Connie Willis excels at meshing humorously satirical commentary on interpersonal relationships with insights into the human condition that are so true they almost hurt. In 'Passage,' Joanna Lander is a researcher at a large hospital investigating near-death experiences. Her work is complicated by the difficulty of interviewing people who are near-death, but especially by the new-age charlatan who insists on being considered her colleague, Dr. Mandrake. Much of Joanna's time consists of trying to avoid Mandrake, but then she meets Dr. Wright, who has found a way, he believes, to simulate the near-death experience using drugs. Intrigued, Joanna joins him on his project - but a comedy of errors results in the project having not nearly enough volunteers, and Joanna herself decides to go under, and experience the NDE. Gradually, the mood changes from comedic to an increasingly frantic, obsessive, chaotic experience, as Joanna believes she is discovering truths about the NDE - but strangely, her experiences all seem to be tied to the Titanic disaster. People can't go to the sinking Titanic when they die - can they? She has the elusive feeling that she is missing some vital connection, always just on the edge of her consciousness.