81 points, 4 ¼ stars
In the not-too-distant future, a simple outpatient procedure to increase empathy between romantic partners has become all the rage. And Briddey Flannigan is delighted when her boyfriend, Trent, suggests undergoing the operation prior to a marriage proposal – to enjoy better emotional connection and a perfect relationship with complete communication and understanding. But things don’t quite work out as planned, and Briddey finds herself connected to someone else entirely – in a way far beyond what she signed up for.
It is almost more than she can handle – especially when the stress of managing her all-too-eager-to-communicate-at-all-times family is already burdening her brain. But that’s only the beginning. As things go from bad to worse, she begins to see the dark side of too much information, and to realize that love – and communication – are far more complicated than she ever imagined.
“I never felt properly sorry for schizophrenics,” she thought, “unable to escape the voices in their heads and fighting for their sanity with a maelstrom of noise all around them, making it impossible to think.”
THIS BOOK IS SO LOUD!
I have never in my life come across a book that felt loud before. This is an utterly new experience. I didn’t even listen to the audiobook, I read it. One of the best things about Crosstalk was the setting in the early stages of the book. It felt like I was suffocating under a deluge of people. This is an introverts worst nightmare in book form.
Briddey is fun, but her family is utterly terrifying. She never has any peace. And her niece is the one I feel the most sorry for. Briddey’s sister is the ultimate in helicopter parenting and is constantly looking to Briddey for support in her absolutely insane beliefs (what kid, who’s favourite movie is Tangled, would join a terrorist organisation, you crazy fucking woman?!). Briddey mostly seems too swept up in the insanity that is her life and family to really realise what she is going through or look at herself through it all.
Or to look at her soon-to-be fiance. Trent is an ass. Beware the man named Trent, because that is never a good sign. I have no idea how Briddey puts up with him, or maybe he just does a better job before the book starts pretending to be a human and not an extension of his job. C.B., though? The malfunction with the EED is the best thing to happen to my week. C.B. is an absolute dream of a character to get to know. I need a C.B. of my very own.
The book starts when Briddey’s to-be fiance Trent asks her to get an EED so he can “feel what she feels when he asks her to marry him.” It goes wrong quickly when she wakes up after the procedure to implant the device, and finds that someone is talking in her head. Briddey is happy to find out that the device is working better than expected, after all telepathy is impossible. She is happy, that is, until she finds out that she isn’t talking to her boyfriend. She is talking to one of her coworkers, who seems as astonished as she is to be able to hear her. Things only get more complicated from there.
The whole of Crosstalk is centered on how too much communication is bad. The main character, Briddey, her boyfriend, Trent, and her crosstalk, C.B. all work at a communication company that’s main rival is Apple. Yet the message, again and again, is that too much communication can be a bad thing. That it has unintended consequences. The dual natures kind of annoyed me at times.
There were also a ton of information dumps. Every so often, the story would just stop to explain different things: the history of telepathy, technology, joan of arc. Honestly, it was a bit exhausting. Then there was all the information dumps on how to protect the mind from telepathy. It was overwhelming. There were so many “training sequences” that were so long it was astounding. I have no idea how time was supposed to function in this book, but there is no way everything that happened could have happened in the time allotted for those training sequences. Hell, I think the book only really covers about three days of time. Who needs sleep anyway, huh?
There were multiple moments throughout Crosstalk where I had to set the book down and self-reflect. While everything had a point and every event had a reason for existing in the book by the end of the event….during the event I had to just sit back and go “What the hell am I even reading? Why is this even happening?” There were a lot of illogical choices made and events happening.
However, I really enjoyed reading it. This scratched an itch I desperately needed scratched. I’m not certain I would read anything else by Connie Willis based off of what I read in Crosstalk, but I would definitely look for more books with this premise.
Maybe next time without the whole communication lesson.