Impossible Things

{4.5/5} “All it took was somebody walking past and stepping in a puddle, and the worm’s whole life was changed. Do you think things happen like that? That one little action can change your whole life forever?”

Impossible Things was published in 1993. It’s a collection of short stories, mostly science fiction, by Connie Willis.

“Spice Pogrom” — Chris lives on a space station. Her fiance Stewart, who works for NASA, asked her to let an alien stay in her spare bedroom. She has difficulty pronouncing the alien’s name, much less communicating effectively with him. Stewart said to let the alien do whatever he wanted, because negotiations were at a delicate stage. But then the alien wanted her to let another man stay in her apartment.

Humans are looking for a space program from the aliens — but do they really have one? This story is about communication between humans, and between humans and aliens. It’s also about what happens when space is at a premium (landlords make out like bandits).

“Chance” — Elizabeth has returned to the town where she went to college — in fact, her husband is now teaching there. She should be finding a job for herself, but she can’t stop thinking about the past. In particular, one decision comes back to haunt her — she realizes that not only did it change her life but the lives of her closest friends.

We all wonder sometimes what would have happened if we’d made a different decision at some point in the past — the main character in this story is in that frame of mind. The ending was a bit odd but until then the story was realistic and touching.

Like her novels, her stories demonstrate Willis’ great sense of humour — not laugh-out-loud hilarity but many moments to make you smile. Many stories are filled with subtle humour, irony, and just a bit of absurdity.

Several of the stories either take place on a university campus or contain characters who work at a university. One story takes place during World War II, a time period Willis visits in at least two of her novels.

I’m a fan of Willis’ novels — Lincoln’s Dreams, Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, and especially Passage. This is the first collection of hers I’ve read.

This entry was posted on Friday, July 6th, 2012 at 5:47 pm and is filed under Reviews of books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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