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Blackout by Connie Willis


by Connie Willis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Oxford Time Travel series (3), All Clear (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,5061813,784 (3.85)414
When a time-travel lab suddenly cancels assignments for no apparent reason and switches around everyone's schedules, time-traveling historians Michael, Merope, and Polly find themselves in World War II, facing air raids, blackouts, unexploded bombs, dive-bombing Stukas, rationing, shrapnel, V-1s, and two of the most incorrigible children in all of history--to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control.… (more)
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» See also 414 mentions

English (178)  German (2)  Polish (1)  All languages (181)
Showing 1-5 of 178 (next | show all)
4.5 stars

In 2060, time travel has been invented and is “regulated”. Historians are able to travel back in time to what they are studying, knowing that the laws of time travel will prevent them from changing anything, but they will be able to experience what they are studying first-hand! (I love this entire concept!)

Three historians are travelling back to 1940 in England. Polly is headed to London during the Blitz; Merope/Eileen heads to the countryside outside London, where she is able to work with and study some of the children who were evacuated from London. Mark is travelling back as an American reporter; he will also be outside London. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for them to realize something has gone wrong, and they are having trouble getting back when they should…

The start of this one was a bit confusing, but what was going on (the historians were being shuffled about with regards to the dates they would be leaving and the exact places they’d be travelling to) was also confusing for the characters. As a reader, I was trying to remember some of the characters from previous books, the terminology of the time travel, and get back into how it all works.

There were a lot of characters to introduce, as well, with multiple historians going back in time. However, once things got going, they really got going, at least for me. I didn’t want to stop reading; I wanted to just keep going to find out what happened. I really liked some of the “contemps” (the contemporary people living in their time) – I especially loved the actor Polly met. Luckily, I had seen somewhere ahead of time that this book does not conclude; it is continued in the next book, so I’m going to want to get to that sequel fairly soon. ( )
  LibraryCin | Aug 17, 2019 |
2016 Reread April 16

I spent this past week listening to the soundtrack of In the Heights, which features an excellent song called "Blackout." I had that song stuck in my head the entire time I re-read this book, despite the incongruity of the two. "Blackout" the song is about a sudden power outage in the Washington Heights. Blackout the book is about time traveling students stuck in the London Blitz. But the main themes of both song and book are a sense of unexpected powerlessness. The characters of In the Heights are confused and frightened by the sudden loss of electrical power, and therefore control over their surroundings. They stumble around, frantically trying to find friends and family, as their neighborhood transforms into something strange and terrifying. The characters of Blackout are similarly startled when their careful time traveling plans go entirely awry, leaving them trapped in the middle of World War II. Both the song and the book underscore the unpredictability of life, and how tenuous our control of it is.

I adore this book. I found it by chance in a second-hand bookstore while on study abroad in Israel. The bookstore didn't have the sequel, All Clear, which meant I had to wait months until I got back to the US to get my hands on a copy. This book also introduced me to Connie Willis, and her entire time traveling series is worth reading.

Blackout isn't Willis' best novel. It's weakened by the decision to split the book into two, resulting in a very sudden ending. It's also rather hectic and confusing at times. But it's still marvelous, and it makes the history come alive in a wonderful way. ( )
  miri12 | May 31, 2019 |
This is part one of one of Collis' time travel visits to England during WWII. There's a panoply of grad students missing their rides home and running around in circles and stressing out about deadlines (something bad happens if you run into yourself) I like the familiarity with the setting, but the circular running about and worrying gets a little tiresome. Fortunately it's read by Kathryn Kellgren (she did the Bloody Jack books too) and she's amazing. I'm already into the second part. ( )
  cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
Blackout is the third book in Connie Willis’ Oxford Time Travel series. It tells a separate story from the first two, but unlike the previous books it ends in a cliffhanger because it’s only the first half of a story that’s completed in the final book, All Clear.

We follow several time-traveling historians who are scheduled to study different areas of England during World War II, particularly around 1940. In the beginning there is a lot of schedule rearranging that causes chaos in the historians’ preparation for their assignments and then, as each historian begins his or her own assignment, things naturally do not go as planned.

I was actually a bit bored with it for a while. In the first several chapters, the reader gets bounced around between a lot of different characters and there doesn’t seem to be much going on. Normally I enjoy multi-character stories and have no trouble following them, but with this book I had trouble figuring out what the structure was supposed to be. It took quite a while before I had any real sense of what the story was about or how each character was relevant to that story, and therefore it took me a while to feel any investment in anything I was reading.

The story really picked up after a while though, and then I couldn’t put it down. I became more invested in the characters and anxious to find out what would happen next. Additionally, I felt like the author really conveyed the emotion and fear that people would have experienced during some of the events of that time, while also adding a more hopeful note in showing small acts of heroism, bravery, and kindness from everyday people.

Since Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog each had a very different tone, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Blackout. I’d say it’s much closer to Doomsday Book in that it’s a more serious story with only small bits of humor here and there, although I thought Blackout was a more hopeful and uplifting story. Of course, it’s hard to say that with certainty until I’ve finished the sequel. I’m very much looking forward to reading it. ( )
1 vote YouKneeK | Mar 24, 2019 |
This is a hard read for me right now, and I'm very annoyed that it's part 1 of 2. I feel so sorry for those historians, stuck (for me, about 3/4 of the way through) in the Battle of Britain and no way home. It's just more than I can easily absorb at this season in my life. Other than that, though, really interesting although almost a surprise after To Say Nothing of the Dog. I trudge along for a while, then I get upset and put the book aside, so it's a slow go. ( )
  CatherineBurkeHines | Nov 28, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 178 (next | show all)
Science fiction and the historical novel only seem to be utter opposites. I mean, future vs. past, right? In fact, the two genres are closely related. Both transport the reader to strange, disorienting worlds, where the people, beliefs and social norms are often distinctly alien to a present-day sensibility.

In certain kinds of time-travel stories, it's often difficult to tell the two genres apart. Is "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" historical fiction or proto science fiction? Certainly, Connie Willis's new novel, her first since "Passage" (2001), about near-death experiences, is as vivid an evocation of England during World War II as anyone has ever written. It's also indisputably science fiction. . . .

If you're a science-fiction fan, you'll want to read this book by one of the most honored writers in the field (10 Hugos, six Nebulas); if you're interested in World War II, you should pick up "Blackout" for its you-are-there authenticity; and if you just like to read, you'll find here a novelist who can plot like Agatha Christie and whose books possess a bounce and stylishness that Preston Sturges might envy.

That said, "Blackout" does end with a cliffhanger, which may leave some readers dissatisfied: The whole story won't be completely resolved till October when Ballantine/Spectra publishes a second and concluding volume titled "All-Clear." Still, this is Connie Willis, my friends, which means she's worth reading now, and she's worth reading in the future.
What she's also able to do is to play her reader like a newly tuned piano. Scenes that could be milked for every last mawkish drop somehow get around your defenses and wring out your heart.

» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Connie Willisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brock, ChalresCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kellgren, KatherineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kennedy, SteveText Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Omori, N.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Potter, J.K.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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History is now and England. - T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
To Courtney and Cordelia, who always do far more than their bit.
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Colin tried the door, but it was locked.
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Book description
In Oxford, 2060, time-traveling historians are sent into the past so they can learn more about the events that have shaped world history, and as a new group of historians, including Merope, Michael, and Polly, travel back to World War II, they find that instead of being simple observers, their assignments are causing history to spin out of control.
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