by Connie Willis
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted April 10, 2020
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"Jack" is a novella by Connie Willis, first published in Asimov's Science Fiction in October, 1991. Nominated for Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards, it has been reprinted multiple times since, the first being in Gardner Dozois' Best SF collection in '92. I won't mention the titles of two other anthologies in which it appeared, since they would be spoilers. Her collection Impossible Things is still in print, and even though I have that I'm pretty sure I had not read this story before. I took advantage of it being offered on Net Galley, so I now have it on my Kindle. A special edition, fully illustrated hardcover from Subterranean Press will be out April 30. You could also pre-order from amazon, but that is not a guarantee you'd be able to get one of the signed and numbered editions, which usually sell out quickly at Subterranean. An e-book version is likely to be announced closer to the publication date, or else shortly after. I hesitated even reviewing this here, although I feel obligated to do so at Net Galley. I can't say much to avoid spoilers, and unfortunately, if you click on the links above, or do any other search, you'll discover the secret too easily. I will offer the [slightly edited] publisher's blurb:
"During the height of the Blitz in London, the air raid rescue squad operating out of Mrs. Lucy’s house is close-knit and ever-watchful. When a new volunteer named Jack shows up, his odd behavior—[REDACTED]—isn’t concerning at first. The sleepless stress of the job is hard on everyone. Soon, Jack is in high demand, due to an almost uncanny talent for finding buried people still alive under the rubble… But how does he do it? As the narrator, another member of the squad also named Jack, begins to investigate, the truth turns out to have a [REDACTED] twist."
Being set during the London Blitz, one might naturally assume it's another in her Oxford Time Travel series, two of which were also set during that time. No, something else is going on, something that at first puzzles, then angers, the first-person narrator. This is a very good story, full of tension and terror, death and destruction, but also hope and fortitude. I don't think it's worth the $40 Subterranean is asking, but since I still recommend it, it would be best to get Impossible Things, since that includes ten other stories, several of which were award-winners.
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