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)
It was Sunday morning, and I was standing over my cup of coffee in the kitchen, tears streaming down my cheeks, hoping none of my family would walk in just then. But this is time travel. What came first was 42 hours of audiobook, sometimes tedious, sometimes gripping. Even though the author could have edited out some of the characters' more repetitive thought-loops, I still give this book a wall of stars. If I could give the narrator 10 out of 5 stars I would - her performance was phenomenal.
I read other reviews on Audible before I bought these books. A number of people complained that Blackout didn't stand on its own as a book because of the abrupt ending. They felt that the author had just taken one book and chopped it in two. It is true that the two books must be read as a whole, but honestly, if the two books had been published as one it would have been too heavy to read comfortably! In audio format, I have absolutely no problem using two credits for this 42 1/2 hour read.
I loved these books, would read them again, and highly recommend them. As an added bonus, for anyone wasn't there, this book will give you a real appreciation for how difficult life was during WW2 and how easy we have it today.
System and software engineer from the UK now living and working in Silicon Valley.
Let's get the reader out of the way first. She is an award winning New Yorker who has awards for being a top class reader. If she was reading something else then probably I'd agree, but her supposed English accent is littered with words that just aren't right. This is an English accent the way Americans think English people speak. She has been there often enough, she should know some of her problems. As a fifty something English car enthusiast, and having lived half my adult life in Bedfordshire, I have never met anyone who pronounced Daimler as "diemlar", in my lifetime I have only ever heard "daymler". In some ways it would work better if the accent was just ignored and read in American, as it is the inaccuracies are irritating. Being an immigrant to the US now I can tell you that the headline accent differences are not the things that mark you as foreigner, and this gets the unusual things wrong. But narrating a badly written book opens her up to more negative scrutiny than she probably deserves.
It is funny that a book about time travel has so many time problems. A woman takes a child to the railway station to be early for the afternoon train, so it is early afternoon and light. A few minutes later she is talking to some other kids and the delayed morning train turns up. She sticks the first kid on the train (Which is populated with sexually aggressive and suggestive Americans with English accents and uniforms. A British soldier of that era would not behave that way, and especially not in those words). The kid gets on the train and suddenly it is dark and they are late home. What? When did that happen? I know the author and reader have been to Britain, it isn't the tropics, dusk and dawn above 50 degrees north do not happen fast.
The characters are endlessly banging on with an internal dialogue of "what if" this that or the other goes wrong. It never settles down to getting on with the story. What was the point of this book anyway? Oh, it never gets to one. Just endlessly bangs on in this "stranger in a strange land" way. One of the characters gets stuck with an American accent, but it also seems to turn him American. He can't do anything right and suddenly has no understanding of Britain and British culture. Why would someone spend an entire day trying to get a lift somewhere he could have walked in a few hours?
Why would a letter from one part of Britain to another have a 2 CENT stamp on it? The Royal Mail has never used cents. In 1939 first class mail was 1 1/2 pence and second class was 1 penny. So there wouldn't be a 2 anything on a letter.
A naval gentleman makes one of the characters a cup of coffee and then starts making dinner. Initially he lights a fire under a kettle and that turns in to a Primus stove. Moments later he decides to feed the character a stew of bully beef and potatoes. A few words of dialogue and the coffee is cold and the beef has become sardines? An open can of sardines was mentioned, but that's not what our officer was said to have dumped in the pan. Unless we are peeling through alternate universes this is just badly edited. This seriously needs an appointment with the editor, to remove endless streams of pointless nothingness while the story isn't progressing in any way. It is apparent what is going on in the story early on, but the characters and the delivery are soooo slooowww that it takes hundreds of pages before realization and revelation even begins to dawn.
This reads like American Harry Potter fan fic. Full of incongruities and essentially unedited and delivered in a fake English accent by someone who can almost carry it off. Which results in a jarring sense of wrong.
I really really don't need to waste the money to find out how this ends.
I have just finished listening to 'All Clear'.... and am still buzzing hours later... I loved every moment of it.
Blackout as other reviewers have said is 'part one' and doesn't come to any resolution. Think of when 'The Fellowship of the Ring' ends and you know you have two more books of the Lord of the Rings to go. The first book doesn't resolve anything, just sets up lots of characters and plots....which is what Connie Willis does here. The first few reviewers who's disappointment I have read here must have had no idea a second book was weeks/days away from being available. I couldn't wait for 'All Clear' to be available. 'Blackout' would be disappointing without 'All Clear', so plan on getting both, you won't be disappointed.
The narration is just fantastic, The characters are just as detailed and believable as her previous books. The writing is Connie Willis at her best. Blackout is embedded with subplots that the reader is allowed to enjoy alone, but offer no idea what the heck they are about until the last half of 'All Clear'. For this this just makes it all the more enjoyable.
Get 'Blackout' AND 'All Clear' and encourage Connie Willis to write more books....
I was looking forward to this third book in the time travel series--the first two books were really engaging and well done. This book seems poorly planned and not thought out. The narration, accents and voices just sound off--enough to throw everything out of balance. Really on the whole this was a terrible experience for both writing and narration. Sorry that I wasted a credit on this as it's too late to request a return. Ugh.
Its a splendid idea for a story. However, the execution is repetitious and long-winded.
Shorten it by a hundred pages or so.
Kellgren does a wonderful job. Ms. Willis could have quickened the pace by omitting the unnecessary dialogue and description. For example, the characters fret and speculate over their fate, or the reason for their situation far too much. It becomes repetitious and boring.
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.
This book is the first of two volumes (Blackout and All Clear). I made the mistake of downloading both before listening to the first. I soldiered through both and was deeply disapointed. Here is my review for All Clear, everything I said there applies here:This book seems like it was written for an adolescent or teenage audience - but regretfully does not deliver the goods - even for that audience.It is repetitive, boring and slow. The protagonists bumble around in the dark repeating errors and themes in a seemingly endless cycle. The characters never develop, showing neither common sense nor worldliness even though they are supposedly experienced time - travelling historians.There were no reasons (other than chasing dollars) to make this a two volume novel (Blackout and All Clear). In fact the obvious attempt to stretch this tale out into two books is what makes it so bad.the ingredients are there for a good story. It could have been a wonderful novel delivered in about 250 pages. Too bad.
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.
The fictional (although based in fact) historical stories about what life in WW2 might have been like were great. I don't need my history to be completely about facts and dates of great men doing great things. The little things can be just as interesting. Not so great was the time travel component. The time travelers give a good perspective for those of us not living through a war, but the contrivances of plot were unnecessary at best and distractingly bad at worst. I don't need my scifi to be "hard" to enjoy it, but I feel like the Historians really don't live up to that title. It seems to me that they are a narrative convenience rather than something something necessary to telling some great stories about WW2.
The concept of the entire series is very good, and the historic element is excellent. However, there is way, way too much repetition of individual character's thoughts and worries.
Also, the details of travelling via trains and underground, schedules and stopped trips are excessive.
Reading and changing voices for different people is very good
I am listening to these as audio books so I can not skip these tedious parts. Had I been reading, I would have skipped through at least half the text.
"First of a great pair of books"
I have read other reviews of this book and have to agree that one or two words are pronounced wrongly, and they do jump out at you when listening. Two examples that spring to mind are 'Daimler' cars which are wrongly pronounced as 'Dimeler', and worst of all 'passage' which for some reason is pronounced as 'parsage'! Apart from those minor problems, the narrator is excellent throughout, helping to make the story both fascinating and involving for the listener.
The author has researched well, and it is easy to feel involved in the London Blitz. I recently saw some archive photographs of Londoners living through the Blitz and they reminded me of this book - surely a good sign.
I have not finished the follow-up book yet, but I'm getting near the end and will be disappointed when it is finished. You must listen to this book first, and then you will have to listen to 'All Clear' to find out what has happened to all the characters as nothing is resolved by the end of this book.
I recently listened to 'Dune', which was supposed to be a classic of science fiction. I found it to be very hard going, despite the high quality of the audio production. 'Blackout' has come as a refreshing relief with its easy to follow, interesting story. I am rather biased though, as I am a big fan of time travel fiction.
I thoroughly recommend this audio book, even if you are not a science fiction fan.
"Love this author"
I found this very evocative, as a child I walked past the City bomb sites to school. My mother had a fear of shelters and refused to go to one when she was waiting for my dad in trafalger square once. Dad said he was terrified but mum was cool as a cucumber.
Unlike some others I love this book and the sequel. I confess that I waited for the sequel before reading it.
I got to really like the characters and I wanted to know what happened to them. And I wished I had read some Agatha Christie's because I might of figured out what happened before the end.
There is a caveat though. If like me you know London well not to mention the geography of England and Wales you might find yourself noticing mistakes. And some Americanism's slip in despite a valiant attemp to keep them out.
All in all a very interesting take on the time travel idea and a very worthwhile read.
"Promising but sometimes verbose descriptives"
A great idea, time travel to WW 2. The narrator managed period accents rather well, except for strange pronunciation of "passage" and "Daimler". The vocal characterisation of the children from the East End of London was excellent. I am tempted to say that some of the storyline threads seemed to fizzle out, however if there is to be a sequel no doubt this would be rectified. The descriptions and feelings of the characters enduring bombing raids was persuasive and dramatic. The ending was obscure and the reader is left to ponder a multitude of possible temporal outcomes
"wow total rubbish"
a wonderful premise for a book so what happened, i will tell you absolutely nothing utterly boring and uneventful until the last five mins when you discover you have to buy the second book to find out if you must read these books i would skip the first one completely
"Irritatingly bad book!"
Badly researched, badly written, badly narrated. This book is full of anachronisms and americanisms. Clumsy and pedestrian, cliche ridden...almost a parody of the era...made even worse by the inept narration. All in all...embarrassingly bad.
If you like WWII stories, this is a wonderful book - it does a fantastic job of really invoking what it was like to be living in london during the air raids. Even small details are wonderfully brought to life, and the characters are fantastic. You get totally sucked into it! I'd read other Connie Willis stories and I liked her writing style, but if this is your first book by her, the style might take a little bit of adjustment.
but be warned that it ends on a cliffhanger! You'll want to read All Clear next, it's the second half.
This is a good story despite some Americanisms, such a 2 cent stamp on a letter, but completely let down by the narration; some of her accents were good but some very odd pronounciations - check out 'passage' and 'daimler'. On balance I think I would have preferred to read this rather than listen to it.
This is my second Connie Willis audiobook-it was brilliantly read with an authentic voice depicting the era that the book is set in. A long, well-paced satisfying listen that is very evocative of Britain in the 1940's, especially the parts set in London during the Blitz. There are several different narratives running alongside each other, anyone familiar with Connie Willis' time travel books will know many of the characters and find it easy to follow. I loved it! Am now starting on the follow up 'All clear'.
"Under researched, poorly narrated, incomplete"
Basically an interesting story BUT: As other reviewers have said, the pronunciation of some words like passage - parseage, daimler - dimeler, A.R.P - arp, is very irritating. Some basic errors of idiom and history. You cannot make a phone call from a pillar box! The Victoria line wasn't built until after the war. To crown it all, the story isn't complete and I'll have to buy the second book to find out what happens. I wish I hadn't bothered but I want to know how it all ends.
"One to miss"
This book, documenting british experience during the second world war, could only have been written by an American. Pejorative, condescending, romanticised and quaint. The sections set in 2060 are almost unlistenable as descriptions of modern people. The narration captures the dire nature of the book completely and compliments it with it's own air of patronising tweeness.
Not for fans of history, literature or dignity.
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