Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis (audio) (Oxford Time Travel #3 & #4)

I decided to review both of these together since it basically one long book. They blend together seamlessly and you really can't read All Clear without having read Blackout. It would be confusing. I'm not sure what went into the decision to publish them separately but if you decide to read or listen to them make sure you have All Clear on hand to immediately begin reading after you finish Blackout.
It's Oxford 2060 and three historians are planning on traveling to World War II, each to observe something different. For her first assignment, Merope assumes the name Eileen O'Reilly and is sent to observe some 1940 London evacuees at a country manor house. Polly Churchill arrives in 1940 as well to observe the beginning of the London Blitz. And Michael Davies, who had been prepping to travel to Pearl Habor, has his assignments switch resulting in him going to 1940 to observe the Battle of Dunkirk. Each makes to their assignment and everything starts going wrong quickly after. None can get their drops to reopen and each is afraid that they have somehow started to change history, something that was previously thought impossible.

Blackout follows each historian as they transgress through World War II. They all have the same basic storyline. They arrive at their locations with Polly and Michael having some degree of "slippage," that is not arriving at the temporal location that was set up for them. Things go wrong for all of them at some point and then they discover that they cannot get back to their own time. The book ends with them trying to make their way to each other to hopefully use another's drop.

(SPOILERS) All Clear picks up where Blackout left off. The historians have found each other and try to work out where another historian is to hopefully find a way home that way. Each hopes for a retrieval team from Oxford and they begin leaving clues for Oxford 2060 in local newspapers, hoping for a rescue. They begin to think they are trapped in World War II because they have made horrible alterations to history. But none of them piece together the truth till much later.

If I have any criticisms it's that each book went on a tad too long. Especially the section where Micheal, Polly, and Eileen worry over the retrieval team. That part goes on too long. I also hated how Polly treated Eileen, like she was stupid when Eileen was shown to be more than capable. I guess that came from the fact that Eileen was younger than Polly and Micheal and so a little more naive.

But overall I enjoyed the story. The ending was predictable but still surprising and a bit sad. I learned a lot about the London Blitz and World War II. Eileen was a great character and Polly was too albeit a much more frustrating one since she could never seem to tell the truth about anything that Michael and Eileen might need to know. Once all the pieces came together it was easier to see how brilliant the story was. While this is not my favorite Connie Willis Oxford Time Travel story, it was certainly a wonderful addition to the world she has already built.

Katherine Kellgren is the narrator and she is once again amazing. I can't believe that I didn't like her to the first time I heard her on The Red Pyramid. She is honestly one of the most talented narrators and when I saw she narrated these Connie Willis I was so happy. Two of my favorites! Yes, please. She does a smashing job on both of these books and is a delight to listen to.

Blackout. 18 hours, 48 minutes
All Clear. 23 hours, 46 minues

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