characters being unable to do something because of their physical constraints. In Passage, for example, it was a confusing hospital layout which had the lead characters stuck in stairwells etc. In Crosstalk, Willis takes on a corporate office. Priddey has to divert her mission on many occasions because of the physical layout of her office building including (my favourite) avoiding people by diving into the claustrophobic photocopy room without knowing if it is already occupied by someone else she should be avoiding.

Another popular Willis theme which pops up again is marental love and its various issues. This time, it was a mother with helicopter syndrome. Priddey's sister has terrible anxiety when it comes to her only child and she hovers and monitors everything nine year old Maeve does. Maeve, not surprisingly, rebels and Willis manages to make this into a dramedy of sorts. Maeve reminded me a lot of Maisie from The Passage, although I do much prefer the latter, not to mention Colin from Doomsday Book and Binnie and Alf from Blackout/All Clear. Those young characters really tugged at all my heartstrings and, although one of the major plot points of Crosstalk was the need to protect Maeve, I didn’t find all this so convincing. Maeve, for starters seemed a little too clever for her age and I guessed almost all of the twists surrounding her plot which was disappointing.

Actually, I guessed quite a lot of the plot points in Crosstalk. Willis usually throws such curveballs and I kept waiting for one that I’d missed which was going to smack me in the head. There were a couple of surprises, but no shocks, if that makes sense.

I think Willis’s book fall into the love them or hate them category and I definitely love them. In fact, I have a weird almost unhealthy passion for her books. However, unfortunately, out of all the ones I’ve read so far, Crosstalk is my least favourite.

I’ve thought about this and I think my main issue is that I was expecting more. As I said, it seems to be her most commercially successful and I was expecting pure sweet and funny and romantic. I got that but I also got predictable now and then and I’ve never really had that feeling with her other books.

Also unlike her other books, there isn’t much tragedy and, if I’m honest, I really think it needed some to give it that extra punch she usually throws my way. There was an attempt of tragedy/drama but unfortunately I never really felt scared or sad for our characters. Oh, there were a couple ‘how-are-they-going-to-get-out-of-this’ moments but never that huge knot of tension in my guts I felt as I read the Oxford series and The Passage.

I also never fell completely and utterly in love with Priddey or CB. I liked them but I wasn't in love with them like I am with Mr Dunworthy and Mary Ahrens and Merope, for instance.

Another thing Willis also adds in every book that didn’t work as well for me in Crosstalk was her pop culture references. She’s used Agatha Christie books and the Titanic disaster, for example. In To Say Nothing of the Dog she uses my beloved Harriet and Peter from Dorothy Sayers. In this one it’s show tunes. Ugh. I hate musicals with a passion, so this just didn’t work for me at all. She also uses a couple of poems but they’re very American and I had never heard of them, so again, I think I felt a little cheated in this arena even. (I will say I liked the library references though and, as I assume everything Willis tells us about it is true, found it nuts as well as fascinating.)

If I had to compare this to a normal book, I’d easily give it 5 out of 5. But comparing it to other Willis books, I have to rank it lower even though that breaks my heart. 4 1/2 out of 5 (I know, you're saying half a measly star - but if I could, I'd give all her other books 100 out of 5, so that half a mark is actually a really big deal.)

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mozershmozer
  • 21-01-2017

Learn when to say no

Would you recommend Crosstalk to your friends? Why or why not?

Very very interesting take on telepathy, specifically on how to harden yourself against the deluge of unwanted voices and how to combat other psychics. For anyone who likes meta-thought this would be interesting, I think.

Any additional comments?

The main character of this novel is incapable of saying "no" to anything at all. There are countless moments in the story where a simple "no, go away" or "I'm no longer going to participate" would COMPLETELY SOLVE all of her problems, but she doesn't even consider putting her foot down!

13 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Salimah J. Perkins
  • 27-10-2016

Unnecessarily Convoluted

Would you try another book from Connie Willis and/or Mia Barron?

Mia Barron is a capable narrator whose work I've enjoyed before. Listening to another Connie Willis might be a tougher sell for me because the dialogue in this one is redundant and drawn out to the point of pain. If that's her style, she'll be a hard pass for me moving forward.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

Crisper, leaner dialogue that gave the reader more benefit of the doubt re: coming to conclusions and filling in gaps; less convoluted plot points--and scenarios constructed purely to prolong events. This audiobook was 18 hours long. I hung in there, but barely. Maeve as a character/plot device was trying, to say the least.

What does Mia Barron bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Believability and depth to Briddey (less so to CB). I wanted more of Briddey's interior monologue. Ironically, for a story that's about telepathy and connection and intimacy (and the commercialization of intimacy), we don't really get to enjoy any sense of completed connection until the end, and only a very little. the takeaway seems to be that nothing is sacred--instead of CB and Briddey connecting more deeply and exclusively, their thoughts are going to be accessible to everyone in her family, including a 9-year-old? Jaysus, as the Irish say.

What would have made this romance irresistible?

Less detail about perimeters, walls, and safe havens (this could have been explained in a page or two--and didn't need to be revisited every other paragraph) and more moments that were devoted to the growing intimacy between CB and Briddey. Maeve barging into their thoughts was a real buzz kill. Presumably, they'll never be able to prevent her from doing this...

Any additional comments?

This book had a ton of potential--compelling subject matter that is topically relevant. Unfortunately this was unnecessarily undermined by making this all link back to Irish heritage and genetics, specifically. In any case, as a reader/listener, I never got the chance to fully immerse myself into this story because long-winded explanations and repetitive details pulled me out of the story.

20 people found this helpful

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  • Joel
  • 31-10-2016

It doesn't work like that.

The first act especially drove me crazy. The main character is so dense - the reader knows all the "twists" chapters in advance but we still have to sit through her fumbling about for answers and explanations.

Silly, frustrating and obvious. Very much a young adult novel, but one that treats the readers like they're idiots.

25 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Simone
  • 27-11-2017

The more the story moved along the more I liked it

I completely forgot that Connie Willis is the hands-down queen of near misses and close calls : “must reach so and so”, “just missed her”, “I have to tell you this before…” , “in a hurry to catch him before he leaves”, “gotta rush to meet them”, “got to get away from so-and-so”, “can’t let him find me”. It’s ENDLESS, tedious and in almost every scene so if you have not already been initiated to her writing style this might very easily turn you off.

The first part of the book felt to me like a litany of rescheduled meetings and phone calls, I can’t imagine doing business with this company! They just seemed unprofessional and unorganized.

Eventually, I ignored all this and just focused on the story and it was great! Willis did a terrific job of describing what it’s like to be in someone’s head, and as preposterous as the premise was I found it was totally believable. I don’t know how she did it but she even lured me, the romance-hater, into the love story of Briddey and C.B.!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Beth Anne
  • 10-02-2017

I wish there was a 0 star choice

this was one of the worst books I have ever listened to. Connie Willis blew me away with Blackout and All Clear, but this book was really awful. It's supposed to be a satire, but it's really just awful. it's unlistenable. Every character is dumb and awful.

Briddey is one of the WORST FEMALE CHARACTERS EVER WRITTEN. honestly, she's stupid, trite, annoying, gullible, idiotic, annoying and just all around awful.

there is NOTHING redeemable about this book. I have nothing good to say so I'm going to stop talking.

7 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Margaret
  • 07-10-2016

Connie Willis and the luck of the Irish...

For some reason, the cover of Crosstalk, made me think it was a re-issue of an earlier novel that I'd missed. I quickly realized it's a new one. Yay! All the Connie Willis humor and detailed plotting is here in full force, but there really is a caveat for new readers.

Connie Willis's writing has a quirk. If you liked To Say Nothing of the Dog, the All Clear duet and/or Doomsday Book, then you're already familiar with the constant "trying to get in touch" "check in with" or the necessity to avoid someone that drives Connie Willis's characters. It's in almost every scene. So it is here although the characters now have modern cell phones. For experienced CW readers, it's par for the course. If you're new to CW, I suspect it might hit you hard.

So, Crosstalk is for aficionados which I am one, but not the uninitiated.

Recommend for fans.

17 people found this helpful

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  • RENEE BEANLANDS
  • 09-05-2018

Going nowhere

The only good thing about this book was the reader, and she was sooooo slow I had to double the speed

2 people found this helpful

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  • suzanne
  • 10-11-2016

Can not be the same author as Doomsday Book!

What disappointed you about Crosstalk?

The very worst of romantic tripe... The only character even slightly likable is the niece, Maeve, and she's typical tween snark.

Has Crosstalk turned you off from other books in this genre?

the genre of romance? I was never turned on to it in the beginning- this book is completely mislabeled as anything else

Would you be willing to try another one of Mia Barron’s performances?

probably- she didn't have much to work with

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

crushing disappointment... I'm so dismayed this could come from the same author as the amazing Doomsday Book. Crosstalk is truly horrible and I literally had to try twice to make it past the 2/3 mark; I failed both times.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Ella Quent
  • 03-11-2016

Disappointed

I love Connie Willis but must say that I wanted to smack the lead character and yell at the narrator. I realize this is a rather extreme reaction but seriously when the narrator can't even pronounce the lead characters name properly it is nothing but irritating

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • D. Hellmann
  • 09-10-2016

Another master stroke from Connie Willis

The story was great. A page turner. The narrator was strong and had no problem doing both men's and women's roles. The only negative point is I think the story wrapped up very quickly at the end as if Ms. Willis was in a kind of hurry to wrap things up, but except for that the pacing was good, ramping up in intensity at a good rate throughout the book.

7 people found this helpful

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  • C and/or A
  • 27-02-2017

It Is a Connie Willis

It is a Connie Willis, which is a hellovalot better than no Connie Willis. It ain't "Doomsday" or "To Say Nothing...", but it certainly addresses issue of our time.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kate
  • 11-09-2017

Sad choice in reader

I love this book. Despite it driving me crazy with sci-fi neuroscience and occasional paradoxes/things that just don't make sense when you think about them, I read this book twice and listened to it once within a week and a half. No spoilers, but I found the romance really engaging and fun. Willis' settings are vivid, and as always, all the little details are there if the reader wants to do some detective work to figure out what's happened before the main character gets there.

That said, I was really disappointed in the reader. I felt her interpretation of my favourite character was quite counter to his behaviour in the book - where he's meant to be kind, he sounds quite gruff. But more than anything, her tone lacked the excitement that propels Willis' books forward - that edge-of-the-seat feeling that kept me up until three AM when I first read it just wasn't there.

Buy the book instead! It's definitely a good read.

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  • P
  • 07-02-2017

Great story, well read.

I love Conny Willis's approach to sci fi. Always so thoughtful and engaging. Great to see her explore telepathy.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Tracey
  • 06-11-2016

Not one of Connie ' better books...

Whilst I enjoyed the plot, the narrative was repetitive and lengthy. Too much irepetitive nner dialogue and time spent on each scene. Quit slow in places. Narrator was very good though. I really struggled to finish this book to be honest. Unfortunately I'm unwittingly comparing it to her Oxford Time Travel Series which was outstanding.

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  • EGR
  • 06-10-2016

Boring boring boring

This really is the most boring and pointless book I've ever had the misfortune to listen to.