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Blackout [Hardcover]

Connie Willis
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 2 2010 Hugo Award Winner - Best Novel
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. In the hands of this acclaimed storyteller, the past and future collide—and the result is at once intriguing, elusive, and frightening.

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 seventeen-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 everyone’s 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.

From the people sheltering in the tube stations of London to the retired sailors who set off across the Channel to rescue the stranded British Army from Dunkirk, from shopgirls to ambulance drivers, from spies to hospital nurses to Shakespearean actors, Blackout reveals a side of World War II seldom seen before: a dangerous, desperate world in which there are no civilians and in which everybody—from the Queen down to the lowliest barmaid—is determined to do their bit to help a beleaguered nation survive.

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“A tour de force . . . [Willis] is one of America’s finest writers.”
The Denver Post

“This compassionate and deeply imagined novel . . . gives the reader a strong you-were-there feeling.”
The Times-Picayune
“[Willis has] researched Blackout so thoroughly, her readers may imagine she had access to the time machine her characters use.”
—The Seattle Times
“A page-turning thriller . . . Willis uses detail and period language exquisitely well, creating an engaging, exciting tale.”
—Publishers Weekly

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About the Author

Connie Willis, who was recently inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, has received six Nebula Awards and ten Hugo Awards for her fiction; her previous novel, Passage, was nominated for both. Her other works include Doomsday Book, Lincoln’s Dreams, Bellwether, Impossible Things, Remake, Uncharted Territory, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Fire Watch, and Miracle and Other Christmas Stories. Connie Willis lives in Colorado with her family.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Connie Willis Brings the Blitz to Live March 12 2010
By Alison S. Coad TOP 50 REVIEWER
Connie Willis is a wonderful writer, primarily in the field of science fiction but often in a humourous vein, of which there are few good sf/f practitioners. Her most recent novel, Blackout, is not among her funny stories, however; instead, she returns to future-Oxford, the setting of her earlier novels Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, where time travel has been developed and historians are sent to different eras in order to observe what really happened. There are rules to time travel, including that historians cannot travel back to events that are considered to be "divergence" points, incidents that, if changed, will change the course of history. But when Polly, Merope (Eileen) and Michael are sent to various parts of Great Britain during WWII, in order to observe how people coped during that time, things start going wrong and they wonder if history has somehow been changed by their presence. Especially as they find that none of the "drops" from which they arrived in 1940 are working or available, and no retrieval team has come to take them out of a very dangerous situation....I'm not big on WWII stories, in fact I won't usually read novels set in that period or watch movies set then, but I put that dislike aside for the sake of Willis' writing, and I'm glad I did - this novel as is full of richly observed characters and intense dramatic scenes and, yes, a few moments that come across as keystone-kop zany, as any she's ever written. My only real quibble with it is that the story is unfinished; we must all wait unti the Fall of 2010 for All Clear, the second half, to be published in order to find out what happens to everybody. Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fast paced excitement June 23 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I borrowed this form the library a few years ago, and finished all the other books in the setting.
But re-reading this has been on my mind, so I had to own my own copy.
I wish I could live in this time! I even took my last holiday in Oxford and London just to see the sights from the book (and I'm from Canada) !
worth reading over and over
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Format:Kindle Edition
I am puzzled at how the stars rating can only be 3.1 when almost as many people voted 4 stars or above as vote 3 or below. Don't the stars have some species of weighting?

There is a problem with the book, and that is that it is really only the first 500 pages of an 1150 page story which was released in two books. Don't rate the books individually, rate them together.or apply the ratings system equally to both books. Do film critics, or even movie goers watch the first 45 minutes of the film then leave and write their review? (Actually they do, which is why some rather pretentious trash has been highly praised.) The second problem is that the story is very, very, VERY complex and requires you to keep track of a lot of characters as the action jumps back and forth and from story line to story line. If you need to, keep notes ;-)

This is a very well done book, with remarkable accuracy in the portrayal of Britain and the history of the period. I am an amateur specialist on the Blitz and British conduct of their war effort, and it all seems remarkably true to both social and historical fact. My Mum was Englsh and met my father during the war. I have been back a number of times, and even lived there for 5 years.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Return To World War II July 8 2012
By Dave_42 TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Connie Willis returns to a premise she has used a few times before in "Blackout". Historians in the mid-21st century are involved in time travel to observe events in history for research. "Blackout" was published originally on February 2nd, 2010, but it is only the first half of the story, the rest of it was published as "All Clear" on October 19th, 2010. What becomes clear while reading "Blackout", if it wasn't pretty much assumed from Willis' other works, is that the historical research was meticulous and thorough. Willis clearly drew on numerous sources to paint a picture of the "Blitz" which was extremely detailed and allowed her to write a story which puts the reader into that time and place.

Willis is, of course, an excellent writer, and like other books this one is no exception, though it has the unusual situation where it wins the 2011 Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards not for just itself, but as part of the "Blackout/All Clear" combination. The books also was a finalist for the 2011 Campbell Memorial award and finished 7th on the SF Site Poll for 2011. When one finishes "Blackout" it is immediately clear as to why the two novels are completely tied together, and that is because "Blackout" cannot stand on its own as a story. Willis takes us into the story and leaves us at the height of the unsolved mystery.

At nearly 500 pages just for "Blackout" (and near 650 for "All Clear") it is easy to understand why it was decided to split it into two volumes, though it is not impossible for a single volume to get to 1200 pages, it would certainly be more difficult for the reader to lug around.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great start Feb. 1 2010
By mabel
This is part 1 of 2 (the second part is out in October) but so far so good--I read it in two days. Connie Willis fans, and WW2 fans, won't be disappointed. Great historical detail, likable characters, and a time travel mystery is a-brewing! --> I docked one "star" because the last third of the book bogs down a bit.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Simply Horrible
If the zombie Nazis from Dead Snow were to finally invade England and put an end to this story I would absolutely cheer. This thing is interminable. Read more
Published 19 months ago by maven
1.0 out of 5 stars Buy Time Traveler's Wife First
Stay Clear of Blackout and All Clear.

I was on vacation and finished "The Sisters Brothers", a, very good read, worth every penny. Read more
Published on Aug. 31 2012 by Peabody
1.0 out of 5 stars A great concept gone to waste.
This book was a huge letdown considering the hype it received. Technical writing proficiency and meticulously researched historical accuracy were nowhere near enough to make up for... Read more
Published on Sept. 3 2011 by Sixtyliner
5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate time-travel novel
"Blackout" is the first half of a novel by Connie Willis. The story is
completed in "All Clear". You really need to read both books to understand the story. Read more
Published on April 27 2011 by Arabella
3.0 out of 5 stars not her best
I loved Willis' "The Doomsday Book", "Passage" and "To Say Nothing of the Dog" and was excited to read her latest book when this was published. Read more
Published on April 6 2011 by Jane Skinner
4.0 out of 5 stars a good read, but...
A competent story. The various strands are managed well, and the story works well. I'm a bit of a sucker for time travel, stories. Read more
Published on March 28 2011 by peter
2.0 out of 5 stars Excruciatingly Slow
The premise of time travel especially to the Second World War is intriguing. However, the pace and plot work together to provide a very slow and uninteresting result. Read more
Published on Aug. 19 2010 by Jeffrey Swystun
2.0 out of 5 stars Dreary to the point of being drab ...
I had SUCH hopes for this work, but those hopes fell flat beneath the tedium of wading through Ms. Willis' uninspired, uneventful pages. Read more
Published on July 9 2010 by David Dowbyhuz
...I am a huge fan of Connie Willis books, especially "Doomsday Book", which will always be in the top of my most memorable books I have read. Read more
Published on April 14 2010 by Carole A. Freeman
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