Review: Fire Watch (repost from GoodReads, 2016)

Fire Watch Fire Watch by Connie Willis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This collection contains 12 stories.

The title story, “Fire Watch” is a bittersweet tale set in the same universe as Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, but written earlier. It was published in 1982, and won the 1983 Hugo & Nebula Awards for Best Short Story. The narrator is a time-traveling grad student from a future Oxford University, who is sent to the London Blitz due to a clerical error. (He was supposed to travel with St Paul for his practical exam, but instead ends up assigned to the Fire Watch for St Paul’s Cathedral.) Of course, he is completely unprepared and has no idea what’s going on. The epigraph for this story comes from Sir Walter Raleigh: “History hath triumphed over time, which besides it nothing but eternity hath triumphed over.” 5 stars *****
This story is available online here:…

“Service for the Burial of the Dead” is a ghost story from the perspective of the former girlfriend of a dead man who attends his funeral. She meets him there, apparently still alive.***

“Lost and Found” – The end of the world, and the search for the Holy Grail. Like “Samaritan” below, this is a religious story. I don’t have much to say about this one. **

“All My Darling Daughters” is the most disturbing story in the collection. Set on a boarding school in L5 orbit, it is told by a female narrator who has just been assigned a new roommate. The story revolves around the mystery of her roommate and the strange animals (“tessels”) that the boys are carrying around… this is much nastier than the other stories, but I thought it was powerful. ****

“The Father of the Bride”- Sleeping Beauty’s father reacts to being awoken in the Middle Ages. Short and clever. ***

“A Letter from the Clearys” – This tale of a family in a post-apocalyptic world won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story in 1982. It’s hard to describe this one to someone who hasn’t read it, so I’ll just say that the 14-year old girl is an excellent unreliable narrator. Like “All My Darling Daughters” this is a slowly unfolding horror story, although it’s not quite as dark as that one.***

“And Come from Miles Around” – A family watches a solar eclipse.**

“The Sidon in the Mirror” – A ‘Mirror’ – a mutant with the uncontrolled ability to become other people – tries to discover who he’s copying, as he can’t tell while he’s doing it. ***

“Daisy, in the Sun” is another apocalyptic story, told in a series of flashbacks. In the introduction to this story, Willis writes, “During the London Blitz, Edward R. Murrow was startled to see a fire engine racing past. It was the middle of the day, the sirens had not gone, and he hadn’t heard any bombers. He could not imagine where a fire engine could be going. It came to him, after much thought, that it was going to an ordinary house fire, and that that seemed somehow impossible, as if all ordinary disasters should be suspended for the duration of this great Disaster that was facing London and commanding everybody’s attention. But of course houses caught fire and burned for reasons that had nothing to do with the Blitz, and even in the face of Armageddon, there are still private Armageddons to be faced.” ***

“Mail Order Clone” is about, well, a mail order clone, and the problems it causes for the man who orders it.**

“Samaritan” – A young assistant pastor plunges the church hierarchy into a storm of controversy when she brings forward an orangutan who can use sign language to be baptized.**

“Blued Moon” – A romantic comedy interwoven with an sf plot which involves a controversy over a project at chemical plant to restore the ozone layer and a series of coincidences with a scientific cause.***

View all my reviews

Published by Beth @ Beth's Bookish Thoughts

This blog is for my thoughts on reading. A couple of my friends on GoodReads have blogs, so eventually I decided to start one myself. I hope to get involved in the book blogging community and become a better reader and writer! I am not accepting copies of new books for review, but I would be interested in new editions or new translations of classic authors. Find me on Upwork (as an editor) in the profile link. From September 2018 to October 2020 I blogged at Blogger.

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