Blackout

Connie Willis
In her first novel since 2002, Nebula and Hugo award-winning author Connie Willis returns with a stunning, enormously entertaining novel of time travel, war, and the deeds—great and small—of ordinary people who shape history. In the hands of this acclaimed storyteller, the past and future collide—and the result is at once intriguing, elusive, and frightening.Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place. Scores of time-traveling historians are being sent into the past, to destinations including the American Civil War and the attack on the World Trade Center. 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, Mr. Dunworthy, into letting her go to VE Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz. And seventeen-year-old Colin Templer, who has a major crush on Polly, is determined to go to the Crusades so that he can “catch up” to her in age.  But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments for no apparent reason 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, 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. 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.From the people sheltering in the tube stations of London to the retired sailors who set off across the Channel to rescue the stranded British Army from Dunkirk, from shopgirls to ambulance drivers, from spies to hospital nurses to Shakespearean actors, Blackout reveals a side of World War II seldom seen before: a dangerous, desperate world in which there are no civilians and in which everybody—from the Queen down to the lowliest barmaid—is determined to do their bit to help a beleaguered nation survive.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2016-12-15
While Willis' style takes some getting used to, particularly her penchant for missed connections, this is enjoyable stuff. I loved [b:To Say Nothing of the Dog|77773|To Say Nothing of the Dog (Oxford Time Travel, #2)|Connie Willis|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1363105428s/77773.jpg|696]'s comedy-of-manners style, but this one really made it far more entertaining.

The dreadful denoument, the building terror of the protaganists as they slowly come to terms with just how terrible their situation is, is handled superbly.
Reviewed: 2016-11-25
Terrific book! Like most of Willis's books, I have some trouble following what's going on, but it's very compelling and I've spent way too much time reading when I should be doing other things!
Reviewed: 2015-04-07
2010 March 14

It was everything I could do not to start this so far ahead of its proper turn in the stack. Just saying.

***

My, what a big book. But such an enormous pleasure. Much of the time, after turning the last page on a 500 page book, and discovering a note saying: hey, you'll have to read the next book to find out what happens, I'd be slightly vexed. Here, the only disappointment is that I'll have to wait six months.

Willis uses the device of time-travel so effectively, she's made it her own. It enables her to address modern sensibilities and issues, as well as to enter into the mindset of a given period. In fact, time travel exists in order to permit her characters to really understand a time, and the people who lived through it, as fully human. The historians start out with some information, but with a great deal of distance. She won't let them leave until they really become an active part of the time they're visiting.

In this book she sends historians back to Britain in WWII. One guy is a jerk, the other isn't, the gals are pretty nearly indistinguishable. But trapped in their assignments they become Britons fighting the war, and they become distinct individuals as well.

I've said before that Willis is the master of writing bureaucratic muddle. She can turn it to comic effect, as in [b:To Say Nothing of the Dog|6357894|To Say Nothing of the Dog|Connie Willis|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1294212780s/6357894.jpg|696], or she can use it to heighten the drama and add poignancy, as in [b:Passage|7402459|Passage|Connie Willis|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1276540417s/7402459.jpg|25745]. Here, she does both. And the net effect is to take the accounts of survivors and pull them together into an engrossing and coherent narrative. Blackout, together with All Clear, is going to be one of the most memorable novels of WWII that I've ever read.
Mostly enjoyed this. I was almost finished, however, when I found out that it was the first of two books and that it ends with a cliffhanger. I would have waited until the 2nd one was out to read it, if I had know this before I started.
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