Tom, an American, is in London for a conference when he begins to experience unusual forces in the Underground. Is it an easily-explained phenomenon - or ghosts from Britain's past?
The Winds of Marble Arch won the Hugo Award for Best Novella.
©1999 Connie Willis; (P)2008 Audible, Inc.
This is classic Willis, but it steps into some different territory. It's a grand read. Enjoy!
I'm a bibliophile since early childhood. Love speculative fiction, odd premises, mystery novels that teach about different places and times.
Connie Willis is almost never about how we won the rocket war or how we got the space ship up. Her science fiction is an exploration of the heart. This is a lovely read. Not her best but very very good.
You almost have to be British to understand the underground bits. I don't know if the original book came with an underground map, but it would have helped.
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Originally posted at FanLit.
Tom and his wife are visiting London so Tom can attend an academic conference while his wife goes shopping with a friend. When Tom takes the Tube to the conference, he feels a strange wind in the Underground. It???s more than just the normal drafts created by trains coming and going; this wind smells ancient and deadly and makes him feel afraid. Skipping the conference, and forgetting to buy theater tickets, Tom spends the next couple of days riding the Tube all over (under, actually) London to try to find the origin of the winds that only he seems to feel.
Connie Willis???s The Winds of Marble Arch won the Hugo Award for Best Novella and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella. Like several of her stories, this one involves a time-traveling academic, except that he doesn???t actually move through time, but he senses historical events when he visits places where bad things have happened ??? in this case, the London Underground.
The Winds of Marble Arch gets tedious in the middle as Tom races from station to station sniffing the air, buying history books at the gift shops, and overwhelming us with information about what happened at each station during the London Blitz of WWII. This might be interesting for someone who???s familiar with all of the Tube stations, but for me it all ran together and I couldn???t appreciate all of Connie Willis???s extensive research into the history of the London Underground during WWII. There are also too many details about London theatres, actors, and plays ???another favorite topic for Willis.
It???s not all just an excuse to lecture us on London Blitz history and Underground geography, though. Willis cleverly relates these bombings and the dreadful winds they created to the disastrous effects of adultery, divorce, and aging. This part of the novella is truly beautiful.
Dennis Boutsikaris superbly narrates Audible Frontiers??? version of The Winds of Marble Arch.
I've been looking for this everywhere, but was disappointed. It was repetitive and tedious and the uplifting ending was not justified by what went before. I guess I was expecting time travel rather than a wishy-washy "influence" from the past.
"Let down by the reading"
For God's sake don't try to listen to this if you are British. The reader mispronounces every London placename mentioned (and unfortunately they are key to the story and recur often). I initially thought that he was going for verisimilitude, as the character narrating is American. Then I heard the supposedly English and Scots accents (the latter sounding more like someone born in New Delhi) and realised that this reader just has no business anywhere near a story set in the UK. I couldn't focus on the story because every 15 seconds he threw me out of the narrative by mangling something like 'Balham'.
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