Sunday, February 27, 2005

Book Review: Passage

A bit of preamble: Despite the links to Amazon, I encourage you, dear reader, to patronize your local independent book shops.

Title: Passage
Author: Connie Willis
Publisher: Bantam
Year: 2001

Now boarding for the most needlessly longest read I’ve have in a while. Connie Willis’ Passage should have seen another edit before allowed on the lido deck. There’s far too much detail that isn’t used to warrant this amount of paper between two covers.

Briefly, Passages is about a psychologist Dr. Joanna Lander’s research into near death experiences (NDE). She works with a new neurologist, Dr. Richard Wright, who hopes to make a scientific breakthrough by manufacturing the NDE and prove that it is a survival mechanism. Throughout we meet New Age-y colleagues, desperate parents, reticent volunteers, overworked nurses, and critically sick children. Each stereotype is fully documented. To a fault. Thankfully, though, Willis steers clear of overt love subplots.

Willis has an interesting idea, but doesn’t investigate it thoroughly. Lander spends too much time running around avoiding people, pagers, and navigating the hospital’s labyrinth. Willis should have used these themes creatively rather than sacrifice them to sentiment. Despite the so-called “cutting-edge technology” she’s involved with, we witness nary an email nor barely a cell phone. The tools to weave a story about messages, passages, and plane of existence remain simply not used, rendering the fabric weak. As it stands, the books reads like a TV show; I could even place the commercial breaks. Not a good sign.

Long form is not this author’s strength. I’ve also read Doomsday Book which also disappointed. My first exposure to her work was “Even The Queen”, a concise, wry, and smart short story about menstruation which appeared in Impossible Things. I hoped that experience could be replicated; it wasn’t.

No comments: