Fire Watch is the fourth collection of Connie Willis’s short stories that I’ve read and reviewed for Shelf Love (you can read my other reviews here, here, and here.) Since I read the large omnibus anthology The Winds of Marble Arch fairly early on, I had already read several of the stories in this wonderful collection, but that didn’t stop me from re-reading them, and of course the new ones were sheer delight.
This was the book that introduced several of Willis’s best stories to the world. (She also includes a short introduction to each story — something that I love. I really enjoy seeing the author’s take on how the story was conceived and written, or some salient fact about it that I didn’t know before.) Here you’ll find “Samaritan,” a heartbreaking story about an orangutan who asks to be baptized; “Blued Moon,” one of her classic screwball comedies; “Fire Watch,” a story about the London Blitz set in the same time-travel world as Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog; and the vicious “All My Darling Daughters,” where paternity and innocence and escape and abuse are tangled together in a bleak future world. (In her intro to this story, Willis points out the similarities to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s life. I never would have noticed that otherwise.)
But the ones I hadn’t read were just as good. I especially loved “Mail-Order Clone,” which had me laughing out loud, “Lost and Found,” which is a typically ornery Willis take on the apocalypse (and what it actually says about it in the Bible, rather than what most people seem to think it says), and “And Come From Miles Around,” a story about noticing the important things while you’re busy doing the small things (and vice versa.)
I’ve said this before, but there’s nothing Willis doesn’t do well. I’ve already stated my belief that you could choose anything of hers at all and be in good hands. Fire Watch merely, happily, confirms this.