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Blackout [Hardcover]

Connie Willis
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Jun 2011

BLACKOUT is the opening movement of a vast, absorbing two-volume novel that may well prove to be Connie Willis' masterpiece. Like her multi-award winning THE DOOMSDAY BOOK, this stunning new work marries the intricate mechanics of time travel to the gritty - and dangerous - realities of human history.

The narrative opens in Oxford, England in 2060, where a trio of time traveling scholars prepares to depart for various corners of the Second World War. Their mission: to observe, from a safe vantage point, the day-to-day nature of life during this critical historical moment. As the action ranges from the evacuation of Dunkirk to the manor houses of rural England to the quotidian horrors of London during the Blitz, the objective nature of their roles gradually changes. Cut off from the safety net of the future and caught up in the chaotic events that make up history, they are forced to participate, in unexpected ways, in the defining events of the era.

BLACKOUT is an ingeniously constructed time travel novel and a grand entertainment. More than that, it is a moving, exquisitely detailed portrait of a world under siege, a world dominated by chaos, uncertainty, and the threat of imminent extinction. It is the rare sort of book that transcends the limits of genre, offering pleasure, insight, and illumination on virtually every page.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (1 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575099267
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575099265
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 897,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"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"

Book Description

A Second World War time-travel masterpiece.

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
...this book seriously failed to live up to its potential. The premise is interesting and there's no doubt that Connie Willis can write engagingly but that's where the good stuff ends, I'm afraid. It's awful to speak negatively about the hard work of a talented author. I blame my need to do so entirely on the fact that someone failed to sack this book's editor (and appoint a competent one) prior to publication.

I read other reader's reviews before buying this book but I found the free sample intriguing enough to override my good sense. Don't make my mistake - the other reviewers are telling the truth!

The amount of obstacles put in the way of the three historians who are trying to return to their drops is insane. It starts out believable but ends up as a bad case of 'oh, for crying out loud - not again! Have you no other plot device in your bag of authorly tricks?'. Towards the end of the book, Polly is trying to convince herself that the Oxford staff will rescue her. She uses the phrase 'this was time travel' so often that I started to think her last name might well be 'Parrot'. Lazy, lazy, lazy.

The books ends so abruptly and without any real resolution of the narrative arc that it is

Yep. Like that. Irritating in a review sentence but infuriating in a novel. This is not a two book story. It is a poorly edited single book that is made all the worse by glimpses of the great story that it could have been and it gives me absolutely no pleasure to say so.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Only half a book 23 Feb 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am a great fan of Connie Willis, and Doomsday Book has to be my favorite book of all time, so I'm sad that I'm not giving this book a five star review. There are a number of problems. Firstly it is only half a book. It ends at a sort of cliff hanger point and won't be completed until volume 2 All Clear comes out in the Autumn. This would be OK but actually not much happens in this (quite long) first half. The story really doesn't move on much. Secondly the book suffers from the kind of anachronisms and cultural errors that were also present in Doomsday Book (we all remember the mufflers!) Doomsday Book had a gripping enough story line to allow one to ignore these - this book, I'm afraid, hasn't.

Also (and I know this is not the authors fault) what on earth is going on on the cover? Why are there a squadron of American B17's on the cover of a book set in the Blitz (before America entered the war) and why are they bombing London? Also, if you read the notes at the back St. Paul's - which is regularly referred to in the text of the book - is called St. Patrick's! Oh dear.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What a HUGE disappointment! 3 Dec 2011
Loving alternate and speculative fiction and being a historian by education, I seized on this book: time travel, history, an ensemble cast, a promise of something going spectacularly wrong. Yum!

The first chapter didn't seem to get going, but it set up a number of scenarios and characters, so let's be patient, I thought. Half-way through my patience was pretty thin, but I struggled to the end.

Ms Willis has done intense, detailed research; that shows. All the time. And that's the big problem. She lists and describes things (sometimes inaccurately), but doesn't use them to drive the narrative.

Oh, yes, the narrative. Three main characters, who have little gumption and less intelligence, bumble around pointlessly. Entry requirements to Oxford colleges have obviously declined by 2060. Although a bit wet (as 1940s speech would have it) when we first meet them, I did expect the characters to change and grow as they faced and dealt with a difficult environment. But they still hadn't sharpened up or learnt anything by the end of the book.

Tension was injected in drips and drops, not racheted up to a crisis point. You knew the three would meet - that was the only plot coherence in a book that sorely needed it.

I couldn't believe the abrupt non-end. I felt angry and cheated. I regret buying this book and will not be shelling out a single penny for any other of her books.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I wanted to love this book 6 Feb 2011
I really did want to love it - Connie Willis is a talented writer with a splendid imagination. However, the book(s) is/are full of howlers - Mary is told to get stretchers from Edgware and two inches down the page refers to the bandages she has to get. Has the publisher actually got an editor?

Worse, though, are all the little details - the Underground lines which didn't exist, the use of Americans terms ( a "candy butcher" on a train from Warwickshire to London in 1940?), the sloppy use of American language (June fourth) alternating with British terms, the characters referring to "V-1" bombs - how did they know they were the first when they didn't know there would be V-2s? That's right - they didn't.

It's depressing to see reviews quoted as praising her superb accuracy, because it just isn't there. I don't really understand why she sets books in England - why must time-travellers go from Oxford in 2060 rather than, say, Harvard? She would save herself - and poor British readers - so much trouble.

I like the characters. The concept is intriguing, and I don't object to the leisurely pace. But I find myself thrown out of the story so often it's uncomfortable to read. A fanfic author would get a friend to "Brit-pick" a story in which a British setting is important. I so wish Ms Willis had done the same.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Despite a few anachronisms, a tense and atmospheric picture of Wartime...
For an American, Connie has a fine grasp of many British institutions past and present, the British sense of humour and the general British state of mind. Read more
Published 15 days ago by remodeller
5.0 out of 5 stars Blackout, Illuminating.
Read 'Blackout' on the say-so of a mate, Dougie. Couldn't put it down. Finished it at around midnight; downloaded 'All Clear' and got stuck into that within five minutes. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Tony Dillon
1.0 out of 5 stars Once more unto the breach.....
Oh dear - have to agree with the one star reviewers - half a book and not an enlightening one either, though I'm intrigued by one of the reviewers who says "All Clear" (the other... Read more
Published 5 months ago by T. Nield
2.0 out of 5 stars Making time travel seem boring is certainly an achievement...
What a terribly long and pointless novel this is. For the first three chapters, I found myself wondering if there had been a prequel which I should have read prior to Blackout in... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Lou79
2.0 out of 5 stars annoying !
This is a great concept, time travel and world war two, surely a win win scenerio ?.not quite, Connie has cetainly done her homework on the details of the Blitz and Dunkirk etc... Read more
Published 7 months ago by John Haylock
5.0 out of 5 stars They'll be reading this when we are dead
Willis sets herself a very difficult challenge, following up the lauded and loved Doomsday Book with almost 1400 pages of narrative spread over two books, she delivers one of the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by jonathan505154
3.0 out of 5 stars Blackout and All Clear
Typical American account of the British during the Blitz. The Author has people sheltering on the Underground at Notting Hill, when all Londoners know that the station is open to... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Jim Henderson
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly Researched, Frankly Boring
I bought this as I thought Hugo and Nebula Awards equal rip roaring science fiction. Never having read Connie Willis before, it was a punt in the dark. A mistaken punt. Read more
Published 13 months ago by PR
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst read in a long time
This book just doesn't make sense. There is no scene setting at the beginning, the characters are weak and it is just very dull and full of unnecessary babble. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Sarah g
2.0 out of 5 stars Like the Keystone Kops
Having been absolutely thrilled by The Doomsday Book, this one really was a huge letdown. The time travellers simply rush brainlessly around England, like a speeded up cartoon,... Read more
Published 13 months ago by R. L. Smith
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