REVIEW CLICHÉ #16: The Half-Assed Parody/Tribute
REVIEW CLICHÉ #42: The Canon Criticism (usually follows REVIEW CLICHÉ #41: The Canon Dump)
Glancing at the Gollancz SF Masterworks list, a non-SF fan might conclude that Connie Willis is the one of the only female sci-fi writers ever in the history of sci-fi. To me, she’s an odd addition to list; her work seems too recent to qualify for such a list and, while I’ve enjoyed a couple of her books to a certain degree, she doesn’t strike me as Master-status. I suspect her inclusion on the list might have been controversial at the time, considering the many other exciting and long-deserving female science fiction writers who were passed over in that decision. (Which, as I learned last year, has more to do with the copyright obstacles than anything else.)
REVIEW CLICHÉ #66: The Admission That Canon Books Just Discussed Have Not Been Read (Yet)
However, I still haven’t read her Masterwork-listed books, Doomsday Book (1992) and Time is the Fire (2013), so my opinion is not yet fully formed in that regard. In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for this little number: Remake, a 1995 Hugo-nominated how-can-this-be-a-novel-I-have-recipes-that-are-longer-than-this-book?
REVIEW CLICHÉ #13: The Abruptly Wedged-In Summary That Not-Yet-Reads Won’t Read Because Spoilers and Already-Reads Won’t Read Because Already-Read.
In a near-future Hollywood, where all movies are CGI’d remakes of film classics, Tom, a student who works in the industry by removing AS (Addictive Substances) from films, meets Alis, a wannabe dancer who dreams of a starring role with Fred Astaire. Obsessed with Alis and her anachronistic career goals, Tom tries help her dreams come true, while at the same time reminding her that it’s impossible. Meanwhile, Tom’s friend “Hedda” plays the haplessly in-love third angle to this film-cliché love triangle.
REVIEW CLICHÉ #69: Positive Remarks so as not to Sound like a Complete Asshole
Clearly a dystopia, where old movies are remade, men overwhelmingly run the industry, and women with low self-esteem vie for director attention, it’s a disheartening read. When you realize Remake takes place in our now (“She was born the year Fred Astaire died” (7)- 1987, btw), where problems of gender-based pay differentials, overlooked female directors, and all-White casting are ignored for the more important problem of George Lucas’ involvement in the Star Wars reboot, you have to *sadly* applaud Willis for her terrible, depressing foresight.
The cliché and rather predictable love triangle pokes at movie formula, including her slightly-too-cheeky “MOVIE CLICHÉ” headings. With Tom’s job as AS-remover, Willis also tackles censorship, as it makes little difference in a society where drug and alcohol addiction run rampant.
REVIEW CLICHÉ #68: Subjective Criticism Dressed as Objective Criticism Laced with Acerbic Pronouncements
But ultimately, despite the clever nudges at the movie industry, the substance of Remake reads primarily as a thin, old-fashioned romance tale. It’s not biting enough to be satire, but not genuine enough to be pastiche. The cliché nature, no matter how tongue-in-cheek, dulls the book and its odd, two-dimensional characters with peculiar motivations: Tom loves Alis, but he barely knows Alis; Hedda loves Tom, Tom is a jerk; Alis wants to dance in the movies, there aren’t any more movies. It smacks of cliché because it is deliberate cliché, but the commentary isn’t enough to impel reading. Willis’ criticisms of the film industry, censorship, and cliché are not novel— the same complaints have been heard long before 1995. She’s preaching to the theater, and Willis isn’t subtle enough to build a truly compelling tale around such heavy criticism. (Probably deliberate, given the cliché standard of the novel.)
REVIEW CLICHÉ # 181: An Important Point that’s Probably Not That Important but it Bookends the Theme of the Review and Will Inadvertently Confuse Skimming Readers
But Remake does serve to remind us of the extraordinary influence movies have over culture. It is a feedback loop, certainly, but when Tom makes the following observation, it makes me wonder if human interaction has evolved to become something less natural:
That’s what movies do. They don’t entertain us, they don’t send the message: ‘We care.’ They give us lines to say, they assign us parts: John Wayne, Theda Bara, Shirley Temple, take your pick. (48)
Hmm, it seems like Tom is saying something important here, but frankly, my dear reader, I don’t give a– .
I’ll be back.