Saturday, March 13, 2010

Black and White on Blackout

Below are two views of Connie Willis’s new book, Blackout (Ballantine/Spectra, 2010), the first half of her long-anticipated novel about London during the Blitz. The concluding half, All Clear, is due to be published October 2010.

Michael Dirda in The Washington Post:
Blackout plunges the reader right into the middle of three key happenings of 1940: the rescue of the British troops from Dunkirk, the evacuation of children to rural villages and country houses, and the life of ordinary Londoners during the Blitz. Every detail rings true, with the kind of authority that only intense research can bring. Still, all of Willis's knowledge is subsumed in her bravura storytelling: Blackout is, by turns, witty, suspenseful, harrowing and occasionally comic to the point of slapstick.
. . . It's hard to know what to praise more in Blackout, whether the comic misadventures of Eileen, or the nightmarish confusion of Dunkirk and its aftermath, or Polly's growing affection for the people with whom she shares a bomb shelter. (Full review.)
Nick Mamatas at Sci Fi Wire:
It's been nine years since Connie Willis' last novel, and the many fans of this winner of a record 10 Hugo Awards for fiction felt like they'd been waiting forever. And yet Blackout, a time-travel novel about historians in the Second World War, is just, dare we say it, a waste of time.
. . . Blackout starts very slowly. The first few dozen pages are much like standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Nobody knows anything, the waits are interminable, and management is entirely unavailable. Sci-fi is supposed to be an escape from the dreariness of everyday life; time travel to a war is supposed to be exciting, or at least terrifying. Instead, we live the life of a historian named Michael Davis, who goes back in time and misses the bus.
. . . War is days of tedium interspersed with moments of sheer terror, but Willis only wrote the tedium. (Full review.) 

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