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Blackout by Connie Willis
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2,1661593,001 (3.85)356
Member:RabidGerbil
Title:Blackout
Authors:Connie Willis
Info:Spectra (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 512 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:science fiction, Hugo winner novel, Nebula winner novel

Work details

Blackout by Connie Willis

  1. 180
    Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (loriephillips)
  2. 140
    To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (pwaites)
  3. 60
    Fire Watch by Connie Willis (clee67)
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    Farthing by Jo Walton (SusannainSC)
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    11/22/63 by Stephen King (Navarone)
    Navarone: Both books are about time travel and how the future is affected due to the actions you make.
  6. 01
    The Little Book by Selden Edwards (becksdakex)
    becksdakex: Time travel, WWII, Change history?
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» See also 356 mentions

English (157)  Polish (1)  German (1)  All (159)
Showing 1-5 of 157 (next | show all)
While this is a time travel story it is largely about how people coped on the home front in WWII England. I stayed up much too late at night while reading Blackout. However, it was a good thing that I knew it was just half of the story. I'll be ordering All Clear from the library as soon as I return some others.
  hailelib | Jan 16, 2017 |
***warning: Blackout and All Clear are really one book spilt into two due to length. Be sure you have access to All Clear when you finish Blackout or you will be frustrated! I’m reviewing both books as one due to that fact***

Blackout and All Clear alternate between 2060 Oxford, England, where time travel has been invented and is used by historians to explore the past, and the 1940s England where historians are living through key bits of the London Blitz to get the civilian perspective. Of course, because this is a story, at some point things start to go wrong….
I loved these books. The characters are engaging and likeable. The time travel is reasonable – the rules are fleshed out enough for you to understand the guidelines without being bogged down in excessive details, and it hangs together well enough for the purposes of the story. The problems that the characters must overcome are really more of an excuse to explore the historical time period in more depth, but I did not find them overly contrived or annoying. I genuinely liked the characters, so I cared about their wellbeing and continued fate. There are some points in the middle of the book where I got tired of series of endless coincidences or characters whining about their fates, but it didn’t slow me down and in the end I thoroughly enjoyed the story.
The details of civilian life in the blitz were very interesting to me – it is a perspective on the war that I have not learned much about, and this book has inspired me to go learn more. I don’t know enough about the time period to comment on its historical accuracy, but it seems to be historical fiction with emphasis on the historical rather than the fiction (time travel aside, of course).
Despite being a pair of fairly long books, they were very engaging, kept me up past my bedtime several nights, and were a fast read. Part of this is because the book alternates between several different perspectives, and would often end a chapter on a cliffhanger with one character and then jump to a new character. This can be annoying when you really need to go to sleep, but does keep you turning the pages. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys well written time travel fiction, or who enjoys WWII historical fiction, particularly the civilian side rather than the military battles.
All Clear picks up immediately where Blackout leaves off – no recap, no refresher. Blackout ends in the middle of the story – no mid plot closure. So it really is best to read both books back to back. ( )
1 vote mazlynn | Jan 4, 2017 |
Blackout, by Connie Willis


First Impressions:

I love time travel stories and so when I found out about Connie Willis writing one, I had to pick this up. One of my favorite books of hers was “Doomsday Book”, about historians of the late 21st century journeying back to the Black Plague and how they coped. In that story, Connie weaved a tale of a historian who got a first-hand glimpse of how hard life was, and the people she became attached to slowly died from the Plague – which she, thankfully, was inoculated from.

But I digress! The same Oxford 21st Century professor, Mr. Dunworthy from “Doomsday Book” reprises his role as various characters mingle with him and our heroes gather up their scholarly wits and go off to England during the Blitz (a horrific time, with Hitler bombing England to soften it up for invasion – which invasion thankfully never happened).

The usual format is for the historians to make their observations and return to Oxford, except something is very wrong. The portals that are supposed to open are not opening. And the retrieval team who is supposed to be coming to help in case a historian is trapped or delayed is not coming. What’s going on?

Style & Plot:

Connie writes in a way where we as readers ask the same questions as the historians in the novel – how much longer can I endure this? Why is the portal not opening? Kind of like being trapped on an island with no way off – literally.

Connie breaks the book down into three episodic narratives – Polly (her last name is Churchill, so she changes it for obvious reasons since she’s jumping into 1940), Mike and Merope (who takes the name Eileen) – and jumps to each person’s tale every other chapter. This style is new to me and took some getting used to. For example, just as Mike was shanghaied on a barely navigable boat to pick up British soldiers at Dunkirk we jump to Eileen’s problems with a measles epidemic and then I have to wait three or so chapters to get back to Mike and see what happens. I had to flip a few chapters over to catch what happened! As I said, this style of writing took some getting used to.

Time Travel Trouble:

Time travel is interesting where the historians talk of it, as being unchanging. Yet Mike saved a man who saved 500 soldiers who would have died otherwise – did this change history? Could this be why Oxford never came to retrieve them? That England had lost the war?! Nonsense, thinks Polly. Meantime, Eileen is developing shell-shock!

Exciting scenes include saving men from Dunkirk, as Mike struggles with his conscience – if he helps in the rescue, will he change history? Eileen as she deals with Alf and Binnie, two brats who cause much confusion and trouble – what is their connection in the future? And Polly, who comes across as a bit arrogant in her time-travel knowledge (example: A person will mention a place getting blown up and Polly will think “Oh, yes it will.” Willis does this several times rather than on occasion which comes across pedantic and annoying).

Bottom Line:

Despite its flaws, Blackout develops three characters that we really care about and as the three historians meet and confer and involve their 1940s friends in their lives, I get the same kind of feeling I got on “Doomsday Book” – these people of the past are not just pictures on paper or facts in a history book, but living, breathing humans. Is foreknowledge an advantage or a curse when you’re a 21st century historian?

“All Clear” which is essentially Part II of this series, not actually a sequel, follows right after “Blackout.” You can’t have one without the other, so buy both!


( )
  James_Mourgos | Dec 22, 2016 |
In Oxford in 2060, the history department is a chaotic place with historians time traveling to many different times and places. In WWII England Eileen is studying the experience of evacuated London children at a country manor, Polly is observing the lives of Oxford Street shopgirls during the London Blitz, and Mike is seeking out examples of heroism of ordinary individuals during the evacuation of Dunkirk. But as Eileen, Polly, and Mike work on their projects, it slowly becomes clear that the rules of time travel aren't behaving like they should be. Suddenly Eileen, Polly, and Mike must face the unthinkable: that it is possible for historians to change the past.

Time travel, WWII-era England, and slow-build of tension made this novel an obvious hit with me. While I did find it helpful to have read Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog prior to this book, it is by no means a requirement. A great combo of science fiction and historical fiction, the novel will appeal to readers of both genres. With three central characters that the novel follows, it can sometimes be tricky to keep track of some of the smaller details and remembering exactly when Polly, Eileen, and Mike are, which becomes important over the course of the novel. As part of a duology, the novel does end on a bit of a cliffhanger so I do recommend having the follow-up novel on hand to dive into right away. ( )
1 vote MickyFine | Nov 18, 2016 |
This review originally appeared on RevolutionSF.com:

Let me start you out with a warning that I wish I had gotten before I started reading Connie Willis's latest: Blackout is half a novel. Not part one of a two-parter; literally the first half of a novel whose concluding half, All Clear, will not be available until mid-October 2010. So if you're one of those crazy readers who actually likes an ending for your novels, you might want to wait until All Clear is released and buy them both together. That way you hopefully won't hit the non-ending in Blackout, look frantically around for pages you might have missed, then systematically begin tearing out your own hair. Not that I'm bitter.

Strange and frustrating publishing decisions aside, Blackout is an amazing half of a book. Set in the same universe as Willis's The Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout opens with an extended farcical chase section set in 2060 as three historians race around trying to gather up the items and knowledge that they need to head back to 1940's Britain and study the war and one younger student attempts to head back to the Crusades so that he can “catch up” in age to the historian he has a crush on. Willis excels at this light-hearted style, and certainly drops plenty of hints that all is not well with the equipment everyone will be using to travel back in time, but the time that we spend in 2060 feels almost like an exended introduction. The book doesn't really take off until our three historians make their trips and each discover that something has gone slightly wrong.

Polly Churchill is supposed to find a job as a typical British shopgirl, Merope Ward (using the name Eileen so as not to call attention to herself) ends up on a country estate taking care of numerous children evacuated from London for safety reasons, and Michael Davies, supposed to observe Pearl Harbor, instead ends up at the evacuation of Dunkirk. They are all supposed to be observers and nothing more, but as each realizes that their portal home doesn't work, they become more and more entwined with the people they meet, and one of them worries that they might have actually changed history, which could have devastating consequences down the line.

It is in the descriptions of wartime Britain and especially the people experiencing it that Willis shines. The detail is astounding, yet doesn't draw you away from the story. The characters, from the old gentleman running his barely-afloat ship to help at Dunkirk to the blitz shelter-folks who become almost a second family to Polly to Alf and Binnie, two of the most hilariously horrible children to ever steal your heart, are amazing. You can't fault Polly or Merope or Michael for not following protocol, because you wouldn't be able to ignore these people either.

As the story halts, Michael, Merope, and Polly have found one another in London and they realize that whatever problem has stranded them in war-torn Britain is more serious than they thought. They begin to face the fact that rescue really may not be coming.

Despite it's cliffhanger of an ending, Blackout is an engaging and suspenseful read. I have no doubt that when All Clear is released, Willis will give us a satisfying ending. ( )
1 vote Mrs_McGreevy | Nov 17, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 157 (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 (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Connie Willisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brock, ChalresCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brook, CharlesCover designersecondary 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
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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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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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