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Blackout Paperback – September 14, 2010

3.3 out of 5 stars 437 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the All Clear Series

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Editorial Reviews

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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Product Details

  • 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 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (437 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Here are a few things worth knowing about Blackout (and the second half, All Clear) before reading:

1. Blackout and All Clear are one book, split in two. Buy both, read Blackout first, and then immediately start in on All Clear.

2. It helps to be familiar with Connie Willis's style and especially her time travel theory before jumping into this 1000 page book. Start with The Doomsday Book and then read To Say Nothing of the Dog.

3. Don't think too hard about the time travel theory. Like every time travel theory, it falls apart under scrutiny. But her theory is quite entertaining and plausible on the surface.

4. In spite of the first chapter of Blackout and the cover flap, this is not a book about Colin Templar. He's in maybe 10% of the book, tops. You'll like the other characters, but not if you're mad that Colin disappears for 800 pages after chapter two.

5. If you're familiar with Connie Willis, you know you just have to roll with the craziness (for a long time with this book, alas) until it gels. This doesn't happen, honestly, until about 250 pages into Blackout. You start with one main character, then jump to another time/place with another main character, then another, and then back to the first, and then to a seemingly-random side story, and then back to the second character, and so on. It's frustrating for a while but it works out and you'll figure out what's going on.

6. The details of this book are the point. You'll learn more than you ever wanted to know about the Blitz. Is it fill? Other than a few (interminable) scenes involving theater rehearsals, it's all pretty interesting.

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Format: Hardcover
I should preface this by saying that I am a lifelong fan of time-travel stories. I *loved* THE DOOMSDAY BOOK, and so I was really predisposed to like this one, too.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book reminds me of that wonderful joke from Leo Rosten's "The Joys of Yiddish" with which Rosten explained the meaning of "chaloshes" ("something disgusting") -- "The food was a chaloshes - and such small portions!"

I don't know how this book would appear to someone who has never read Connie Willis before. But to someone who has read all of Willis' solo writing, both novels and short stories, and some of her partnered books, it just appears tired. Willis covered the Blitz so movingly in her short stories "Fire Watch" and "Jack," and is capable of creating books that can make you cry ("Doomsday Book") or laugh ("To Say of the Dog" and "Bellwether"), but here manages to be neither moving nor amusing. There is such a host of characters at the beginning, that it's hard to keep them straight. Eventually, we figure out that we are getting the viewpoints of three main characters, historians Polly, Elaine and Mike, all time traveling to WWII England for first person experiences: Polly as a shop clerk in London during the Blitz, Elaine as a maid in the N. of England to observe child evacuees from London, and Mike to Dover to observe ships returning from the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk. But the characters are poorly drawn, and we never get a feel for them. They are just people who know what's going to happen next, and worry incessantly about whether what they've done has changed history. It's hard to illustrate how tiresome this gets without writing spoilers -- suffice it to say that manic thoughts about "but if they'd done X, then that means that they would have missed Y, and then Z couldn't have happened..." etc. etc. from all three characters gets first boring, then downright annoying.
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