Ok, you know how at the end of the Harry Potter books Harry dies but then doesn’t really die and I think that’s sort of a cop-out, and if that spoils it for you then you need to go back to 2007 and leave yourself a note not to read this post. But anyways, I wish he had stayed dead. And I know that Dumbledore really dies, and that I rather hypocritically have no problem with Gandalf dying-but-not-really-dying, and this has nothing to do with that or anything except that when characters die and stay dead, I feel a sense of creeping realism.
Which Passage NEEDS, because it is about Near-Death Experiences and how this one doctor is simulating NDEs in people to try and figure out what purpose they serve and he recruits this other doctor who has been jaunting around interviewing people after their NDEs to try and figure out what purpose they serve (they are a jolly match, these two), and so he starts sending her under because they’re having trouble getting volunteers for the project who aren’t bats.
So she’s having fake-NDEs and walking down the tunnel towards the light and WHAT is at the end of the tunnel? Where do you go when you die? YOU END UP ON THE TITANIC!! Right before it sinks!! Isn’t that just horrifying as hell? Figuring that out is about half the book, so I’ll leave it up to you if you want to spoiler yourself (in which case, Ctrl-A that white space) or do your own detecting. But let us just say that it’s something simultaneously ludicrous and incredibly sensical within the context.
But all this zaniness is kept in check by all the science (words like ‘theta-asparcine’ come up a lot) and the fact that someone DIES! Like, a main character. S/he dies, and everyone does everything they can to revive…him/er, but s/he STAYS dead and is dead forevermore. How sobering.
And Passage is definitely more Doomsday Book than To Say Nothing of the Dog. By which I mean, It Is A Downer. But a great one! Willis is literate as hayull and she will casual-nerd-reference you six ways from January. And it’s SOOOOO LOOOOONG so that you get really involved, AND unsettlingly plausible. Like, I’m no scientician, but I feel like this could all be true.
Nine caterpillars! Connie Willis I love you, you depressing little minx!
And then also, because I love the gloomy ones, what are your favorite sad-(but-please-with-a-bit-of-hopeful-because-we-all-have-to-carry-on-here)-ending books? I would like to cry into my soup.