Crosstalk takes place in the present, and is all about the wonderful and dangerous field of communication. Namely, telepathy. Briddey Flannigan works for Commspan ( an Apple-like company) and dates one of its rising stars, Trent Worth. They've decided to take their relationship forward by having an EED procedure. This procedure (which is outpatient brain surgery!) connects a couple together by enabling them to sense each others feelings, thereby bringing them closer and making their relationship that much better. It's a major commitment. Trent wants it done before he proposes. Briddey's large and loud Irish-American family does not want her to undergo the procedure, so Briddey decides to have it done in secret.
Only problem is, Briddey's surgery has a different result. Instead of feeling Trent's emotions, she hears a voice loud and clear in her head. CB Schwartz is a genius who works at Commspan (in the basement, by himself) and regularly consults with Briddey. He implored her not to have the EED done. And who's voice does Briddey hear? CB's. Loud and clear. As in telepathy. As in they can have conversations in their heads no matter how far apart they are or where they are located. Oops.
Furious with CB, Briddey's life becomes a game of trying to fend off Trent's impatience at their delayed connection, keeping her family from finding out about the surgery, and figuring out how the heck to deal with CB's voice in her head. Only problem is, Briddey begins to hear other, random voices in her head too. The only person who can save her from madness, and help her unravel the mystery of her telepathy, is CB. Meanwhile, Commspan is frantically trying to come up with a phone that will rival Apple's latest. In a world where communication is everything, where do we stop? How far will Commspan go to become the best?
This was a fun novel with serious undertones about today's world and the need for instant communication, corporate greed, and lack of privacy. Briddey has no privacy at all; her family is always calling, texting, or visiting, and in her workplace everyone knows everything immediately. I found myself annoyed for Briddey's sake when she can't even get out of the parking garage without a coworker asking about her date the night before. There are no secrets.
I liked CB's character a lot. It's obvious Briddey and CB should be together, and as a reader it is enjoyable to watch their relationship slowly unfold. Trent is a rather shallow character who seems pretty one dimensional; I have to say Briddey's family is right on the money not liking him so much. There are references to Joan of Arc, Saint Patrick, and others throughout history who have claimed to hear voices. Telepathy has been around for centuries, and the same fears of persecution and unethical experiments still hold true in today's world. Underneath the comedy of errors that is Briddey's life, there is a seriousness and a reminder that sometimes silence is golden.
This book will be out in hardcover and e-book on Tuesday, October 4th.
Thank you to Penguin/Random House for a review copy, and introducing me to Connie Willis.
Rating: 8/10 for a novel that has many layers. It will appeal to those who love a good romantic comedy, those who are into science fiction with a technological angle, and those who like a good story. It would make a good book club discussion.