Saturday, March 21, 2015

Review:: Blackout, by Connie Willis

Title: Blackout
Author: Connie Willis
Format: eBook
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

In a world where time travel is used by academics to uncover the past, a group of young historians head off to study WWII. Something is clearly going wrong, but no one seems to notice until it hits them squarely on the head.

While I'm not the biggest fan of time travel (mostly due to the deus ex machina nature of it), if the story sufficiently interests me enough, it can be fine. What I can't stand is a whole bunch of people running around holding the idiot ball.

Now granted, I'm sure it's much easier for me to see that everything is going wrong than busy people who have no reason to believe their life is actually a plot of a novel and therefore likely to be more interesting than most. But when from the first chapter on it was very, very clear that something awful was going on with the time travel mechanics, it was incredibly frustrating how everyone just kept making excuses until everyone almost kept getting themselves killed.

The premise of Blackout is pretty simple: historians from Oxford in 2060 have been using time travel to study the past. And while I have some legitimate questions about this (like how do academicians get to control time travel and not say, the military) I think it's a pretty neat premise. After all, history really is a debate and the winner tends to get to tell the story...

But I feel like Blackout doesn't even follow through on the promise of that premise. All of the stories told are folks going to Britain during WWII. And while I'm sure there's some value in studying the winner, I feel like so much more could have been taken away from studying the Axis. I'd have felt a bit better if it felt like anyone was studying the Axis, but when they're talking about where their friends are going, it's always to study the winners or the side we traditionally think of as "good" like the US post-9/11.

The book is told from the point of view of a few different people studying Britain in 1940. Unexpected, but totally expect to the reader, things happen. Everyone pretends nothing's wrong. Some stories are more intriguing than others. Eventually, people start worrying. But they'll soldier on.

I also felt really annoyed that the end did pretty much absolutely nothing to close any threads. I'm fine with a cliff-hanger ending, as long as I feel like I got some resolution. And I know, it's followed by All Clear, which I'm sure I'll read because cliffhanger, so yes, the cliffhanger won. I'm also annoyed that the book kind of shifted around the first quarter, but I guess that's understandable.

Meh. That's about how I felt about this book. It wasn't awful. Some parts were fine. Some parts had giant holes. The writing felt a bit ... I wasn't 100% happy with the writing. It felt strangely not in the right tone for the story, and like it was dumbed down in places.


  1. What I can't stand is a whole bunch of people running around holding the idiot ball.

    Oh god that pretty much describes everything of Willis' that I've read. And I get really embarrassed by characters being idiots. Now I'm reluctant to start...

    1. Oh curses. I was hoping it was just this one.