Remake
Connie Willis
Shortlisted for 1996 Hugo Award.

Cover Connie has a sense of humor that cuts like acid. For example on page 8 Tom, the main character, reflects, 'Ah, Hollywood, where everybody wants to be in the movies and nobody's ever bothered to watch one.'

'Remake' is about Hollywood in the near future. And sadly it seems an all too likely future. The studios are fighting over who owns the copyright to actors faces. Nothing new is being made. All the classic films are being remade (hence the title) using computer graphics. Sylvester Stallone replaces Charlton Heston in Ben Hur. For the modern audience Rhett says to Scarlet, "Frankly my dear - I love you too." The book is replete with movie references. You don't need to be an aficionado of old movies in order to appreciate the book though. Indiana Jones rates a mention, as does Terminator 9. However, there is a focus on Fred Astaire and Casablanca.

But to understand that I need to tell you a bit about the book. As I mentioned, Tom, is themain character. He works with computer graphics changing movies. He starts the book by 'pimping', by which he spends his time pasting studio executives mistresses into movies. Unfortunately for him, by the time he's made the changes, a couple of weeks, the exec has also changed his mistress and he has to start again.

Shortly after the book starts he manages to get a better contract. He moves from pimping to slash and burn. In this role he has to edit out all the addictive substances from the movies, and this includes alcohol. Shortly after starting he becomes convinced there is not one single movie without alcohol in it.

Into this walks a girl, Alis. She wants to dance in the movies and was born the year Fred Astaire died. Fred is Alis' role model. Can't sing, can't act, can dance a little. This is where the Fred Astaire focus comes from. As for Casablanca; Tom, Alis, need I say more?

The book is wonderfully satiric. All of the movie references scattered throughout bear a direct relation to events in the book and a reflection of the society in Hollywood. At one time Tom reflects that we are all playing roles. Then throughout the rest of the book Connie shows the roles the characters are playing. Some of the characters are no more than roles, the Marilyns and James Deans, Mayer and Vincent. They have no identity of their own, they are simply remakes of the originals.

Remake is quite a thin book, but packed with ideas, cynical humour and satire. It is easy to see why Connie has won so many awards.