- Paperback: 491 pages
- Publisher: Spectra; Reprint edition (September 14, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780345519832
- ISBN-13: 978-0345519832
- ASIN: 0345519833
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (445 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Blackout Paperback – September 14, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
With her trademark understated, eloquent style, Willis expands the conceit of her Hugo and Nebula winning 1982 story Fire Watch into a page-turning thriller, her first novel since 2001's Passage. Three young historians travel from 2060 to early 1940s Britain for firsthand research. As Eileen handles a measles outbreak during the children's evacuation and Polly struggles to work as a London shopgirl, hints of trouble with the time-travel equipment barely register on their radar. Historians aren't supposed to be able to change the course of history, but Mike's actions at Dunkirk may disrupt both the past and the future. Willis uses detail and period language exquisitely well, creating an engaging, exciting tale that cuts off abruptly on the last page. Readers allergic to cliffhangers may want to wait until the second volume comes out in November 2010. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Reviewers were delighted to see any new book by Connie Willis, but particularly one that returns to the time-travel premise she explored so deftly in classics such as Doomsday Book. Most critics felt that she expanded further on that premise here, balancing more interesting characters with a wealth of historical detail while also complicating the assumptions of the universe she creates. A few critics felt a little overwhelmed by the amount of information on World War II-era London yielded by the characters' (and Willis's) research. But the more common frustration was the way in which Willis split the story into two volumes: the next part, All Clear, will not be out until fall 2010. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
However....BLACKOUT left me feeling underwhelmed. It is, as others have said, only the first half of the story, and I'm not sure I'm going to bother with the second part when it comes out later this year.
The opening pages set the tone for the whole book. Characters rushing around from one place to another, pages and pages of very tedious explanations of how person A just missed encountering person B, and maybe B's gone off to X, so person A goes chasing after them, only to discover they're actually at Y instead, but "Better hurry because the [wherever they're going] is about to close!" ....which sends A racing off again, in a fruitless and futile search for whoever it is he's trying to find. This sort of situation occurs over and over and over again throughout this book. It got very tiresome after a while.
The sections set in the year 2060 suffer from the same curiously low-tech communications system that was evident in DOOMSDAY BOOK. No cell phones, no answering machines, no Internet, no email. And this is supposed to be 50 years in *our* future? I didn't find it believable.
I liked many of the parts set in WWII-era England. The descriptions of what life was like during the Blitz, what the shelters were like, how people were warned that even lighting a match for a cigarette at night could be enough to draw an enemy bomber....I found all of that very interesting. Ditto the children being evacuated (I didn't know they had housed evacuee children in manor houses, for example). And the Dunkirk storyline was quite interesting, too.
I thought the time-travelers seemed to be far too dependent on their historical research, instead of using common sense. At one point, a character realizes that she needs to learn to drive. So instead of potentially embarrassing herself by not knowing how to open a 1940's car door (!), she goes back to the time portal (the "drop") and returns to the future to get instruction on how to drive a car. What's wrong with simply watching carefully and copying what other people from that time period are doing??
Several of these time-travelers seemed to lack common sense, being much more concerned with trivialities than with observing the people around them (which was, I thought, the point of the time-traveling in the first place). They seem unable to think quickly or cope with the unexpected...hardly desirable qualities in potential time-travelers! (Kivrin, the time-traveler from THE DOOMSDAY BOOK, seems by contrast both far more intelligent and far better prepared to cope with changing circumstances than any of the time-travelers in this book.)
And in the last part of the book, the incessant refrain, "But this was TIME TRAVEL!" became really annoying after a while. The idea was that their rescuers had (literally) "all the time in the world" to find a way to get to the time-travelers stuck in 1940, so why hadn't they come? I couldn't help asking a different question: If the time-travelers had all the time in the world to plan and prepare for their various journeys into the past, why were they in such an ungodly hurry in the beginning of the book, rushed into assignments without sufficient preparation, etc? It didn't make any sense to me, except as a way to set up the plot.
All in all, I have to say I was disappointed with this book. I really wanted to like it, but in the end, the negatives outweighed the positives. The book ended with a cliffhanger, but not one that's powerful or interesting enough to make me eager to read part 2 of the story.
On top of this, the three main characters are irritating at best. The constant internal dialoque is almost always filled with "what if they can't find me, what if they aren't looking for me, what if I changed history, what if there's no one left to come looking for me, what if I have to go to the bathroom and that's when they'll show up to rescue me and they'll leave?" And it goes on forever. Add to this the fact that the book introduces characters and situations early and then never mentions them again ends abruptly with nothing at all being resolved, and you find out there's yet another 500 page book you have to buy to continue the story even though there was no indication on the cover that that would be the case, you start to feel you may have been duped.
I bought the second book, All Clear, after reading 150 pages of the first, when I was still enthusiastic about the whole thing. I scanned it a bit today and saw that nothing much changed, and it was still mostly internal whining. I wondered momentarily if the loose ends were compelling enough that I might actually read the second book.
They weren't. I won't.
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