assage to the other sideConnie Willis, winner of numerous Hugo and Nebula awards, has two major modes of writing, serious and funny. In her latest novel, Passage, the two are artfully intertwined into perhaps her best novel yet. The subject of the book is a serious one near death experiences but there are enough deft touches of humor to keep the reader amused.
Dr. Joanna Lander is a psychologist researching NDEs by immediately recording patients' memories of the experience. One of Willis' running jokes is how she uses Mercy General Hospital's labyrinthian halls and stairways to avoid Maurice Mandrake, a writer trying to fit the NDE evidence to his theory that all is golden and light after death.
Richard Wright "Doctor Right" for Joanna, according to an ER nurse friend comes to the hospital to research NDEs by inducing a similar state with drugs. Once Joanna realizes he is serious about his work, she joins him, and their research begins to reveal unsuspected and increasingly chilling possibilities. Be warned that this book may make you keep the light on too long at night, perhaps even as you try to sleep. It may make you skip lunch or call in sick to work. You might miss many things if you read Passage, but don't miss out on the chance to read an author at the very top of her game.
Gavin J. Grant lives in Brooklyn, where he reviews, writes and publishes speculative fiction.