“A good start to the story. I really love the time travelers and their everyday experiences they are dealing with in world war II. I am excited to see how this ends. I love who showed up at the very end of the story. Enjoyable first act.”see full review » see other reviews »
Didn’t Like It1 of 1 members found this review helpful
“I picked this up in the science-fiction section of my local bookshop as a 'wildcard' purchase because the synopsis on the back of the book was interesting. Big mistake. This book should have been in the historical fiction section. I am not one to give up on a book and I got to within 100 pages of...”see full review » see other reviews »
“Interesting... took me quite a while to follow all the characters”Jomama S wrote this review 2 weeks ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“A good start to the story. I really love the time travelers and their everyday experiences they are dealing with in world war II. I am excited to see how this ends. I love who showed up at the very end of the story. Enjoyable first act.”John B wrote this review 3 weeks ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Best book i have read in a while!!!”Sherfin wrote this review Thursday, March 7, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“It's 2060 and travelling back in time is possible. It means that historians has possibility to observe history as it happens and this opportunity is eagerly exploited. There's one rule though - don't mess with the history. Main characters are historians, who - you guessed it - manage to break that one rule. The book is not so much about science fiction but more of describing how London, England and especially people there were during World War II. Good story, but the ending was a surprise to me - that is there was no ending. This book is only part I of the story.”japi wrote this review Tuesday, January 22, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I picked this up in the science-fiction section of my local bookshop as a 'wildcard' purchase because the synopsis on the back of the book was interesting. Big mistake. This book should have been in the historical fiction section. I am not one to give up on a book and I got to within 100 pages of the end before I decided I was wasting my time and conceded defeat. On a paragraph by paragraph basis the writing is fine but there are several problems:
1) There is no plot and very little action. The most exciting thing that happens is when someone misses a train, or a bus, or a boat or a taxi or... Well, you get the picture - there are a lot of missed appointments in this book.
2) All the characters are very similar. No, they are more than similar - they are almost identical.
3) All these very similar characters are basically useless and incapable of doing anything.
From the moment they arrive in the past they worry about getting out of it. They seem to be extremely ill-prepared with very little training, no back-up plans and for alleged historians a poor understanding of the times. All it takes is a "hard stare" from a variety of 40's authority figures (nurse, headmistress, shop floor-walker, ticket collector) for these supposedly bright individuals to go weak at the knees and start panicking. I really wanted to give them all a good shake and kept hoping that some crisis point would be reached that would launch them on an arc of discovery but it never happened.
Some other reviews suggest that the story comes to an abrupt end. I rather hoped it would be when they all meet up in the past and are blown up by a bomb. But since there is a second book I suppose this is not the case.
“You'll need to get the second book, "All Clear," to learn how the story ends. And as far as that story goes, it's a bit nerve racking. It's all about meeting deadlines, getting to places on time, and making connections with people who don't have telephones, let alone smart phones. I ended up caring about the characters though, and that made up for a lot of anxiousness of the plot. ”Perry Willis wrote this review Saturday, July 21, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Audio book loved it”BernerMum wrote this review Tuesday, July 10, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I liked this book very much. At the beginning, I was a bit confused as the author kept switching between several different characters and story lines. I kept going, though, and that sorted itself out. It's hard to give a complete review because this book stops abruptly and from what I understand, the book All Clear picks up exactly where this one left off to continue the story, which is not at all resolved in this first book. I knew that going in, and now I am deciding if I can really wait for my name to slowly move up the library waiting list or if I will buy the next book, as I really want to see what happens next.”Karyn H wrote this review Monday, July 9, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Blackout, by Connie Willis
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).
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!