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Publisher's Summary

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.

Critic Reviews

  • Nebula Award, Best Novel, 2010
  • Hugo Award, Best Novel, 2011
  • Best SF and Fantasy Books of 2010: Readers' Choice (SF Site)

“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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.9 out of 5.0
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Story

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Book Three Drops The Ball

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.

30 of 41 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Blackout Vol1

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.

27 of 37 people found this review helpful

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  • john
  • Edmonton, AB, Canada
  • 03-13-13

Needs an Editor

What disappointed you about Blackout?

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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Linda
  • SIMI VALLEY, CA, United States
  • 03-14-10

Wait for Part 2

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".

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Heather
  • northfield, MN, USA
  • 02-04-10

This is everything I'd hoped for.

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.

18 of 25 people found this review helpful

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Quirky and Fun

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Connie Willis is one of the most literate scifi writers, and she doesn't disappoint. There actually isn't a lot of "sci" in this, other than the time travel that allows the present to mingle with the past.

What did you like best about this story?

The portrayal of the Blitz and life in London.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • motown
  • Bangor, Maine
  • 08-30-10

Great Book, but cliffhanger

I have listened to other Connie Willis books and LOVED them (Bellweather, To Say Nothing of the Dog) so I thought I would listen to this one too. It is a fantastic book and I can't wait for All Clear to be published so that I can listen to the end of the book. It should be out October 2010. I thought the narrator was really good. The history of the Blitz is fantastic. The characters (particularly Mike) do go on a bit about "changing history" but that is really my only complaint. I think that it will get better reviews after All Clear comes out and one is able to listen to the entire story without waiting for a year.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Michael
  • West Covina, CA, USA
  • 03-12-10

enjoyable

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.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Oh dear, an enthusiast's book about 'The British'

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.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Darian
  • Oak Park, CA, United States
  • 06-18-12

Don't waste your time...

What did you like best about Blackout? What did you like least?

The narrator was the best part, followed by it being an interesting premise. However, it went on and on wtih nothing happening. Plus it was extraordinarily repeptitive.

What could Connie Willis have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Get to the point. This story did not need to be 18 hours long...let alone carried over to another book; whcih, I may add, I will not be downloading!

Was Blackout worth the listening time?

Absolutely not.

Any additional comments?

The book was awful. Long, boring, and never comes to any climax. Interminable is the best description I have.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Mrs. K. I. Richards
  • 03-01-14

second world war.

I love time travel books. having listened to to say nothing of the dog etc, and doomsday book I was looking forward to blackout.
I did think the author spent too much time in oxford 2060, which didn't add much to the story, once past that point I thought it was a good book as she concentrated on the people sent back to 1940/44.
the main characters, Eileen (morpe), polly and mike were well written as they carried out their assignments, maid dealing with evacuees, assistant in a store and reporter covering Dunkirk.
there were mistakes in the pronunciation of words and one chapter heading but it is fiction after all.

  • Overall
  • W. Mettler
  • 12-24-12

Slight disappointment

The quality of narration is very good. Unfortunatelly the content does not live up to the quality of the form. I have listened to a third of the book and now feel that I am probably done with it.

  • Overall
  • Kevin
  • 10-04-12

Takes a long time to go nowhere

A worthy intent does not necessarily a good work make & here's a perfect example. Takes an interesting premise & then drags it out with repeated situations, dialogue & later an obsessive focus on the attempts to get home via the retrieval team ( if a two words could be worn out in a book this one does it!). I do want to know what happens in the end but I really don't think I can take another 23 hours for part 2. I'm off to look for a summary of All Clear & find something worth my time.

  • Overall
  • E Morris
  • 06-05-11

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.

  • Overall
  • Philip
  • 12-07-10

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.

  • Overall
  • Robert
  • 03-18-10

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.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mark
  • 03-14-10

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.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Rob
  • 04-14-10

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.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful