Image of a roadside sign with a flying saucer on top. Text says "The Road to Roswell A Novel Connie Willis"

Connie Willis Writes Again

THE ROAD TO ROSWELL rating: 4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐.

Willis’s last book was CROSSTALK, (2016), and Willis turns 78 in December, so am I ever happy about THE ROAD TO ROSWELL (Penguin Random House, June 27, 2023). She’s back, baby!

Thanks to Edelweiss Plus/Above the Treeline and Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book to me for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

THE ROAD TO ROSWELL is a genre-bender. It starts out like stereotypical romance, with Francie, a maid of honor, going to try to stop her friend Serena’s wedding to a UFO nut in Roswell, New Mexico. Francie’s asked to pick up a handsome man at the airport who is also going to the wedding. I was hooked by the snappy dialogue, the wit, and the knowledge that the novel was definitely headed into sci-fi territory, which it does, abruptly, when Francie is abducted by an alien at the wedding venue.

The alien abduction turns into a buddy road trip as Francie becomes maternal toward the lost alien who abducted her and is determined to lend “Indy” her aid. Wade, the second “abductee” of several, names the alien Indy after Indiana Jones, because he’s whip-fast with his many tentacles. Appropriately for the setting, Indy resembles a tumbleweed–which is not a native species.

The book morphs into an unlikely and hilarious western in an RV, complete with a Las Vegas excursion, and then veers toward an unpredictable ending. It’s a spy novel, it’s an adventure novel, it’s a send-up of conspiracy culture, it’s a mystery, it contains interplanetary politics. Classic western movies come into play, which makes for some uproarious plays on language later.

It’s like THE CANTERBURY TALES, with diverse and often funny characters on a pilgrimage, but this quirky cast spends as much time on roads from Roswell as on roads to Roswell. In Chaucer there’s less meandering, and there were not big reveals on half of the characters. The Wife of Bath didn’t turn out to be a gravedigger, for example. So many satisfying surprises, including in the very last line!

Connie Willis has always picked apart human foibles. Why would alien foibles be different?

Reading context:

I discovered Connie Willis from Nancy Pearl‘s BOOK LUST (2003): “Connie Willis: Too Good to Miss” on page 246. Willis is my favorite science fiction writer. The Oxford Time Travel series is ace. I recommend DOOMSDAY BOOK (1992) to anyone asking for a time travel recommendation.

Willis is a bold writer. I have not recovered from “All My Darling Daughters” in FIRE WATCH (1985), which I read in 2006. It’s the one with the pets that boys wear on their arms. If you’ve read it, you haven’t forgotten it either.

Connie Willis has won eleven Hugo awards and seven Nebula awards. That’s a record of major awards for a sci-fi writer. And yet the dudes get all the glory. It was ever thus.

The audiobook of THE ROAD TO ROSWELL should be quite an experience. As soon as I finished THE ROAD TO ROSWELL I wanted to start all over to find all the clever clues. I haven’t had this much fun with a book since LEGENDS & LATTES by Travis Baldree.1 There will be a Legends & Lattes prequel this year! It’s called BOOKSHOPS & BONEDUST (November 7, 2023).

And now for my own big reveal: the Afterword of my ARC of THE ROAD TO ROSWELL says that Willis is working on another Oxford Time Travel novel! What could be better?

What I’m reading right now:

The gothic novel A GOOD HOUSE FOR CHILDREN by Kate Collins (HarperCollins, USA release July 4, 2023)

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