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by Connie Willis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,7451933,877 (3.83)436
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)
  1. 150
    To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (pwaites)
  2. 60
    Fire Watch by Connie Willis (clee67)
  3. 30
    Farthing by Jo Walton (SusannainSC)
  4. 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.
  5. 01
    The Little Book by Selden Edwards (becksdakex)
    becksdakex: Time travel, WWII, Change history?

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» See also 436 mentions

English (190)  German (2)  Polish (1)  All languages (193)
Showing 1-5 of 190 (next | show all)
A time travel book, not dissimilar to Time and Again, with travellers constantly worried about changing the future. Really follows the tribulations of three travellers in war-torn London. Great portrayal of stoic British, during difficult period in their history. Read about book in NY Times Book Review, but did not realize there would be a sequel. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
I think Connie Willis is milking the concept of the Doomsday Book. The first volume was fresh, and introduced the idea of future historians using time travel to improve knowledge of the past. The book was innovative, engagingly written and quite funny.
Then came To Say Nothing of the Dog which continued the basic scenario, this time set in Victorian England, using Three Men in a Boat as theme and parallel. Less innovative than the first book in the series, the result was still very readable and quite funny.
Now in the third volume of this occasional series, the future historians have travelling back to England in the period of WW2. The hook in this volume is that something appears to have broken in the time travel process, and the three protagonists seem to be stranded in the past. I think, after 685 or so pages, I expected a little more plot development. There are plenty of interesting subsidiary characters, but the book drowns in too much detail, and not enough plot progress.
But, the author can write, and I have signed up for the next (final?) volume - All Clear, to find out what is wrong, and how it can be resolved. ( )
  mbmackay | Apr 17, 2021 |
Set in the same ‘verse as Doomsday Book and To say nothing of the dog this is a book about historians. But not the sort of historian you or I might be familiar with, but one who actually travels through time and investigates the past in person. Mr Dunworthy’s time travel department in Oxford is having a spot of bother. Schedules are being changed and moved about all other place. This does not please the historians, especially those like Michael who have just been implanted with American accents in preparation for heading to Pearl Harbour and are not, instead, heading to Dover. But they’ll still travel, because it is the only timetable open to them.

The story in Blackout is told from a variety of perspectives, all studying World War II. Polly is in London researching the blitz spirit. Eileen is in the countryside looking at the evacuee situation, and Mike should be studying the ordinary heroes of Dunkirk.

To be honest, at first I wasn’t really gripped by any of the storylines. But I gradually got hooked and in the end I did enjoy the book. Only of course it isn’t finished. This book was published in two volumes and so I must go look for All clear now and find out what has happened to everyone.

If you pay attention to my genre labels you’ll see that I’ve called this one sff & historical fiction. technically I suppose if should just be sff, but there is so much details about the lives of people during the war that I do think that historical fiction fans who like that period should give this a go. You can always put it down if you don’t like it.

As I said, I did *get* to like this book, and enjoy it, but at the same time I’m not sure quite why it won so many awards. It is good, but not great. Does that mean the competition wasn’t up to much? or is it just that part two will really wow me?

If you’ve read Connie Willis before then you’ll know the sort of book this is. If you haven’t, I’d recommend you start with Doomsday book as it is the first of her novels in this ‘verse. There is also a short story, Fire Watch, but I haven’t read that yet. You can jump straight into this one without reading the others, but it will help to introduce terms and concepts like slippage and drops and the like. ( )
  Fence | Jan 5, 2021 |
Yes, I absolutely devoured this book. I read it inside a 25-hour window of time. The first big chunk of that, I was sitting at the car dealership while my vehicle was serviced, and the television in the waiting area was blaring some vapid daytime tv talk show, but I was so enthralled with this book I barely noticed. I loved it. I would write a longer review, but honestly, I have to go right now and start the followup, All Clear. ( )
  sdramsey | Dec 14, 2020 |
Usually, on the occasions when I am underwhelmed by a book that has rave reviews and prestigious awards to its name, I find myself wishing I could see in it the things that others see. Usually, it's just a matter of taste, whether in style or subject matter or – increasingly – the penchant people have for having their half-baked socio-political opinions unquestioningly mirrored back at them. But in Connie Willis' Blackout, none of that was the case. Blackout wasn't a book that I didn't get; it was just legitimately, objectively poor.

It sounded so great, which was why I wanted to read it: an experienced sci-fi author writes a story about a group of Oxford historians in the year 2060 who regularly go back in time to observe first-hand the events of the past. I was immediately sold on the premise, and on the early chapters where various characters speculate on the possibilities of going back to observe Pearl Harbor, the Crusades or 9/11. Even though this was only background colour, Blackout's subsequent plotline of three such historians being trapped in wartime England in 1940 and unable to return seemed a compelling one.

Six hundred pages later and I am dispirited at how the book panned out. In retrospect, Blackout's problems are evident even in those early chapters: a lot of hustle and bustle, not knowing which characters we should be paying attention to, and with poor scene-setting and plot progression. The three main characters take a long time to emerge, not only because of the helter-skelter plotting but because there's so little to differentiate them as characters. Their inner monologues become repetitive, mostly concerned with managing their schedules: how they are going to hitch a ride, catch a train, run an errand on their lunch break, or get to such-and-such a place before the nightly air raid sirens. "Polly looked at her watch, trying to decide if she had enough time to get to Mrs Rickett's and back" (pg. 597). It is that sort of triviality which passes for the bulk of 'time travel' in Blackout.

The growing sketchiness of the book exacerbates other minor irritants. Strange grammar choices like "the water'd risen" (pg. 130) or "Merope'd gone" (pg. 499) repel with their clumsiness. Anachronisms can be forgiven, but when a time-travelling Oxford historian researching the Blitz doesn't know what an Anderson shelter is, because she was there to study evacuees in the countryside and "hadn't researched shelters" (pg. 405), you have to ask: where in the hell had this historian built up her working knowledge of the Blitz, that she'd never heard of a bloody Anderson shelter?

The greatest irritants, however, are the constant plot teases and misdirects. The book should be called Fake-Out rather than Blackout: Willis often writes a chapter in which it seems a certain character is dead, or late, or something contrary has happened, only to write a few chapters later, when we have returned to this character, that it was a simple misunderstanding or, more commonly, a deliberately contrived circumstance to titillate the reader. For example, one character, fearing that he has broken the timeline and lost Britain the war, ends one chapter with a man telling him "the Germans are coming!", only for it to emerge in his next PoV chapter that the man is a mental patient. Every reader will quickly cotton on to this trick, which is repeated over and over again throughout the book: the most egregious is the chapter where the department store where one character works is said to have been bombed, and in a few paragraphs we flip-flop between revelations that it has been bombed or left unscathed (which would have implications that they have altered the timeline). When it turns out to have been a non-issue, much is made of the many bodies outside the bomb site (where in the original timeline there were only three), only for it to emerge in the next chapter that the 'bodies' are shop mannequins. The reader begins to feel insulted.

Though not a terrible book – Willis' writing is easy enough, if mediocre, and her concept is interesting – it is this sort of fake-out that destroys the reader's goodwill. And after 600 pages, the book ends on a cliff-hanger without any sort of pace or drama: it is painfully clear that Blackout and its follow-up, All Clear, were a single manuscript cleaved into two. And it's hard to see why: much of Blackout is contrived fakery and padding and could have been discarded. The reader realises the characters' predicament – "we can't use any of our drops" (pg. 562) – many hundreds of pages before the characters do, and we follow them interminably towards this understanding. I can see myself reading All Clear at some point, just to finish the story, but, damningly, this is largely out of a sense of obligation and without any of the excitement with which I first opened Blackout. Perhaps the story will redeem itself in the end, but Blackout cannot stand by itself on merit. ( )
4 vote MikeFutcher | Aug 12, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 190 (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 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
Vicens, PaulaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wintrebert, JoëlleTranslatorsecondary 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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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.

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