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Blackout

Average Rating 4
( 120 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(49)

4 Star

(27)

3 Star

(27)

2 Star

(9)

1 Star

(8)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

London Blitz and the Panic of Historians

Wow. Just, wow. Loved this one.

So this is the latest installment of Willis' time travel stories, this time with historians travelling back to 1940 and the London Blitz. There are a number of different story lines flowing through here, and thankfully they're just on...
Wow. Just, wow. Loved this one.

So this is the latest installment of Willis' time travel stories, this time with historians travelling back to 1940 and the London Blitz. There are a number of different story lines flowing through here, and thankfully they're just on the "understandable" side of the "descent into utter chaos" cliff. It's hard to put down, though. There's a sense of panic that builds slowly but steadily throughout, and by the time the book ends, the peril is thick. There's the threat of the German bombs, of course, as well as the technical issues with time travel equipment.

The depictions of 1940s England and the people who lived through the Blitz are wonderful. I'm not acquainted with wartime novels so I don't have much to compare with, but after reading this, I'm almost ready to jump in. Willis' characters are full and rich and quite varied.

But here's my warning: This book might end, but it doesn't conclude. Willis' next book "All Clear," is supposed to conclude the story. If you're like me, and don't like to wait to finish a story, I'd suggest that you wait until Autumn 2010 when it's supposed to be released.

I fell in love with Connie Willis' time travel universe when I first read "Doomsday Book" twenty years ago. "Blackout" is at least as good as Doomsday Book, if not better (20 years makes the comparison a little shaky). Highly, highly recommended.

5 of 5 stars.

posted by SteveTheDM on July 27, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

Incredibly irritating and disappointing

As a huge Connie Willis fan, I am disgusted with this book. It's over 500 pages long and contains about 75 pages of plot.

I believe that there is a reason for this, and I'm sure it's more interesting than this book.

The overwhelming problem is that where the plot...
As a huge Connie Willis fan, I am disgusted with this book. It's over 500 pages long and contains about 75 pages of plot.

I believe that there is a reason for this, and I'm sure it's more interesting than this book.

The overwhelming problem is that where the plot belongs is instead a grocery list. A hundred grocery lists. Instead of characters with thought processes and some sense of priority are cardboard cutouts who act too stupidly to be believable historians in order to stretch out 75 pages of setup into a 500 page Vol I.

It's such an exciting premise and such a thrilling central conflict that it is baffling to see it ignored for 500 pages in favor of what train should be caught from which station, and whether one's coat and hat were left behind.

Absolutely baffling. Such a mind-blowingly talented and interesting author churning out such a useless stack of pages about some very silly people who never twig to the very obvious and spend the entire story fumbling in a dark that is revealed to us much too soon for their futile efforts at not very much to be interesting at all.

There is no emotional resonance in a 21st century character bothering to tidy up her department store counter while the bombs are falling. You can have no patience for a character who runs into the equivalent of a burning building looking for someone who logic dictates has already left.

When the characters are more interested in returning a pair of stockings that have no bearing on the story than whether they will be dead in a pile of rubble by morning, you're left feeling cheated. What you want to know is what the characters are thinking and feeling, but all you ever find out is that they are scrupulously responsible maids and shopgirls.

It starts out with everyone being flustered and pressured for way too long in Oxford, to no purpose, and continues with everyone being frustrated by the unavailability of transportation and the constant thwarting of schedules by petty annoyances like fussy nurses, demanding bosses and picky customers. In place of a rising dramatic tension is a simple sense of aggravation.

Anyway, this book can be skimmed. You won't miss much past the midpoint. It hopefully sets up a sequel that actually has a plot and some of the fabulous twists and turns and emotional impact of ANY of the other Connie Willis books you could spend some quality time with.

posted by Annerocious on September 29, 2010

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  • Posted September 29, 2010

    Incredibly irritating and disappointing

    As a huge Connie Willis fan, I am disgusted with this book. It's over 500 pages long and contains about 75 pages of plot.

    I believe that there is a reason for this, and I'm sure it's more interesting than this book.

    The overwhelming problem is that where the plot belongs is instead a grocery list. A hundred grocery lists. Instead of characters with thought processes and some sense of priority are cardboard cutouts who act too stupidly to be believable historians in order to stretch out 75 pages of setup into a 500 page Vol I.

    It's such an exciting premise and such a thrilling central conflict that it is baffling to see it ignored for 500 pages in favor of what train should be caught from which station, and whether one's coat and hat were left behind.

    Absolutely baffling. Such a mind-blowingly talented and interesting author churning out such a useless stack of pages about some very silly people who never twig to the very obvious and spend the entire story fumbling in a dark that is revealed to us much too soon for their futile efforts at not very much to be interesting at all.

    There is no emotional resonance in a 21st century character bothering to tidy up her department store counter while the bombs are falling. You can have no patience for a character who runs into the equivalent of a burning building looking for someone who logic dictates has already left.

    When the characters are more interested in returning a pair of stockings that have no bearing on the story than whether they will be dead in a pile of rubble by morning, you're left feeling cheated. What you want to know is what the characters are thinking and feeling, but all you ever find out is that they are scrupulously responsible maids and shopgirls.

    It starts out with everyone being flustered and pressured for way too long in Oxford, to no purpose, and continues with everyone being frustrated by the unavailability of transportation and the constant thwarting of schedules by petty annoyances like fussy nurses, demanding bosses and picky customers. In place of a rising dramatic tension is a simple sense of aggravation.

    Anyway, this book can be skimmed. You won't miss much past the midpoint. It hopefully sets up a sequel that actually has a plot and some of the fabulous twists and turns and emotional impact of ANY of the other Connie Willis books you could spend some quality time with.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 27, 2010

    London Blitz and the Panic of Historians

    Wow. Just, wow. Loved this one.

    So this is the latest installment of Willis' time travel stories, this time with historians travelling back to 1940 and the London Blitz. There are a number of different story lines flowing through here, and thankfully they're just on the "understandable" side of the "descent into utter chaos" cliff. It's hard to put down, though. There's a sense of panic that builds slowly but steadily throughout, and by the time the book ends, the peril is thick. There's the threat of the German bombs, of course, as well as the technical issues with time travel equipment.

    The depictions of 1940s England and the people who lived through the Blitz are wonderful. I'm not acquainted with wartime novels so I don't have much to compare with, but after reading this, I'm almost ready to jump in. Willis' characters are full and rich and quite varied.

    But here's my warning: This book might end, but it doesn't conclude. Willis' next book "All Clear," is supposed to conclude the story. If you're like me, and don't like to wait to finish a story, I'd suggest that you wait until Autumn 2010 when it's supposed to be released.

    I fell in love with Connie Willis' time travel universe when I first read "Doomsday Book" twenty years ago. "Blackout" is at least as good as Doomsday Book, if not better (20 years makes the comparison a little shaky). Highly, highly recommended.

    5 of 5 stars.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    super time travel historical thriller

    In 2060, studying history at Oxford is a contact sport as historians conduct real field research. In that regard three historians are sent to different locations during WW II. Seventeen years old Colin Templer, who saved the life of project chief Mr. Dunworthy wants the faculty advisor's help so he can age enough in the past for older student Polly Churchill to notice him and how much he loves her. At the relative same time, Michael Davies is preparing to go to Pearl Harbor but the assignment changed after he obtained his American accent implant to be there for the Channel fishermen rescue at Dunkirk; Polly is going to London as a shopgirl during the Blitz; and Eileen works at a children's evac center in Warwickshire during a measles outbreak.

    However something is not quite right with the Research lab equipment as assignments change abruptly and the historians face danger when they arrive during the early stages of WW II in England. Although Eileen insists she trusts in the future, something Mike did at Dunkirk should not have happened; at least based on the prime premise of the History Department at Oxford in 2060 in which a traveling historian cannot change what has been.

    This is a super time travel historical thriller that hooks the audience from the onset and never slows down especially when the trio land in 1939-1940. The story line is fast-paced yet loaded with vivid detail so that the prime subplots seem genuine as Polly struggles with working at a store and evacuating during air raids; and Eileen with twenty two kids and resentful locals including the sponsor especially during a measles outbreak. However, it is Mike who may have changed the outcome of WW II and the next century with his impossible actions that could not have happened at Dunkirk. Perhaps the only issue with this great saga is it never climaxes as the second book to be published later in the year contains the rest of the story.

    Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Connie Willis does it again

    It's hard to imagine learning history through science fiction, but Connie Willis' time travel novels always hit the mark. I'm not much of a history buff, but I found myself wanting to know more about the Blitz and England during World War II. Connie's plot and characters, as always, make the time period come alive. This novel isn't as funny as some of her others, but I found myself riveted by the action and really wanting to know what happens to Polly, Mike and Merope. Do they change the course of the War? Do they ever get home? My only complaint is, I have to wait till fall of 2010 for the sequel!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2010

    Connie Willis' new time-travel story

    Potential buyers should be warned that this book is not a novel--it is only the first half of a novel, the second half of which is apparently to be released under the title "All Clear." Unlike most books that are parts of a trilogy, or series, or what have you, which can be read as independent stories, even though they are part of a larger, over-arching story, "Blackout" does not end; it simply stops in the middle of the action. This may make a difference to some readers; it certainly did to the present reviewer. Nothing in the jacket copy or the on-line description of this book indicates that it is not complete.

    That said, "Blackout" is a gripping start to a rollicking story set in Ms. Willis' time-travel universe, which was also the setting of her novels "Doomsday Book" and "To Say Nothing of the Dog", and her very moving short story, "Firewatch." The action centers on the trials of three Oxford historians from A.D. 2060, who all happen to be researching events in Britain in 1940, during the first part of World War II. One is sent to a rural manor to observe children evacuated from London before the Blitz, one to observe the sea-lift that rescued the British Army after the Battle of Dunkirk, and the third to London to observe the behavior of Londoners during the beginning of the Blitz.

    "Blackout" constitutes the exposition of this large-scale novel. Each character has his or her professional concerns, as well as an emotional reaction to the historical circumstances under study. As in Ms. Willis' other time-travel stories, the characters all find themselves drawn to various people among the "contemps" they meet, and much of the drama of the story so far derives from the conflict between a strong desire to help and an even stronger imperative to avoid tampering with the course of history.

    There are mysterious goings-on in Oxford in 2060 that may affect the ability of our historians to return to their own milieu. It will spoil nothing to reveal that as this book ends, they have just joined forces and have begun to sort out the nature of their predicament. We must await the second volume to discover what is going on and how it all gets resolved.

    One of the most gripping aspects of the novel so far is Ms. Willis' vivid and moving depiction of Britain during the early war years, which she has extensively researched. For us, the events of World War II are still within living memory (albeit just barely), but for Ms. Willis' historians, they lie over a century in the past. The author is thus able to play both on the characters' unfamiliarity with conditions that are ordinary to us--and in the process to remind us of just how much the world has changed in seventy years, and how much more it is likely to change in the next fifty.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2012

    Awful embarrassment

    No plot. Indistinguishable charcters. Runs on four times longer than it needs to. Repetitive and predictable. Read only if you think a story set in the London Blitz can't possibly bore you. Makes one wonder who actually wrote Willis' earlier stuff.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Not her best effort

    Connie Willis' most recent time travel novel, was a big disappointment. It is set in the same world as "Doomsday Book" and "To Say Nothing of the Dog" (both excellent books)...a world in which mid-21st century historians at Oxford University have a device that enables them to travel back in time to observe events.

    This book centers around a number of historians who go back to study various aspects of WWII. The descriptions of Dunkirk and the London Blitz are brilliant (the only reason this has 3 stars instead of 2). The book is almost entirely devoid of her trademark humor, which appeared even in the bleak/depressing Doomsday Book, and way too much of the book is taken up with the historians worrying that their preparatory research may have been wrong, worrying that their time travel device seems to be broken, worrying that they can't find each other (and frantically running about while just barely missing each other), worrying that they may have altered history, worrying that the retrieval team hasn't shown up yet, etc. etc.. Two-thirds of the book just feels like tedious, repetitive filler material written so that she could stretch this into a two-volume novel.

    That said...I will probably still read the second book just to see what happens (and in hopes that it is better written than the first). If you are a first time Connie Willis reader, you are much better off reading one of her other time travel books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2011

    Sunk by wrong intent

    The problem with this work, as I see it, is that Ms. Willis chose to write a time-travel science fiction novel set in WW II England when what she really should have done was write a straight historical novel in the same setting. The time travel aspects of this novel are tediously plotted and populated with an unengaging group of characters. The historical story lines -- of which there are perhaps two too many -- feature gripping action and interesting characters. Perhaps it's time for Ms. Willis to decide just what sort of writer she wants to be. And her editor really needs to get tough with her about pacing and purpose.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended

    Being a fan of both time travel and World War II buff, I was pulled into this story like very few stories have done before. The author did such a great job at making me feel like I knew the characters, and I could visualize every scene. Since there are time travel aspects to this book, and there are a lot of characters, there is a lot to keep up with, but that is what kept me so intrigued. I am often bored by books with few characters and a too-simple plot. This plot thickened with every turn of the page (actually, click of the button on my Nook). Also, it was fairly long at nearly 600 pages, which kept me entertained each night before bed for almost a week. I am so glad I found this book after the second book was already published so that I could dive right into the next one. I would have been anxiously awaiting the sequel had I found this sooner.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 24, 2014

    Review is for both Blackout and All Clear. Complaints first: 1.

    Review is for both Blackout and All Clear. Complaints first:
    1. More historical fiction than science fiction: There is an underlying time travel/science fiction element to the books, but 95% of the content is about living in England during the years before and during WWII - Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, the Blitz, and the V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks.
    2. Total content of the two books is 25-50% too long - for example, when a character is faced with a dilemma, the reader doesn't need to hear them think through every ramification of every option they have, every time; as another example, when our heroes are escaping from a 7-story building, it isn't necessary for the author to take us through every floor, with the thoughts and concerns of each character on each floor.
    Overall, however, the books are highly readable, and since many chapters end in cliffhanger fashion, the story does keep one's interest. Characters are likeable and believable. And as historical fiction goes, the information is fascinating - I'm a big fan of history, and these books gave me a comprehensive appreciation of the dangers and sacrifices of the people of Britain during WWII, which lasted much longer for them than it did for American and Americans.
    The time travel element is also flawlessly executed, though you should keep the first novel handy as you read the second, to go back and reference chapters that, at the time you first read them, don't seem to fit the story. It's not linear, and keeping notes as to who is who, and when, will serve you well.
    So if you dont' mind the occasional thought of "C'mon, get on with it", these can be very enjoyable books.

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  • Posted August 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This book is actually the first half of the All Clear duo.  Toge

    This book is actually the first half of the All Clear duo.  Together they come to some 1168 pages and, personally, I feel that they could have been published as one novel rather than splitting them in two.  Both books centre on time travel from Oxford 2060 back into the past to recover historical items, in this case for the rebuilding of a certain Cathedral.

    The book is broken down into three episodic narratives, each from the point of one of the historians covered in the book, and it tends to jump from one narrative to another as it progresses.  This can become a little confusing at times if, as a reader you are not used to either this Authors writing style, or the jumping around from one scenario to the next.  However, I didn’t feel that this style of writing hurt the book in any way; after all it is a novel about time travel, which in its nature jumps around from one place to the next.

    The three main protagonists are likeable enough characters, and they are instilled with humour, compassion and worry.  They worry if they will get home, they worry if their being in a particular timeline will alter their future, and most of all they care about and worry for those they come into contact with in World War II London.  This brings us to the remainder of the cast of characters, of which there seems to be thousands; there are Soldiers at Dunkirk, civilians in the Blitz and many, many more; but for however briefly they appear in the storyline, this Author manages to write into each one their own personality and traits.  It is a credit to the writing style of this Author that she is able to make these people from the past, not just some image in our mind, but actually come to life as living, breathing people that we care for and cheer on.

    The story is long and at times slow-moving, it also has plenty of things that don’t make sense if you really stop to think about it; but the time the Author takes to describe the effect of the bombing of London, the way the population rallies round each family hit and their stoical remarks as one night of air raids runs into another, and another, make the slow-moving pages feel rather like a break from the horror of the bombings.  Regardless of the slower moving sections, the storyline was engaging and gripping enough to keep me reading on to the cliffhanger ending, and then make sure I read the second part of the story.

    Despite the topic of the Blitz, the Author manages to capture the dark the wit and humour of that era, and add to it a little piece of mystery and a touch of romance.  The plot is extremely complex and the way in which the Author is able to take a multitude of disjointed plots and subplots and weave them into the cliffhanger ending of this book, makes this a very enjoyable read. The Author succeeds in taking the reader out of their own world for a while and into the Blitz of World War II; it is done in such a way that the serious and tragic nature of the subject matter is served up with enough humour to make it bearable – even uplifting.

    I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy time travel genre, but are also open to satire and humour in their chosen reading material.  As there is nothing offensive in this book, I would also have no problem in recommending it as a YA read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2013

    Great Book

    I highly recommend Black Out and All Clear.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2013

    Connie willis never disappoints

    Literally every book i have read by willis has benn a book i cannot put down. This was no exception. While this is only the first half of the story it is thrilling and sets up what very well may be her definitive time travel novel. Basically it is breaking all the rules she has carefully set up in prior books... and one doesn't know if the characters will find their way home or not. I can't wait to read the conclusion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2012

    Yes and no....

    Liked the book but was upset that the story was not complete in itself. Nothing in description alerted you that a 2nd book would need to be purchased. Willis' earlier work "The Doomsday Book" was better, less convoluted, more tightly crafted, and so much easier to follow.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2012

    Awesome

    Loved this book! Kept me wonderinf and kept my attention!

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  • Posted October 8, 2011

    Smart time travel novel - definitely recommended

    In addition to being a great piece on World War II London from the perspective of the civilians, this novel is another example of time travel gone wrong.

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  • Posted June 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Couldn%27t+put+it+down%21

    Great+story%2C+surprisingly+amusing+antics%2C+and+serious+time+travel+complexities.+The+author+has+done+her+research+and+you+will+truly+%22feel+you+are+there%22+in+WWII+England.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 1, 2011

    Do Not-I Repeat-Do Not Waste Your Time or Money On This Book

    This is without question, the worst book of this type I have ever read. And yes I did read it all the way to the end. Connie Willis is, based on this book, a moron, incapable of creating believable characters or situations. I cannot imagine how any editor allowed her to write such tripe.
    There is so much illogic in this story that it will drive you nuts! I try very hard to not be sexist however, this is exactly the type of writing which causes men to doubt that women are capable of logical thinking.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2011

    Fun

    I normally dont read books by women authors, but this one really is a page turner. I enjoyed it very much. Highly recommened

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  • Posted January 16, 2011

    plodding and repetitive

    don't bother reading the second book!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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