Saturday, September 11

Inside Job - Connie Willis

Rob is a sceptic who has devoted his life to exposing paranormal frauds, from past-life channelers and psychics to spiritual healers and mediums in contact with the other side. His newsletter also exposes the faulty reasoning of intelligent design and other pseudo-science and, though nothing on par with the Amazing Randi, he’s well enough known. Two of the rules Rob follows are that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and that if it seems to good to be true it probably is. When Kildy Ross, a beautiful actress tired of the Hollywood scene, asks to join him researching and writing his magazine "The Jaundice Eye"Rob is a little suspicious, but Kildy seems to be the real deal.
When Kildy comes to him about Ariaura, who channels Isus - an 80,000 year old high priest from Atlantis who's "spoke[n] with the oracle at Delphi [and] delved into the Sacred Writings of the Rosicrucian" - Rob is initially struck by the vast sums of money being harvested from the gullible - $750 per person for the group seminar, photos of Ariaura (28.99 unsigned, $35 signed and "If you want it signed by Isus it's a hundred"), and tapes of the seminars. That's until Ariaura's chanelling is interrupted by another disapparated spirit, and this one's not a fan of the paranormal.
To say any more would spoil the main hook of Inside Job, but despite the comparitive shortness of the book, at only 99 pages, there's still a lot here. I at first assumed that Inside Job was written earlier than Willis's deeper, more layered time travelling academia stories The Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog. However, though this is a novella it still incorporates many of the elements of Willis's more developed novels - these include complex characters, romantic sub-themes, touches of humour, and a keen eye for both the absurd and the little-remarked upon in contemporary culture. - Alex

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