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All About Emily by Connie Willis
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All About Emily (2011)

by Connie Willis

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ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Claire Havilland is an aging Broadway actress who considers herself too old to wear a leotard and fishnets, but is not quite ready to be called a ??legend.ƒ? One of her most successful roles was playing Margo Channing in the Broadway musical adaption of the film All About Eve. When Claire meets a charming young woman named Emily, who seems to know all about Claireƒ??s career, Claire feels threatened. Could Emily be planning to steal Claireƒ??s career, as Eve Harrington did to Margo Channing in All About Eve?

Connie Willisƒ??s new novelette All About Emily (only 96 pages) blends Broadway and science fiction ƒ?? something I donƒ??t think Iƒ??ve ever seen done before ƒ?? and it works. It was fun to explore Manhattanƒ??s Theater District and to learn about the history of the Rockettes and Radio City Music Hall while thinking about robotics, identity, ambition, and what it means to be human.

The plot of All About Emily moves quickly, never lags, and kept me thoroughly entertained for the couple of hours that it took me to read the book. Willisƒ??s characters, who manage to become surprisingly well-developed in such a small space, are delightful ƒ?? I was completely engrossed in their story.

All About Emily is the first of Connie Willisƒ??s novelettes that Iƒ??ve read, though I own several more of them. I hope to get to them soon, and Iƒ??m going to rent All About Eve this weekend. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
Connie Willis is so much fun. This novella reminds me very strongly of another one with a older, nearly washed-up actor - though that one dealt with immortality, not AIs. If only I could remember the name or author!

For this book, I loved Emily and I loved all the musings on the differences between an average teenager's desires and Emily's. The difference between programmed thoughts/emotions/consciousness and the living versions are quite common themes when dealing with AIs, but Mrs. Willis asks the questions well.

Alas, I've never seen the Rockettes. A few years ago, my boss gave me a free ticket to their traveling show, and I was delighted. But, when I eagerly showed up, I found a note on the door apologizing that the show had been rescheduled to earlier in the day. I'd missed it, and the Rockettes had already left town. ( )
  Melanti | Mar 29, 2013 |
Novella about a lioness of the theatre and the ingenue she encounters who just happens to be a robot who might take her job. Variations on a theme of All About Eve, but feel-goody in a way that left me feeling slightly greasy, maybe because it seemed to skip past real questions about disemployment in favor of suggesting that humanity lies in treating robots who look like us (only hotter) well instead of badly. ( )
  rivkat | Dec 19, 2012 |
What starts out as a tale about an aging actress afraid the innocent looking Emily will replace her, turns into a story about free will and Broadway and what it means to be human. Being a novelette, this is a short and quick read. It is also delightfully fun with a smattering of pop culture references between bouts of witty humor. And though short and funny, Willis manages to delivery and emotional impact that had me crying at the end. Loved it. ( )
  andreablythe | Sep 27, 2012 |
I love Connie Willis. She has a knack for taking very stereotypical plots and then putting a spin on them so that they aren't so typical anymore. And I love her frequent references to the things she loves, in this case musical theater and old movies. The story is modeled on "All About Eve" (which I have to admit I've never seen) which itself is about an aging actress and the young actress who replaces her. Here, we also have an actress maybe just slightly past her prime, and the young, attractive woman who seems to be set up to take her job away from her. And that's all I'm going to say.

And the reason for that is that I can't really say anything else without giving away a large part of the story. Because, despite the fact that this is a hardcover Connie Willis 'book', it's really a Connie Willis story, barely, if even, the length of a novella. Which irks me a bit. Willis' publishers have clearly figured out that there are enough dingbats like me out there who will buy these tiny little books for them to publish them and know that they will sell at least a few. Even though you can read them in about an hour (or less). Honestly, her last three or so 'books' should probably have been published in a collection (with a few more stories thrown in!)

But anyway, if you like Connie Willis stories, you'll like this. It has her typical wit and charm and keeps you guessing until the end. I've you've never read her, you'll probably want to pick this up second hand or something, but I recommend it none-the-less. If you're a devoted fan like me, it's a must-have. ( )
  scvlad | Jun 24, 2012 |
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Fuck 'The Red Shoes'. I wanted to be a Rockette.
-A Chorus Line
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All right, so you're probably wondering how I, Claire Havilland, three-time Tony winner, Broadway legend, and star of Only Human--ended up here, standing outside Radio City Music Hall in a freezing rain two days before Christmas, soaked to the skin and on the verge of pneumonia, accosting harmless passersby.
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Theater legend Claire Havilland fears she might be entering the Sunset Boulevard phase of her career. That is, until her manager arranges a media appearance with her biggest fan--a famous artificial intelligence pioneer's teenage niece. After precocious Emily's backstage visit, Claire decides she's in a different classic film altogether. While unnaturally charming Emily swears she harbors no desire for the spotlight, Claire wonders if she hasn't met her very own Eve Harrington from All About Eve. But the story becomes more complex as dreams of fame give way to concerns about choice, free will, and identity.… (more)

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