Most of the time, I love Connie Willis' books. Sometimes, though, they just never take flight. This was, unfortunately, one of the latter. It's not bad, there just wasn't enough meat there to sink my teeth into, and lacked that sense of either madcap frenzy or unbearable tension that some of her other works have had.
In this future world, the trend of creating new things with dead celebrities has taken over Hollywood. Now all they're making are remakes of old films, with new/old actors. Computers are doing all the acting, and licensing of the likenesses of Fred Astaire, among others, are the subject of copyright litigation.
Films are also only accessible through a feed, which means they can be altered, permanently, and that is the only way people will ever be able to see them. Tom is in film school, and has been hired by a corporation to go through movies and take out all "addictive substances" - smoking has already been done, but how do you do a Casablanca without drinking?
Well, he mostly deals with this through his own haze of addictive substances. But that's not the main thrust of the movies. This sort of censorship and prudery, paired with a Hollywood rife with abandon is the backdrop. The foreground is his relationship with Alys, a young woman who wants to dance in the movies, really dance. Well, she can have her face matted onto a pre-existing piece so she can see herself dancing in the movies, but really dancing? Nobody's making any movies with warm bodies these days, let alone musicals.
Her impossible dream starts to invade his unbearable job, and Tom tries to find this woman he fell for, before she disappeared.
It's trying to be a meditation on artificiality and the effects of stripping creativity away, but it's just too slight a book for me. I know Connie Willis can do better, and so I expect it of her.