All About Emily: Blends Broadway and science fiction

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Connie Willis All About EmilyAll About Emily by Connie Willis

Claire Havilland is an aging Broadway actress who considers herself too old to wear a leotard and fishnets, but is not quite ready to be called a “legend.” One of her most successful roles was playing Margo Channing in the Broadway musical adaption of the film All About Eve. When Claire meets a charming young woman named Emily, who seems to know all about Claire’s career, Claire feels threatened. Could Emily be planning to steal Claire’s career, as Eve Harrington did to Margo Channing in All About Eve?

Connie Willis’s new novelette All About Emily (only 96 pages) blends Broadway and science fiction — something I don’t think I’ve ever seen done before — and it works. It was fun to explore Manhattan’s Theater District and to learn about the history of the Rockettes and Radio City Music Hall while thinking about robotics, identity, ambition, and what it means to be human.

The plot of All About Emily moves quickly, never lags, and kept me thoroughly entertained for the couple of hours that it took me to read the book. Willis’s characters, who manage to become surprisingly well-developed in such a small space, are delightful — I was completely engrossed in their story.

All About Emily is the first of Connie Willis’s novelettes that I’ve read, though I own several more of them. I hope to get to them soon, and I’m going to rent All About Eve this weekend.

All About Emily — (2011) Publisher: Theater legend Claire Havilland fears she might be entering the Sunset Boulevard phase of her career. That is, until her manager arranges a media appearance with her biggest fan — a famous artificial intelligence pioneer’s teenage niece. After precocious Emily’s backstage visit, Claire decides she’s in a different classic film altogether. While unnaturally charming Emily swears she harbors no desire for the spotlight, Claire wonders if she hasn’t met her very own Eve Harrington from All About Eve. But the story becomes more complex as dreams of fame give way to concerns about choice, free will, and identity. With this long, 17,000 word novelette, acclaimed author Connie Willis combines the glamour of old Hollywood and the eternal allure of Broadway to explore the cutting edge robotics of a richly-imagined near future. All About Emily is sure to join ‘The Last of the Winnebagos,’ ‘Inside Job’ and ‘All Seated on the Ground’ as one of multiple-award-winner Willis’ seminal works.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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