My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Even the Queen is a collection of Willis’s short stories from the early 90’s, including three stories that won a total of two Hugo awards and two Nebula awards.
The collection is somewhat uneven, but overall I enjoyed these stories. All of them were funny and thought provoking, with a good main character.
“Even the Queen” was better the first time I read it, but I still enjoyed it this time through. Even when technology solves a major problem, someone is going to rebel. It’ll probably be teenage girls, and it will all be their mother’s fault.
“At the Rialto” is a chaotic look at a gathering of scientists interested in Quantum Physics. This one shows off Willis’s madcap side. If you enjoyed Willis’s Bellwether, you’ll like this story.
“Death on the Nile” has some of the pieces of what I loved so much about her novel Passage. It’s a look at the line between life and death. Or a vacation so bad it feels like you’re on that line.
“Close Encounter” has some of the hospital humor that came to light in Passage. This story had some great moments, and I loved the conclusion, but it wasn’t as strong as the first three stories.
“Why the World Didn’t End Last Tuesday” was a funny look at the committee planning for the end of the world. It was a little flat– one joke that was drawn out into a (quite short) story.
If you are a Willis fan, you want to read these stories. If you’ve considered giving some of her funnier books a try, these aren’t a bad place to start. They don’t have the complexity of her longer work, but that should be obvious from the format.
Narrator: Connie Willis reads her own stories! I didn’t know that when I was listening, and I wish I did. She did a quite professional job, and obviously had a good grasp of the content, but her voice isn’t that of a professional narrator. It was a good fit for some of the stories, but I didn’t think it quite right for the character in “At the Rialto”.
Production: I think this is an older audiobook, although I can’t seem to verify that. There are special effects and music that support that idea, and I found them distracting. In addition, the Audible.com bookmarks weren’t set at the beginning of each story, but were simply at the 1/4 marks of the entire recording. This is a small but annoying detail.
Print vs. Audio: I used a $10 bonus from Audible to get this book for free, and I’m happy with having done it that way. I know that Willis’s work does well in print as well. If you like listening to the author reading doing a good job reading her own work, listen to the audio. If my minor issues above sound like things that would bother you, stick with print. If none of this matters to you, go with whatever is most convenient.