Winner of more Hugo and Nebula Awards than any other science fiction author, Connie Willis is one of the most powerfully imaginative writers of our time. In Remake, she explores the timeless themes of emotion and technology, reality and illusion, and the bittersweet place where they intersect to make art.
It's the Hollywood of the future, where moviemaking has been computerized and live-action films are a thing of the past. It's a Hollywood where Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe are starring together in A Star Is Born, and if you don't like the ending, you can change it with the stroke of a key. A Hollywood of warmbodies and sim-sex, of drugs and special effects, where anything is possible.
Except for what one starry-eyed young woman wants to do: dance in the movies. It's an impossible dream, but Alis is not willing to give up. With a little magic and a lot of luck, she just might get her happy ending after all.
In this novella's rather dreary future, the washed out artificiality of Hollywood has reached dystopian levels of decay. People literally do not make movies anymore, with studios instead employing computer-generated likenesses of long-dead stars to produce remakes, sequels, and blatant copies of previous successes.
Thus we have the setting for a fairly straightforward love story with a little mystery, in which our hero meets Alys, a beauty who wants to dance in the movies. His struggles to cope with his own difficulties, personal and professional, help add context to this very ramshackle landscape. As sci-fi, the author creates a fairly well-drawn world, giving you enough detail to sell the premise, even if things in the real world haven't quite gone as badly since Remake's publication date as they might have. At the same time, Willis calls out the shallowness of the movie-making business while sending up any number of tributes to its glory days. I have no doubt that someone who has a deeper familiarity with cinema and musicals in particular than I possess would find much entertaining about the little bits of trivia sprinkled throughout the narrative. As is, they form an interesting contrast to the lows Hollywood has sunk to in Willis's early twenty-first century.
While listening to the author's descriptions of the techniques employed to "create" entertainment in the computer-generated era, I was reminded of something she said in an Audible interview a few years ago, essentially that every story that can be told already has been, but how you retell it is what matters. In Remake, the listener can find a future in which ownership of art as intellectual property reaches disturbing extremes, coupled with purely profit-driven production methods to stamp out creativity in exchange for Terminator 9 and Beverly Hills Cop 15. When considered with the very real problem that copyright issues and intellectual property litigation have generated in recent years, one might be tempted to take a second look at Remake's outlandish future as something that isn't just what might have been as seen by an author in the mid-1990s, but something that still yet might be. Or it can be a simple love story, complete with a classic Willis ending, touching and heartfelt.
There are very few characters, a good thing in such a short work. This allows the narrator to really shine, giving everyone very recognizable voices. The first person narrative is alive with self-awareness and subtle and at key points not so subtle emotion, which really works well.
I definitely recommend this as a quick read. For Audible members, the low price makes it unattractive as a credit purchase, so perhaps waiting for one of Audible's periodic sales might be called for.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
I have a bias on this book. I've always loved it. But it makes a wonderful listen as well. It's a completely unexpected bit of silly by an author who does it best. Treat yourself. This is a complete delight.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
This was a great novella. I love Connie Willis and this story is original, fun and satisfying. I hope Kipiniak reads more of her work. Many male narrators cannot pull off a female voice, but Kipiniak read the story with heart and humor.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This wasn't my favorite of the Connie Willis stories I've read, but it had some interesting ideas. The performance was good. I found the main character a little tedious, but its been a little while since I listened to it.
Technology has caught up with the writer to the point that what was very different about the story is common place (almost) so while I liked the story I can't say I'd recommend it.