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.
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Gripping and emotionally believable
I should say at the start that ever since my first Connie Willis I've loved her panache, her ability to create difficult but believable and satisfying characters, and to turn what might otherwise seem to be whimsy or escapism into stories that continue to resonate long after one has finished them.
Here, vol 1 of the story performs a bravura juggling act with three main characters all attempting to converge in a world where divergence points and historical cruces appear to be too far misaligned to allow for a credible meeting. It's to Willis' credit that by the end, I was happy to buy the interim solution she used as a mini-conclusion.
I'm just about to buy vol. 2 :-)