Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Review: All About Emily

All About Emily
All About Emily by Connie Willis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've had this on my TBR list since 2011, and haven't got to it earlier in part because there was no ebook edition.

Finally picked it up from the library, and was a little disappointed, for a few reasons.

Firstly, a lot of the story is driven by references to musicals which I haven't seen. Now, since the narrator is an actress in musicals, it's perfectly natural that she thinks of everything that's happening in those terms, but it provided distance rather than identification for me, as someone who isn't familiar with the stories she constantly references. The references are explained, but even so.

Secondly, Connie Willis's big fault is that she can't hold back from infodumping the considerable research she does for her stories, even where it doesn't contribute anything. Here, she has a young musical geek who knows everything about every musical ever made and can't help spilling facts about them, so the infodumping is justified as characterisation, but it's still infodumping.

And thirdly, I felt that the story wasn't adequately filled out (it's very short), that the conflicts weren't sufficiently explored, and that the ending was too pat and too easy. Like a musical itself, maybe, with the Rockettes emerging onto the street for the closing number.

Also, stories about AI tend to make the AI too good too quickly, and this is the case here, too. I understand the story reasons for doing it, but AI is actually really hard, robotics are also really hard, and combining the two like this... is really, really hard, so I had trouble suspending my disbelief.

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