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.
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 17-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 everyones 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.
BONUS AUDIO: In an exclusive introduction, author Connie Willis discusses her fascination with WWII and the historic context of Blackout.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Blackout is the first volume of a two-part novel. To find out what happens to the time-traveling historians from Oxford, we invite you to download the concluding volume, All Clear.
©2010 Connie Willis (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
“If you're a science-fiction fan, you'll want to read this book by one of the most honored writers in the field; if you're interested in World War II, you should pick up Blackout for its you-are-there authenticity; and if you just like to read, you'll find here a novelist who can plot like Agatha Christie and whose books possess a bounce and stylishness that Preston Sturges might envy.” (The Washington Post)
I usually like the time travel theme, but this one has not been able to get me interested. Rarely do I not finish listening to a book, but this will probably be one.
Let me say from the beginning that I already knew that this was the first of a two-part story, and that I am a HUGE Connie Willis fan. I love her stuff, and this book was no exception. According to an interview that she did, she wanted to do a book that, among other things, portrayed the ordinary British people during WWII, and that is what she has done, and done well. Also, Katherine Kellgren is a great reader! Her characterizations were interesting, and distinct from each other. I am looking forward to October, and the second half of the story.
Great stuff, until I got to the end; it just sort of stops and leaves you wondering what happens next… After a quick bit of research I found out that it is part of a two book series. Had I known, I might have waited until the second book comes out so I could have listened to them one after the other. I enjoyed it and can’t wait for “All Clear” which is due late 2010.
My family is first. Secondly, I play golf with my friends and hike with a book.
Time travel is among my favorite genre. I love the idea, the design and the execution - usually. This book had no conflict. Characters were dropped 100 years into the past with no cultural challenges, no funny "fashion" mistakes, no one questioning their slightly "off" social behavior. Come on! If I were dropped into 10 years ago, people would notice. The characters just blended in with the "contemps." Unbelievable in a bad way.
The writing was so simple - 5th grade level - and I am a grown-up woman, so I turned it off. I don't read to learn about people doing household chores and waited to get back to the "drop" (home). I quit in the middle.
Connie Willis delivers another fabulous book. Part of her charm is that her books are written in a sort of Victorian style. She is the most decorated Sci/fi fantasy writer of all time. Other quality Fantasy writers like Neil Gaiman have similar styles. If you are looking for a space cowboy traditonal sci-fi novel then you will be disappointed. If you hate her style that is too bad for you. However, the Nebula and Hugo award panel disagree. This one may not win best novel of the year but it is worth listening to or actually reading.
It is engrossing. Only bad thing about it is that I have to wait until Fall fot the next half.
Being told up front this was just the first book in a two book series. The characters in the book just seem to whine about their problems. It seems that is what the whole book about. There is an interesting concept with time travel, but these characters just don't seem to get it at all. Throught the story they just wander around, whining about their problems, and wishing for someone to come help them. Not a good story, and through in some really bad characters and you don't have a good book.
OK, so I didn't read the publishers summary and didn't realize that it was the first part of a two part novel. I had to replay the last chapter to make sure I hadn't skipped some major part of the story. Having said that, I had read that the book wasn't really about time travel so much as the characters of war ravaged England and how their daily lives were so dramatically affected by the war. Some of the situations and characters were repetitious, but I still look forward to hearing the second part.
I don't like having to wait so long for the release of the second part. I hope I remember the plot and characters eight months later.
Time travel is always such a great premise for a novel that its hard to imagine you could ruin it, but Connie Willis does. Sadly this book is more of an attempt to prove that the author is a historian than a fiction writer. Too many hours of my life that I will never get back listening to people dither about wearing white blouses and dark skirts. never again for Connie Willis.
I love Connie Willis, so I knew that I was going to read her book. I should have read the other reviews first, so I would be prepared for the fact that the book ends abruptly. Apparently part 2 comes out in November, and I would have liked to read it all the way through. I agree that the book is less about time travel than about how Brits made it through WWII, but I was fascinated with the storyline. The stories of various characters interweave with each other, so be prepared for abrupt shifts. I actually found this juxtaposition interesting. I would have given it 5 stars, but for the abrupt "non ending".
I'm well into the listen and am entranced. I know it's a two-parter and that it contains many of the themes and characters of Willis' previous novels--and that's fine for me. The breadth of characters and points of view are complex, but manageable in the listen with the different accents of the narrator. Looking forward to savoring the remainder. It keeps me going at the gym. . .
"Lovely story, shame about the pronunciation errors"
I really enjoyed the whole story, but suggest that you obtain 'All Clear' by the author at the same time. As others have written, occasionally the pronunciation leaves a lot to be desired but this can be traded off against the hours of listening pleasure given by the plot of the story. I found the travelling back and forth between WWII and Oxford 2060 surprisingly easy to follow, but occasionally jumps in the story made me wish I had a paper copy of the book to remind myself of links.
If you are a serious historian you will find some portrayals irritating. But for the rest of us, well worth the download.
"Slow Fade to Black"
The idea of this book has great potential, but the author fails to achieve it. The plot is developed at an incredibly slow pace, with lots of repetition and with much confusion over the dates involved, which is totally unacceptable in a multi-group time-jaunting story. It is claimed to be highly accurate in its research, but this is not deserved, as there is a crudely misunderstood depiction of most of the British characters, which seems to have been drawn more from films of the late 1940s and early 1950s than from any serious historical research. There are also numerous technical errors: V1s were not rockets; we have a Major in the FANYs when there was no such rank in that organisation; and Eisenhower's D-Day HQ was in Southwick, not Portsmouth; to mention only a few. Many of the other research 'plums' are more-accurate, but they seem to have been included gratuitously, having been found. Most of the characters are two-dimensional, wooden or over-the-top, caricatures. The reader adopts a 'Nanny reading to children' tone, and she mispronounces numerous words: we have 'Pahhsengers' and a 'Dimeler' car. The members of the 'F-A-N-Y' are referred to in casual conversations in that spaced-out initials form, rather than as 'Fannies', which is how they were inevitably known in non-formal situations. Conversely we have references to 'Arps', who were actually referred to as being 'A-R-P.' personnel at the time. There are supposed English characters using Americanisms, such as 'aloominum' in place of 'aluminium', and 'snagged' in place of 'obtained', and railway 'cars' instead of 'carriages'. It seems unlikely that this story will be enjoyed by anyone with any real knowledge of WWII Britain. This book is awarded one star only because it is not possible to give it no star.
"Hard work, very hard work"
Like a previous listener, I've just discovered that this is a two part story... I'm on the third part of the download and I'm really struggling to keep any sort of interest. The English narrator is trying to deal with the American language, and in some cases, the pronunciation of her own native language, and, as someone else has already commented, I've also resorted to shouting at her to speak properly, 'passenger' is not pronounced 'parsenger'!
The concept of the story is a clever one, but one which I'm beginning to doubt I will ever see the end of, let alone to the second book. The American author has done a lot of research, but getting it all down into a novel which keeps the reader interested has rather let it down. All of the research is here, every scrap of it, I can't see the wood for the trees.
I never go for abridged versions of books, but in this case, if it's ever recorded, take my advice and go for that.
I found the initial premise very interesting and the threads that follow the time travellers through World War 2 in England are well written and absorbing. But how I wish that I had noticed the bit about this being part 1 of a 2 part novel, for the ending was very disappointing. Unlike other two or three part novels, there is no cliffhanger nor any sense of even partial completion. The ending simply leaves the story in limbo, to the extent that when the Audible music came at the end I was left only with a sense of confusion and concern that the recording had somehow gone wrong! A terrible disappointment after 18 hours of listening that meant what would have been a 4 start review ends up as just 2 stars and a recommendation to avoid - unless you are committed to both parts and prepared to wait until October 2010.
"Don't waste your time"
I found it very hard to get past the American grammar (for characters in wartime England). There were some poorly researched parts. I found myself shouting at the player when one of the characters "peeled the lid" off a "carton" of tea. At half the length, it might have made an enjoyable listen, but even the 18 hours available was insufficient for the author to explain any of the concepts of time travel although the major plot line relies on them.
The ending left me completely frustrated. It's as if the author lost interest, which might be understandable.
"Doesn't live up to the promise"
As others have noted, this is a nice idea for a story, but I found the execution to be poor. The characters are one dimensional and seem to act and speak improbably. This becomes more and more annoying over time. The story drags on and doesn't really seem to go anywhere. I was unable to finish the book, so I don't know whether any of the threads were resolved and I don't really care.
Some of the accents and pronunciations are bizarre and grate very quickly. As another reviewer has noted, "parsanger" is one of the worst offenders. This sounds like a minor quibble, but I found it surprisingly aggravating. It's a nice concept and it's a shame the book and its reading do not live up to it.
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