Crosstalk is set in our own time, more or less. Briddey Flannigan is a red-haired young woman with a cool job in a cool US tech company Commspan, a rival to Apple etc. She has a cool boyfriend Trent Worth (an executive in the same company) who has just asked her to undertake a trendy new medical procedure. an EED. Performed jointly on couples an EED connects them mentally and enhances their emotional responses to each other. Life is perfect, thinks Briddey.
Well almost. There are her work colleagues, for instance, who use social media incessantly to find out what she is up to and relay it to each other. Briddey can barely walk down the corridor without it being flashed around the building.
Then there’s her Irish-American family. Her sister Kathleen, her other sister Mary Clare, Mary Clare’s daughter (Maeve (8 going on 18), and her aunt Oonagh They constantly text or call Briddey or leave voice messages or call around uninvited, so that she has hardly a moment to herself, whilst they inflict their problems on her. Kathleen is is always on the look-out for a man, Mary Clare is obsessed with her daughter’s health and well-being, Maeve feels suffocated by her mother, while Aunt Oonagh has gone back to her Irish roots dressing in a shawl, invoking St Patrick “and the blessed saints” on all occasions, and is always on at Briddey to go with her to a Daughters of Ireland meeting.
Finally, there’s C. B. Schwartz. C.B is the scruffy, unkempt tech genius for Commspan who spends all his time in a freezing windowless basement laboratory working on the next big thing. C.B. has a pin-up of Hedy Lamarr, the Hollywood star who spent her spare time trying to come up with a frequency-hopping device to hide torpedo radio signals from the Germans during the war. CB is a sceptic about modern communication:
Commspan promises the same thing – more communication. But that isn’t what people want. They’ve way too much already – laptops, smartphones, tablets, social media. They’ve got connectivity coming out of their ears.There’s such a thing as being too connected, you know, especially when it comes to relationships. Relationships need less communications , not more....why does every sentence beginning”We need to talk” end in disaster.?…If people really wanted to communicate, they’d tell the truth, but they don’t…They lie constantly on Facebook, on eHarmony, in person.
C.B. urges Briddey not to have the EED, but she takes no notice and goes ahead with the procedure. It works, but not in the way that Briddey was expecting
For the rest of the novel we follow Briddey as she embarks on a journey involving half-truths, deceptions, narrow escapes and revelations about her family that turn her world upside down. We also learn something surprising about the Irish.
Crosstalk is that rare thing, a humorous science fiction novel that works.