Review of 'Blackout'

Blackout by Connie Willis

Another time travelling novel by Willis. Unfortunately, this is not Doomsday Book.

The novel begins with Oxford 2060 being quite chaotic as three historians are sent back to explore three separate aspects of the second world war in England. Merope Ward is sent to rural England to take care of children evacuated from London because of the Blitz. Polly Churchill is sent to London to work as a shop assistant on Oxford street during the bombings. Michael Davies is sent to the southern coast of England to witness the evacuation of the British army from Dunkirk. Things do not go as planned for any of the time travellers. Merope gets caught in the middle of a measles epidemic so is unable to get to her retrieval point, similarly, Michael arrives at the wrong time and ends up in the middle of evacuation itself instead of as an observer, and Polly is stranded in London with her retrieval point also unavailable. They have been told that they cannot effect history, but why are the retrieval points not working? Why have they not heard from Oxford? What is going on?

I was a bit disturbed to find only as I neared the end of this book that this is a two-parter, ending in the novel “All Clear”. There is just so much going on and so much detail that the story progresses quite slowly - One of my significant criticisms. The detail is, it has to be said, incredible and really brought me into the story. Willis has definitely done her homework here, again. It is just that things never seem to really happen all that much - The characters go about their lives in this foreign time period and check their drop points - Er, that is about it. Well, actually, it does pick up somewhat towards the end but that only leaves us in the middle of the story…

Entertaining, if overly long, this is a welcome return by Willis.

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2013-06-16

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Publication Date: 2010

Other reviewed books by Connie Willis: