This is not a novel. It is half of a novel that should have been condensed down to about 5 chapters. It takes until the end of the book for any genuine suspense to build and then the book suddenly ends.
It honestly felt like someone's college history research paper turned into a novel. It seems really well researched, but very little of the historical detail adds anything to the story.
The premise, of time traveling historians visiting WWII England, is good. The author provides more than enough interesting detail about life during WWII, and too much intrusive time travel tropes that are not needed to carry the story. In fact it is hard to find a story or to follow it. Which is unfortunate given the great material the writer had to work with.
Need I say more? How about Repetitious Aggravating Maddening Extremely Boring Moaning. She repeats almost verbatim the same whining conversations and idiotic choices made by the characters over and over and over and over and over and over... Yet I did listen all the way through (mostly). And still want to know what happened in All Clear. I just do not know if I can make myself listen to an even longer book which according to other reviewers is more of the same. Spoiler anyone? The narrator by the way is excellent. 5 Stars to Katherine Kellgren. And to Connie Willis, "Girl, you need a better editor or perhaps need to listen to the one you have." I am not an editor but I have read and listened to a huge number of books in my life and really Connie this one is just not OK. Good story but execution poor.
I know that by writing this I am a shame to English majors everywhere, but I couldn't stand this novel. I listened to seven hours before I finally flung my headphones across the room and screamed, "What in the world is going on? What is this book even about?"
So, if you are already a Connie Willis fan, jump in. You'll find more of the same. If you were on the fence with other Willis novels, this one is not going to please you. Her prose is fantastic, but, like always, her plots are mysterious and/or nonexistent.
The book has a good concept but gets very tired - almost annoying. It would seem that every system fails and each time traveller (historian) is a fool and when things go wrong these "trained" historians act irrationally and foolish. It begins to gets hard to believe that the technology for time travel is available but simple systems to survive in the past are not part of the training.
Willy Wonka of it
I'll start by saying I've never read or listened to any of Connie's books. Her intro (which I believe she read) actually started to turn me off to the book. The voice was annoying (to me) and the way she was describing her own book sounded pretty boring. I ended up listening to another title and then coming back to this one. Glad I did.
The concept here isn't original (time travel), but it's presented in a unique way. I appreciated that the intricacies of the laws and workings of time travel in this world weren't just spouted out, but divulged in conversation or thoughts from the characters over time. The book also presents a mystery that is the most intriguing part in my opinion. You're constantly wondering "why is this happening", while the characters struggle with the situations they're in.
Seeing the characters experience the war during the Blitz was actually pretty interesting... but it got to be a bit much. There's so much tedious exposition here with predictable scenarios (i.e. one person goes to look for someone somewhere while they're doing the same and they just miss each other) that get drawn out to the point of being annoyingly trite.
The ending (as others have stated) was also pretty abrupt. You're in the story, then BAM, a guy's voice tells you to buy the second book for the rest. Felt a bit cheap, especially considering how much time was wasted on very slow and tedious points of the tale. Cut much of that out and surely the story would have made it into one book?
I wanted to love this as much as TSNOTD. I stuck with it to the middle of the 3rd download, then put it aside in exasperation (the 2nd time I've done that in over 10 years & a couple hundred Audible downloads). I know it's the fault of my excess expectations- I have rarely enjoyed a character as much as Cyril. Nothing in this sequel grabbed me. Some interesting historical bits, but the repetetive tedious mistakes & unending premature incorrect assumptions of the inept & obviously ill-trained "historians" left me wishing they were wiped out by a bomb. That's when I knew it was time to quit.
This book just drones on with senseless boring dialog. I listen to a lot of books and this is the first time I may not even listen to the entire book. 6-7 hours in and nothing of any redeeming value has come out.
As others have said, the narrator (Kellgren) is wonderful -- able to voice a number of different characters (both women and men) that almost makes them interesting. Unfortunately, the characters are one dimensional with little or no passion for their vocation (time-traveling historians) and no apparent interest in the people ("contemps") they are supposedly there to to learn about. Instead, we hear over and over again "when will the retrieval team get there?" and variations of the butterfly effect. At least Kellgren is able to evoke some hand-wringing in their constant refrain.
Perhaps what was most disappointing was the lack of insight the author gave into the lives and feelings of Londoner's during the Blitz. Any daily goings on or feelings these people had is only a background to the constant refrain, "when will the retrieval team .....". The book was tedious enough that I seriously considered tossing it into the did not finish bin (which is empty to date). Will not be downloading the 2nd part of the book.
If fiction writers have one mantra, it's this: Show, don't tell. Somehow, nobody seems to have shared this with Connie Willis. And as a result, Blackout is full of wooden exposition of character thoughts, motivation, and action. Worst of all, the book is absolutely riddled with jarring two word sentences: "It wasn't." "She didn't." "He was." that kill any inference or subtlety in this book.
It's sad that our standards for science fiction are lower than they are for literary fiction, but if this was one of the best sci-fi/fantasy novels of 2010, that's a sad statement. I really kept hoping Blackout would get better as the story evolved, but as Connie herself would say: It didn't.