I put Blackout and All Clear (by Connie Willis) on my reading list some time ago, and it’s a good thing I can’t remember where the recommendation came from because they’d be getting a scathing letter from me!
I just finished Blackout, which is apparently only part I of II. Not that I don’t love a good series of books, but Blackout was 500 pages of nothing but build up. At times pointless, often confusing build up. And then, it just stopped.
Here’s the basic premise: in the not too distant future someone invents time travel and historians from Oxford use the device to study historical events. Several of these young graduate students end up stuck in London during World War II, with all of the “portals” for getting back seemingly broken.
Sounds like an interesting premise, no?
The book is a total disaster. First of all, all of the characters in the book have both their real names and aliases that they use on their different assignments. Two of the characters (I think) had two different assignments covered in the novel, and I never even realized they were the same person because different names were used. And there are just too many characters in the book for that. It was completely confusing. And the name issue isn’t the only problem. There are all these things that happen that don’t seem to have any bearing on the story. There’s a whole section about people putting inflatable tanks in a pasture that I can’t figure out at all. How are those people connected? Is one of them a historian?
Second, each character spends PAGES going on and on about how confused they are when they first get to their assignment. The time or date isn’t right, they can’t figure out the real time and date, and “Oh no! What if everything we knew about World War II was wrong!” hand wringing and teeth gnashing seems to go on forever. After it happened to the second character, it got very very old.
I think I stuck with this book because I liked the general idea of it and just kept hoping it would get better. That’s a tricky thing about reading on the Kindle. I can’t really tell how much of the book I’ve finished, so it’s easier to believe there’s still plenty of time for things like, oh I don’t know, a plot to develop.
But unfortunately, although there were lots of questions and explosions, and more of that hand wringing, there was no plot. It was like the first third of a book was expanded into 500 pages and sold as is. What is this? A ploy for the author to make double sales by selling one book as two?
Seriously, don’t waste your time with this one. I certainly won’t be bothering myself with the alleged conclusion.
K’s rating for Blackout: 1/10 mangoes
update: If you have, by some unlucky chance, read this book and hated it, read this Goodreads review. Hilarious!