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 strongly agree with other reviewers who've pointed out that there is no ending. This isn't so much a book as it is Volume 1 of a book. And really even volumes tend to end with more resolution than this does.
Aside from the lack of ending, there was another irritation. Most of the text was a play on that universal dream of having to get somewhere or accomplish something but meeting constant obstacles. I swear that about a quarter of the book was a woman trying to find a black skirt to replace her blue one. And just how many times did the author mention "getting to the drop"? It made one feel as though the author may have just been learning the copy/paste function and was anxious to practice.
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.
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.
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.
I quit listening after an hour or so. The story reputedly revolves around time-traveling historians going back to study key events during WWII. Maybe it gets there. But the bulk of the story in the beginning is about the historians' scheduling troubles and petty frustrations with drop dates and locations. The story never really starts and there are several useless and inane concepts, like historical events that cannot be entered because they are too critical, or downloading languages or Shakespeare in their entirety. Frivolous.
Well researched period piece, but I have to say the book went nowhere. Every review mentions the abrupt end, and even though I was prepared I had to say "Huh?" when the book ended. I don't have the interest or patience to endure the second book. Both books should be edited down to a combined 4-5 hour story. This story is so repetitious about "the drop" and a complete lack of tension or insight of what really may be happening back at the home office, that I feel I wasted my time with this one. I did finish the book out of stubbornness, but I will not bother to get the sequel. I have a couple of hundred of Audible books, I love Audible, and this is one of only two books I'm sorry I purchased. (No fault of Audible).
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.
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. . .
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.
I've been waiting for this book for years, and it doesn't disappoint. The story and style are familiar, like an old friend coming to visit after a long time apart. a warning for people who don't know this though-it ends in the middle of the story-the last half will be published in the fall. But then we have that to look forward to.
"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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