Review of I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land by Connie Willis

I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land by Connie Willis. ★★

I requested this novella on Netgalley because of how much I’d enjoyed some of Connie Willis’s other work, namely To Say Nothing of the Dog and The Doomsday Book. That turned out to be a mistake.

Jim is in New York to talk to publishers about a book based on his blog, Gone for Good, which holds the premise that it’s no use being nostalgic for vanished technologies. If they’ve disappeared, it’s because society has no use for them. Then Jim wanders into a little, secondhand bookstore and discovers a massive, underground cavern of labyrinth shelves, the last remnants of lost books.

I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land is amazingly heavy-handed about its message, but it doesn’t have much to offer beyond that. The graveyard for books is potentially interesting, but it’s an idea I’ve seen before. Besides, it never much moves beyond a device to show Jim how he’s wrong and impart Willis’s message (printed books are special!) to readers.

Characterization? Again, hardly any. There’s Jim, who’s entirely one note. He doesn’t care about nostalgia or preserving old things. The narrative proves him wrong. Beyond that he doesn’t have any character. Otherwise, there’s Jim’s agent, who occasionally calls with updates about the sale of his book, and the attractive blonde clerk who shows him around and info dumps at him.

Plot? Jim goes into Ozymandias Books and learns his life philosophy is wrong. There’s not much more too it. If you’re looking for a good story, that’s not this. I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land is all message, no story.

People who already heartily agree with Willis’s message may like this one. Everyone else shouldn’t bother. I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land is dripping with hand-wringing sentimentality. The best I can say about it? At least it’s short.


I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. thebookgator says:

    Not surprised. That’s been my experience with Willis these days. Though I adore a couple of her earlier books (To Say Nothing and Bellwether), everything in the last decade has been a miss for me.

    1. This is the first of her newer works I’ve tried… but I really loved Doomsday and To Say Nothing of the Dog.

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