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Blackout by Connie Willis
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1,7981313,893 (3.86)283
Authors:Connie Willis
Info:Spectra (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 512 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, time travel, England, war, London, Blitz

Work details

Blackout by Connie Willis

  1. 140
    Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (loriephillips)
  2. 120
    To Say Nothing of the Dog; or, How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at Last by Connie Willis (pwaites)
  3. 50
    Fire Watch by Connie Willis (clee67)
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    Farthing by Jo Walton (SusannainSC)
  5. 10
    Ha'penny by Jo Walton (sturlington)
    sturlington: Both set in World War II-era London, one an alternate history and the other incorporating time travel.
  6. 11
    The Little Book by Selden Edwards (becksdakex)
    becksdakex: Time travel, WWII, Change history?

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» See also 283 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
(This is a review for both Blackout and All Clear, because they are really one book)

Connie Willis is one of my favorite writers, mainly because she combines history and science fiction so very well. What also helps is that her novels are sort of wish-fulfillment for me, because they have historians from the now (well, the future now) travel to the past to study it, even if the historians usually get into trouble. The first book I read by Willis was "Doomsday Book", which takes place in 1300s/2060, well in my favorite historic period, the middle ages. The second book was "To Say Nothing Of the Dog", taking place in 1800s/2060, not my favorite period, but the Victorians are still interesting and entertaining. The latest time travelling historians book(s) is/are "Blackout" and "All Clear", two novels that are one story (they cannot be read out-of-order or separately). This story takes place in 1940/45 and 2060, the Second World War in England. Definitely not my favorite period, too close to home. Because of that I was hesitant to read this story. Eventually the fact that it was by Willis won out over my non-love (not hate) for the period. And I am so glad I did, because this story was terrific.

We're back with the Oxford historians in the 2060s. Several students have trips planned to the past for their research. However, the lab is canceling trips left and right and switching schedules around. Michael, Polly and Merope try their best to have their trips to the past happen anyway, despite being less than well prepared. Merope goes to the English countryside in WWII, as a servant at a country house that has taken in evacuated children from London. Polly is in London during the Blitz, safe because she knows where the bombs will hit. And Michael is near Dover to experience the evacuation of British soldiers from France by the local fishermen.
But the lab had its reasons for being so panicky with regards to the time-travel trips. Because things don't seem to happen as they should. And our students are doing things that seem to affect the past. Could they, by saving one of their local friends or by being caught up in the moment, change the outcome of the Battle of Britain? And how will they return to Oxford, now that the drop sites seem disabled? And is Professor Dunworthy just going to leave them stuck in the past?

Because the historians in these stories are remarkably similar to us (living in relative peace, with advanced technology) their observations of the period of WWII and the people living through that time are very relatable. Even for me, someone who rather avoids any 'entertainment' to do with WWII, these two books were great. I think the fact that the story is contained in England (mostly London and surroundings) and because the people who Merope, Polly and Michael meet are just the regular people from the street, it makes it hit home. People working in a store, trying to keep their daily lives going despite nightly bombing raids. The time-travel adventure (will they return home, have they ruined the future, will they die in the past?) is very good too, and you feel the sense of urgency in the story. Simply terrific, and I really understand why this book has already won the big three awards of science fiction (Hugo, Nebula and Locus) and was nominated for one more (Campbell memorial award). For me, both parts are five out of five stars. ( )
  divinenanny | Aug 3, 2014 |
The main characters in Blackout are three historians/time travelers who are back in World War II Mike is studying the heroes of Dunkirk, Merope/Eileen is learning more about child evacuees, and Polly becomes a London shop-girl during The Blitz, hoping to understand her peers better.

The assignments are not going exactly as planned – mostly due to the difficulty of traveling from place to place in war-torn England. But there’s something else going on … all are having difficulty with their “drops,” the places where they land while traveling from 2060 Oxford. And all three are questioning whether one of the basic theories about time-travel– that the universe will prevent historians/time travelers from affecting history by their presence – is wrong.

Blackout out is the first half of the story, followed by a second, All Clear. I picked up both books a few years ago, started reading Blackout but couldn’t get it and set it aside. The second time was the charm for me, as I soon became engrossed in the story, staying up way past my bedtime to read just a few more chapters.

Connie Willis is one of my favorite authors, and I especially enjoy her time-travel stories. Her plots are complex, her characters even more so, and the situations they find themselves in immensely interesting. I’ve read dozens of non-fiction books about the World War II era and I find myself understanding what the British people went through during those years more by reading Connie Willis’s fiction. It’s obvious that she has done her homework but, more than that, she has a keen understanding of people. Her empathy really shows in her writing.

The only negative thing about Connie Willis is that she’s not cranking out a book every year. But that’s also the positive thing … she takes her time to get it just right. I’ll read whatever she write because I know I’m guaranteed a satisfying read every time. ( )
2 vote NewsieQ | Jun 27, 2014 |
Blackout and All Clear are two halves of a story from Willis' Oxford Time Travel universe, and set, as you might guess, during the second world war. Well-written, well-plotted, with clearly defined and believable characters, these books convey better than any fiction I have read the weariness, fear and drudgery of life in wartime. The story is engaging, exciting and moving, and not without humour.

But not without a cavil, either. There is just a bit of critical research failure here. Willis researched the Blitz and life in wartime London very well, and conveys the period excellently, but then forgot to do a bit of basic fact checking ... if a character is said to use the Jubilee Line in 1940, it might have been wise to check that the Jubilee Line actually existed in 1940 (it opened in 1979). And the geography of London is that of someone who travels everywhere by Tube - there were several times when a character made a Tube journey when it would have been quicker to walk.

The most jarring false note was the candy butcher. I gather a candy butcher is someone who walks, or walked, through North American trains selling candy from a tray. Firstly, no such thing ever happened on our railways (the day of the trolley service was long in the future), certainly not in sweet rationed 1940, and even if it had we would never have called them a candy butcher.

OK, rant over, these are very good books and come highly recommended :-) ( )
1 vote sloopjonb | Jun 7, 2014 |
What would happen if three time travelers went back to 1940 London from 2060? This is the story, in excruciating detail, of their lives. Granted, it's tinctured with time travel concerns, but it's really about the everyday lives of Englishers during that time. It's very, very long...a 24 hour listen. To boot, it ends abruptly--referring the reader to the next book. I feel swindled. ( )
1 vote buffalogr | May 25, 2014 |
I had enjoyed _Doomsday Book_ but _Blackout_ sucked. Not really a time travel story. (evidently all the interesting implications of time travel, hinted at throughout the 500 pages of this book, take place in the sequel.) Read the first 30 pages and last 30 pages and you have the story. The 440 pages in between are just a tedious series of just missed encounters of the form "person A in city 1, travels to city 2 to search for person B just as person B in city 2 travels to city 1 to search for person A." PAINFULLY tedious. ( )
1 vote bke | Mar 30, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 129 (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.

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Connie Willisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kellgren, KatherineNarratorsecondary 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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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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When a time-travel lab suddenly cancels assignments for no apparent reason and switches around everyone's schedules, time-travelling historians Michael, Merope, and Polly find themselves in World War II, facing air raids, blackouts, unexploded bombs, rationing, and two of the most incorrigible children in all of history.… (more)

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