It's been a while since I've read a Connie Willis novel and I'd forgotten how amazing her stories are. Blackout/All Clear
(which is really one long book divided into two shorter volumes) is definitely her most ambitious and epic work to date. I read the two books back to back and this review is for both of them combined.
If you're familiar with and like the Oxford Time Travel
world, of course you'll like this one. Connie Willis has such a distinct style that people tend to either love or hate, but I'm definitely a fan. As in her other books, though people have been time-traveling professionally in an academic environment for 40 years, everything still goes wrong. Historians are bumping into famous historical figures and getting in the way of events and having huge miscommunications. People are constantly running around looking for their friends to solve some huge crisis (a new one every chapter!) and missing each other by mere seconds. Honestly, you'd think they would have learned by now.
This was much more suspenseful than the previous books of hers I've read, and I was on the edge of my seat nearly the whole time. While the characters' obsession over whether or not they've changed the outcome of the war started to get a little over-the-top after a while, their anxiety definitely rubbed off on me and made it basically impossible to put this book down. Sometimes Connie Willis' brilliance with the time travel genre almost breaks my brain, though. There were definite moments throughout the novel when I was nearly as confused as the characters themselves. At other times, I wanted to kick myself for not seeing something obvious -- especially when trying to match characters at different drops. Like when we get the glimpse of Mr. Dunworthy coming through to 1940 in the emergency staircase at the end of Blackout, but aren't told who it is until much later. I thought that was Colin for ages.
Also: Why does "Mary"'s surname change halfway through? When she's at the FANY base, she's Mary Kent, but at D-Day they call her Mary Douglas. She seems to be surrounded by the same people, too. I mean, it is the same assignment, right?
Maybe I missed something. I can't say I was completely satisfied with the ending, especially after all that back-and-forth, but I think it was the right way to go to conclude the story. I was worried for a while that this would mean no more Oxford Time Travel stories!
Though this deals with some pretty heavy subject matter, like in Doomsday Book
and [b:The ABC Murders|16322|The ABC Murders (Hercule Poirot #13)|Agatha Christie|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348486497s/16322.jpg|626006]
. Thanks a lot, Willis.