Blackout. Connie Willis. 2010. 610 pages. [Source: Bought]
First sentence: Colin tried the door, but it was locked.
I thought I'd start with a word of warning. When you get to the end of Blackout, you're going to NEED to have a copy of All Clear ready to go. Because, chances are, you're going to want to pick it up right away. There is no 'real' ending in Blackout. There is no resolution. There's no peace to be had. Usually I might say that's not such a positive thing in a book, but in this case, I'm forgiving.
You might also find it helpful to know that Blackout can be read as part of a series of time travel books by Connie Willis.
Premise/plot: Several time travelers find themselves TRAPPED in the past in Connie Willis' thrilling novel Blackout. Time travel has its dangers--of course--but the net is supposed to have safety features built in to protect time and time travelers. But the 'logic' of the net is changing, and, the systems seem to be failing. Though it seems like a few people are aware of this calamity-in-the-making (Mr. Dunworthy surely has his suspicions? Why else would he be rearranging all the scheduled comings and goings of the historians?) The historians themselves are being kept in the dark, out of the loop.
There are three main characters--three main narrators--in Blackout. Each
is a historian, a time traveler. Each has plans for multiple
assignments in the twentieth century. Each is experiencing frustration
as these drops are rearranged and rescheduled. The historians are Merope
who is 'observing' the evacuation of children from London to the
country. She 'becomes' Eileen O'Reilly and works as a nurse or maid in
one of the homes. Under her care are two very, very wild children. Of
course, she's responsible for more than two children. Her employer has
taken in many children--over a dozen, I think? But those two are the
ones that make her life more than a little unpleasant. Her assignment is
for the spring of 1940. Polly "Sebastian" is a historian observing the London Blitz
in the fall of 1940. Her assignment has her working in a shop on Oxford
Street. She is curious in observing how the Blitz effects people. How
they are able to cope with the bombs falling over their heads. How they
are able to cope with the terror of it all--knowing each and every night
that they could die. The third historian is Michael Davies. Since he
was supposed to observe Pearl Harbor first, he's got an implant to give
him an American accent. But with the shuffling of assignments, he's now
observing the Dunkirk evacuation
in June 1940. His research has him observing heroes. He's looking to
observe the qualities that make someone brave and heroic, what makes a
person risk their lives to save others.
If all went according to plan, these three would NOT have met--in the past. Their assignments in 1940 would not have overlapped in time or place. But not all went according to plan...and now these three are going to need each very, very much if they're going to survive...
My thoughts: I really love Connie Willis' time travel novels. Blackout and All Clear perhaps would have perhaps been better as one CHUNKY book. The two are essentially one book with one story. These two can be read on their own without previously reading the other two books. (Again each of those two could be read as stand alone novels.)
I love historical fiction. I love historical fiction set during the second world war. I love historical fiction set in England.
I love time travel stories. This one is INTENSE.
© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews