Publication Date: February, 2010
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.
My husband introduced me to Connie Willis. I have to be honest and say I probably never would have discovered her otherwise, as her books are sci-fi and I don't read a terrible amount of hard sci-fi. When I was deep into writing my time travel novel, I wanted to read other time travel books, so my husband placed The Doomsday Book in my hands and it is hands-down, one of the best books I've ever read. There are some hard sci-fi elements in Connie's books, but the main focus is the characters. I then quickly read To Say Nothing of the Dog, which is set in the same universe (sort of) and I loved it.
So, when I saw that Connie had a new book coming out that was set in the Oxford time traveling universe, and was set mostly in WWII, I quickly snapped it up. I had to admit that while I generally enjoyed the story, I found it lacking some of the humor and heart of her other books.
Firstly, I'm not even sure if I would consider Blackout a sci-fi book. It reads more like historical fiction. There is some time travel tech-speak, but overall, it's the tale of three time travelers and how their journeys back to 1940's England gets disrupted, and how they are desperate to get back to 2060 Oxford. I can't say I'm a huge fan of multiple character narrative, and there were three main characters whose stories we heard, and some other random chapters with other characters thrown in that don't really make sense until the very end of the book.
Secondly, this book is the first of two, All Clear is released later this year. Unlike other series books I've read, the ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, not a lot of resolution there, which is a bit disappointing. Of course I will be buying All Clear when it comes out, but I am keeping my expectations level.
To wrap-up, a so-so Connie Willis book is better than a good book by a lot of other authors. WWII England is one of my favorite time periods, and I enjoyed the detail that went into the creation of this book.
I give Blackout 3/5 stars. If you think you'd like to give Connie's books a try, I wouldn't tell you not to read this book, I'd just suggest reading one of the other titles I've listed above.