David W Nicholas Sr, January 2, 2012 (view all comments by David W Nicholas Sr)
Connie Willis' BLACKOUT is the first half of a novel published in two parts, the second half being ALL CLEAR. My comments apply to the entire novel BLACKOUT/ALL CLEAR and not to half of it.
Connie Willis is known for her painstaking research (just try to find an error in one of her books or stories), her dry sense of humor, and her ability to take her characters to a point of relative safety in the plot and then drop them in a bog full of hungry alligators. Things tend to turn out well (for most) in the end, but she is masterful at creating situations that seem to place her characters in inescapable peril.
BLACKOUT/ALL CLEAR takes place in the same universe as her previous novel TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG, in which Oxford historians in the near future travel back in time to do what historians do: learn everything they can about the past. As in the real world, nothing quite goes as one would want on this journey back to World War II, where no preparations can be complete enough and the "law of unintended consequences" must be dealt with repeatedly.
This story is classic Connie Willis at the top of her game. If you don't already know her work, this is a good place to start. Willis has won more genre fiction awards (Hugo, Nebula, Philip K. Dick) than almost any other living writer. Her books are what science fiction looks like when it becomes indistinguishable from the mainstream. Her sense of humor is legendary, but the reader has to peel layers of the story back like the layers of an onion to take advantage of the full depth of her skills.
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Charles Ahlquist, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by Charles Ahlquist)
When Time Travel has become an academic endeavor, Blackout takes us to World War II during the bombing of London. Connie Willis continues to amaze me with her immense ability to interlace historical information, references to arts and literature, and character development without missing a beat. Don't miss the other half of the book in "All Clear!"
Deborah J. Ross, October 19, 2011 (view all comments by Deborah J. Ross)
The way to study history, in 2060 at any rate, is to go there yourself, and that's what the historians at Oxford University are doing. But the department is in chaos, and various researchers find themselves stranded in England during World War II. Although it isn't supposed to be possible to alter history in any significant way, the old rules start breaking down. Fragmented knowledge based on incomplete records -- or records that had been deliberately falsified in order to mislead the Germans -- only makes matters worse, for in trying to avoid one paradox, our characters may have created a worse one. I loved the sense of people stumbling around in the dark, acting from wrong assumptions and the best intentions, and read this not as actual time travel but as alternate history. That is, this is not the London Blitz of our world, but of some other that has been pushed and shoved and niggled by wayward historians into a subtly different form.
Chuck Childers, September 1, 2011 (view all comments by Chuck Childers)
It's hard to rate a book that is actually the first half of a two-volume novel, but I enjoyed _Blackout_. It's the story of multiple time travelers lost in England during World War II. Like many of Connie Willis's novels, there are mix-ups, misunderstandings and missed connections, but the tone is much more serious than her outrightly comedic books like _To Say Nothing of the Dog_. If the second book, _All Clear_, fulfills the promise of _Blackout_, I'll prob'ly revise my rating to 5 stars.
UpsieDaisy, January 2, 2011 (view all comments by UpsieDaisy)
This is actually a "two-parter" which is completed in Willis' book "All Clear". Continuing her time-traveling historians theme, Willis takes us to England in World War II. The history and sense of place is rich and intriguing and left me wishing to return to England to visit some of the more obscure historical spots enriched by the history lessons I learned. I was sorely disappointed when I discovered I had to wait months to read the second part but it was certainly worth the wait. These books are well-researched and, as always, the interwoven lives of the historians make for a compelling story.
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by The Denver Post,
“A tour de force...[Willis] is one of America’s finest writers.”
by The Times-Picayune,
“This compassionate and deeply imagined novel...gives the reader a strong you-were-there feeling.”
by The Seattle Times,
“[Willis has] researched Blackout so thoroughly, her readers may imagine she had access to the time machine her characters use.”
by Publishers Weekly,
“A page-turning thriller...Willis uses detail and period language exquisitely well, creating an engaging, exciting tale.”
The Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author of The Doomsday Book returns with an epic time-traveling story that follows three researchers from the future who are stranded in the past during World War II.
Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-traveling historians being sent into the past. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser into letting her go to VE-Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz. But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, and dive-bombing Stukas — to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past.
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