By Connie Willis
Published by Spectra
|Time Travel During War|
About the book:
For those of you who read Doomsday by Willis, this is set in the same universe but at a much later time. Time traveling has become so common place that the students are leaving and coming at such a pace, they can't be even a few minutes late for their scheduled departure. Trouble is, it takes several days to prepare for an assignment and now the lab is not only moving up or delaying departure times, they are changing location assignments. It may not seem like much but imagine getting an American accent 'implanted' thinking you would be doing back to back assignments requiring an American accent only to find the lab has switched your assignments and now you are doing an American, then a Brit, then an American. Now you have to undergo three implants instead of two. Then the lab says you must be ready by day after tomorrow to go to the British barracks in 1943 when you have studied all week for an American post in 1942!
The problems don't end there for our three young people, Merope, Michael, and Polly. They get dropped into the past in the wrong place and at the wrong time. Such stuff is known as slippage and normally it is just a few hours and a few miles. Not now. The slippage has become much worse, leaving Michael too far from his assignment with much too little time to get there. But it is when the pick up drop doesn't open for Elaine that things get dicey.
I do enjoy Willis' writing style and her dry wit. And I am not alone. Willis won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards for the Doomsday Book and again for Blackout and its conclusion All Clear. These are the top awards for science fiction!
The story can be confusing for someone unfamiliar with this 'universe' of Oxford time travel. There are several characters who interact with our heros and it doesn't help that Michael and Merope have to use different names on their assignments. My copy of the book also seems to have a typo where Elaine (Merope) is called Polly, which increases the confusion. Once you get through the confusing cast of characters, the story is quite good.
Willis does an excellent job of drawing the reader into the time and place of the story by adding bits and pieces about others around our heros - from Elaine's boss, Lady Caroline, who is always helping with the war effort by volunteering her staff to take on more work to the impromptu underground rail acting troupe Polly 'joins'. Let's not forget all the interesting things the time traveling students get involved with including blowing up (with air) fake tanks to fool the German spotter planes and an applecart upset.
As with most of Willis' work, I could not put this book down. I found the various 'assignments' the students were given to be fascinating. The action is tension filled and the backdrop stories and characters entertaining. Wait until you meet the Hobdins!
I have only one real complaint about the book. Blackout is not a stand alone, complete story. Rather it is the first half of a complete story and the book drops you right in the middle with no resolution on any plot point. Readers will have to get All Clear in order to have any sort of complete story.