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Blackout by Connie Willis
MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,9441413,528 (3.84)313
Authors:Connie Willis
Info:Spectra (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 512 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:science fiction, Hugo winner novel, Nebula winner novel

Work details

Blackout by Connie Willis

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    Farthing by Jo Walton (SusannainSC)
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    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.
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    The Little Book by Selden Edwards (becksdakex)
    becksdakex: Time travel, WWII, Change history?

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» See also 313 mentions

English (139)  Polish (1)  German (1)  All languages (141)
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
Historians from 2060 are sent back in time to observe pivotal events of World War Two. You'd think this would open the door to tons of great storylines but nothing ever seems to happen. The historians become increasingly annoying as they whine and complain about their mundane tasks, getting used to early 20th century culture and finally, becoming "stuck" in time.

If you want to learn about the Blitz or the evaucation at Dunkirk this provides some insight however I would be hesitant to even call this a sci-fi novel. There is no real explanation as to how the time travel is achieved. Plus, once they do travel back in time, that's it, they don't travel back to 2060 nor do they bring anything with them from the future to assist them in their work. They get there, they complain, they get stuck and then the complaining is turned up to 11.

Equally frustrating is that there is no indication that this is part of a series, the novel ends abruptly. I feel obliged to read the second one (All Clear) just in the vain hope that these snivelling yellow-bellies meet an untimely end at the hands of the Luftwaffe. ( )
  LJMax | Aug 21, 2015 |
I like time travel books and this one had an element of suspense that I thought was well done. The author puts you right in the thick of things during the Second WW in England. The situation of the three main characters get a bit dicey. i'll have to read the sequel to find out what happens. ( )
  janismack | Jul 14, 2015 |
In the year 2040 many things have improved … medicine, literature and even education. In the year 2040 historians are an elite group. They can travel back in time to observe “history” happening first hand. Of course, there are rules to keep the time continuum intact, and history cannot be changed. The time machine has built in mechanisms to prevent these historians from altering history, so what happens when these mechanisms malfunction? No one really knows … until now.
This book centers on the London Blitz during WWII. Although I have not checked, it does appear to be historically accurate and Ms. Willis brings us the personal side of the effects of war through the reader’s relationship with her characters. I found the first few chapters of the book a little hectic, but once the characters became clear in my mind and I accepted the time travel scenario everything fell into place and the rest of the book moved along well. The end of the book was a little frustrating for me, but I will not spoil it here for anyone wanting to pick up and enjoy this excellent read.
( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
Right now in the sci-fi SORRY THAT'S "SF" NOT THE HATE EPITHET "S**-*I" THANK YOU FOR SETTING ME STRAIGHT ENRIQUE FREEQUE world (I read books of this genre sometimes but I don't define as a "fan" or see any need to follow the weird orthopraxies of this "fandom" and so I will continue calling it what people in the general world call it, which is largely ""sci-fi" I think" NOPE, SF, UNLESS YOU ARE A FUCKING BIGOT AGAINST THIS HISTORICALLY OPPRESSED COMMUNITY, without meaning any offence to sci-fi THAT'S SF, SIR fans who are offended by the term, needlessly I think--though if they wish to be offended by my having an opinion about what should or should not make them offended, they may) there is this controversy with groups with names like "sad puppies" and "rabid puppies" and the gist of it is that some right-wingers who think sci-fi SF BUT I THINK IT WOULD BE RICH IF THESE REACTIONARIES HAD A PROBLEM WITH BEING CALLED WHATEVER BECAUSE AREN'T THEY SUPPOSED TO BE AGAINST POLITICAL CORRECTNESS? should just be Captain Kirk space opera or fucked-up Heinleinesque libertarian shit have formed a voting bloc and hijacked the Hugo Awards so that only ballsy gider-dun shit wins the prize, to roll back the advent of "soft" sci-fi SF THE WHOLE TERMINOLOGY THING IS STUPID ANYWAY BECAUSE LIKE "SCIENCE FICTION"? THERE IS NO SCIENCE IN THIS BOOK AT ALL EXCEPT TIME MACHINES WHICH I'M PRETTY SURE ARE ASCIENTIFIC AND THEN FORTIES SHIT LIKE MESSERSCHMITTS SO LET'S START THERE IF WE WANT TO RAISE A FUSS that might explore human societies under drastically altered circumstances, or the actual tribulations of inter-species romance (not the Captain Kirk kind), or what it feels like to be a sentient plant, or an immortal, or an artificial intelligence, or an empath, (let alone a future woman or black person), and ensure primacy of place to "hard" sci-fi SF SFSFSFSFBLAARGH (the terms speak volumes), where planets are saved from intergalactic fascists by clever engineers named Chip. It's fucked, and there is plenty more to say about it but what I want to observe here is that although Connie Willis (a many-time Hugo winner) has made public comments showing that she's squarely on the side of the angels (and technomystics, and intelligent nebulae), you'd never really know it from her book Blackout, which presents a deeply conservative vision of, well, everything.

It's the 2040s in Oxford and someone has invented a time machine (there are occasional references to historians having gone back in time for "decades," which doesn't seem to work at all with the publication date of the book), and the future present doesn't get fleshed out enough but it seems that there are only one or two time machines handy or the whole of history would be inundated with travellers, but anyway the only time travel that seems to go on is that Oxford undergraduates get sent back to dangerous times in history in order to report on them firsthand and do a little touring (not the canny commentary on undergrad internships and voluntourism in the present that it could have been, however). The future people are just like 2010 people and the 1940s people are largely like 2010 people, and there's very very little in the way of exploring interesting cultural clashes or misunderstandings or even real human connections between anyone. There is a little bit of window dressing like where one of the time travellers uses the word "virus" and everyone is confused, but it is negligible. The '40s people are all stock characters and the future people are all Mary Sues.

With only a couple of exceptions, the only time anyone gets sent back to is World War II, which is the first clue that we're gonna be dealing with some seriously history-channel stuff here. Willis seems to have the gushy hero worship thing for Londoners in the Blitz and Churchill and the Royal Family (oh God, shut up about the Royal Family) that is common to a certain kind of American, and her understanding of the history seems to really be limited to thinking Hitler was beaten at Dunkirk, in the Battle of Britain, and via some ill-defined British "indomitability" (can you bottle it?), and not by, you know, the Russians. (And I know it is old news that the commies won the war and not our boys and the guys who bring that up like they're really learning you something are quite obnoxious in general but some people apparently still never heard so maybe those guys are doing a service after all.)

The book is split into two (this one ends very abruptly in the middle), and it's around 1300 pages in all, and I'm gonna read the second one since it's where the time-travel-going-wonky shit-hitting-fan plot really gets off the ground and I don't feel like I can evaluate it properly until then, but this one is basically plodding prose rendering cliché scenarios that overexplain and repeat and where the height of literary panache is this wrongfooting you again and again: end of the last chapter--oh no! Padgett's didn't get bombed and it was supposed to and that means we altered history! start of next chapter: phew! it did get bombed the facade is just still standing but oh no! many people were killed and it was supposed to be just three and that means we altered history! but no, those aren't people, they're mannequins ha ha ha! And like that compulsively for 500 pages, and even about little things like oh oops is my accent implant working or oh oops did I call her by her real name and not her cover name (no one ever does. No one gets exposed), and given that the last 300 pages are just the three stranded historians running around England trying to find each other and just missing each other again and again and again, you can imagine how annoying it gets. ( )
6 vote MeditationesMartini | May 11, 2015 |
I would give this 5 stars, but it ends in a cliffhanger, and I hate that. There's a large cast of characters, which meant that it got off to a bit of a slow start, but from p. 200 or so on it's been gripping. ( )
  Amelia_Smith | May 2, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 139 (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 (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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