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Blackout by Connie Willis
MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,1411553,055 (3.85)348
Authors:Connie Willis
Info:Spectra (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 512 pages
Collections:Unowned, Audibled
Tags:sf, read

Work details

Blackout by Connie Willis

  1. 170
    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)
  4. 30
    Farthing by Jo Walton (SusannainSC)
  5. 20
    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 348 mentions

English (154)  Polish (1)  German (1)  All (156)
Showing 1-5 of 154 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  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. ( )
  Mrs_McGreevy | Nov 17, 2016 |
A real page turner about time traveling to 1940 London.

http://nicolewbrown.blogspot.com/2015/02/blackout-by-connie-willis.html ( )
  nicolewbrown | Aug 29, 2016 |
Profoundly moving, our time travelling historians suffering with the people of England stoically facing up to the death and carnage of the Second World War and the Blitz. This really seems to capture something of how Englishmen and women must have been in the teeth of so much fear, loss and uncertainty, but somehow avoids saccharine over romanticism - she really strikes a convincing genuine note throughout. ( )
  Matt_B | Jul 16, 2016 |
Blackout – Connie Willis
Audio performance by Katherine Kelligren
4 stars

Important vocabulary for time traveling historians:

The Net – the time portal technology which allows Oxford historians of 2060 to study high points of history; such as the Dunkirk evacuation and the London Blitz

A Drop - a predetermined safe location for the time traveling historian to enter The Net to go back to the future

Slippage – a discrepancy in the desired time and/or place of arrival; when a time traveler does not arrive as planned; it is understood that slippage has occurred to avoid a time paradox

Law One of time travel: Slippage will prevent time travelers from having any significant impact on history.
(Of course it will….but what if it doesn’t ? What if.. what if… what if….)
Law Two of time travel: A traveler may not may not occupy the same place in history more than once..

Three historians, two women and one man travel back to WWII England to observe the ‘contemps’ in their darkest hour. All three find that their carefully laid plans are useless when set against the war’s realities. And they get stuck there. There are several different time lines. There are lots of bombs. There are many, many cliff-hanger near misses. It’s complicated.

I’ve read two previous books in this series; The Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog. I liked them, and they annoyed me. I had a similar experience with this book. I enjoyed the many colorful ‘contemp’ characters, especially Alf and Binny. I thought the historical detail and description were outstanding. The endless circular, second-guessing, self-talk of the time traveling characters drove me up the wall. I must have found more enjoyment than annoyance in this book experience, because I did read the next one.

( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 154 (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
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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