CROSSTALK by Connie Willis. Del Rey/Random House (www.randomhousebooks.com), 2016, 498 pp., $28.00. ISBN 978-0-345-54067-6. Click here to purchase.
It’s love at first venture: the idea of being engaged to each other, or at the least, somewhat emotionally bonded, gave these sweethearts a way to enhance their relationship via a technological development called an EED. The EED brain implant is supposed to enhance the emotional connection between those who are in love.
Well, at least, on paper it’s supposed to work. The implant has been successful, to a degree, among partners who choose the procedure.
For Briddey Flannigan and Trent Worth, the procedure itself goes off without a hitch. But then all hell breaks loose.
In CROSSTALK, it’s not for long (as we can expect with a Willis comedy-of-terrors) that Briddey starts hearing voices after the implant . . . not of Trent, but a tech nerd she knows at Commspan, a guy named C.B. Schwartz who, for some unknown reason, she can speak to telepathically.
In the present, in the era of text messaging, chat aps and GPS locator technology, where you are a mere click away from anybody at all hours of the day, with little or no privacy, what would we do if technology, or just the development of human consciousness, could somehow link us, extra-sensory-perception-like, to each other, and you could read thoughts, motivations and emotions?
Telepathy in SF is nothing new, of course. When I read A.E. van Vogt’s novel, SLAN, when I was a sophomore in high school, Jommy Cross was a telepath. So we accept that Willis has resurrected the idea and shows with even more deliberation how truly chaotic ESP would be, with someone in the crosstalk of hundreds, if not thousands, of others.
Especially for Briddey.
Briddey wants to believe she is in love with Trent. But there is no emotional connection. The EED fails to work. It’s only until she and Trent link telepathically that Briddey really finds out what is going on, and her world starts to unravel.
In the end, smartphone technology could get this smart. Advances could link us very intimately to our devices and to each other. Those kind of advances may prove to be oh-so brain-rattling and potentially oh-so-dangerous.