SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

Writing, Illustrating & Publishing => Book Talk => Topic started by: ecb on March 23, 2010, 02:49 PM

Title: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: ecb on March 23, 2010, 02:49 PM
Has anyone read this? I know it's not a children's book, but I know there are some Connie Willis fans among the Blueboarders, and I'm hoping someone else will have picked this up, because I am *dying* to talk about it... and it'll be about a year before my DH has finished reading it! :dr

This is Connie Willis's first novel since 2002's PASSAGE, and the third installment in her time-travel "series" (term used loosely--the book is set in the same universe as DOOMSDAY BOOK and TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG). It tells the stories of several time-traveling historians studying WWII who become trapped in the past. Unfortunately, it's only *half* the story--the rest is coming in September's ALL CLEAR.

I found it fast-paced and thoroughly readable, but I am left with questions at the end (as a reader) and some observations (as a writer).

Anyone else?
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Marissa Doyle on March 23, 2010, 02:55 PM
*Raises hand*
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: whbeck on March 23, 2010, 05:01 PM
I'm reading it right now, but I'm not done yet!

Becky
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: AnneB on March 24, 2010, 07:37 AM
A new Connie Willis!!!!!! She of my absolute favorite writers. I like her so much I own THREE of her books, and I am a person who does not buy a book unless I have already read it and cannot live without it. After years of culling/resisting, I don't think I have three of anybody other author {goes off to reserve it at the library}.  

ETA: except Madeleine L'Engle's Crosswicks trilogy and Vera Brittain's WWI books...
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Marissa Doyle on March 24, 2010, 12:06 PM
Heh, AnneB--I have every Connie Willis, some of them in both hardcover and paperback.  And a signed copy of Uncharted Territory, which is one of the most wonderfully romantic stories ever.  Just a bit of a fan girl here.  :D

Testament of Youth made me cry.
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: AnneB on March 24, 2010, 08:10 PM
Testament of Youth made me cry. 

Me too, and I'd already seen the BBC series so I knew how it came out! And then I followed her daughter's Parliament career for a long time. {goes to Google to see whatever happened to Shirley Williams}

The thing I remember most, though? When Vera B and Winifred Holtby were rooming together and writing frantically, they had a woman come in every day and do the housekeeping and cook for them.

Sigh.

Okay, back to Connie Willis now...
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: ecb on March 24, 2010, 10:50 PM
Ok, so now that we've gathered a couple of readers together... SPOILER ALERT.
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
First my questions, then my observations.

Ok, so: What happened to the historian who was with the FANYs? Did she die diving to rescue her friend from the bomb? Who was trying to get to VE Day with the other female soldiers (were they the ambulance drivers?)? Was that Polly, using a different name? If not, did we ever see Polly at VE Day? I got confused at the end when she wouldn't tell Michael about being there--I didn't understand why she wouldn't mention it.

Speaking as a writer, I got about 100-150 pages into it and, while I was enjoying each character's plight, I really started to wonder where the throughline was. The plot doesn't really become apparent until the last chapter, and it made me a bit impatient. Not a lot, mind you. Just... curious about what the *story* was.

I also had trouble believing how ignorant these "historians" seemed to be about the time periods they were studying. I would expect a historian to have a conversant familiarity with the *entire* period she's focused on, not just the two weeks of her assignment. In DOOMSDAY BOOK, Kivrin is constantly mentioning facts about life in the Middle Ages (and I seem to remember Verity being an encyclopaedia of Victoriana), but anything beyond the scope of their memorized lists and implants utterly stymies the BLACKOUT characters.

...And speaking of ignorance, I could have used a little more help with mine. I wasn't familiar with the evacuation of Dunkirk *at all,* I have no clue what a V1 is... a little more telling by Willis would not have gone amiss here, particularly because the plot of the book hinges on the readers' knowledge of WWII, so we can see when things start to go wrong.

And as much as I love Willis's writing, I do find myself growing weary of her "shtick--" the constant miscommunications and interrupted phone calls and the confusing bureaucracy... I think it was handled much better here than in PASSAGE, but I don't remember any of that from LINCOLN'S DREAMS, and while I do see some of it in DOOMSDAY BOOK, it's not so slapstick-ridiculous. (To her credit, that very "shtick" shines brilliantly in BELLWETHER).

I read the book in about two days, so it was definitely wonderful fun and completely readable... but exactly the kind of thing you want to discuss with other readers as you're going on!
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Marissa Doyle on March 25, 2010, 11:36 AM
V1s and V2s were rocket-propelled bombs, basically, developed by Werner von Braun at Peenemunde and deployed as a more or less last ditch terror effort at England in '44.  In later years, after von Braun was the darling of the American space rocket program and had been rehabilitated as a former Nazi scientist, he released a memoir called "I Aim for the Stars" to which some wag appended the qualifier "but sometimes I hit London."  :)

The evacuation of Dunkirk was more or less a miracle, as Willis describes it--the evacuation of so many thousands of British soldiers from the tip of France after a failed expeditionary mission.  Here's a link to the Wikipedia article--a good quickie overview: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunkirk_evacuation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunkirk_evacuation)

And don't forget, "Polly" is a form of the name Mary.  That's why Polly's so worried about getting out--she'll create a paradox if she's still there when "Mary" is supposed to arrive, and Bad Things will happen.  And she's keeping mum about it because she doesn't think Mike and Eileen can handle one more problem piled onto their already fragile emotional states.  At least that's I figure.

Speaking of fragile emotional states...I wonder how much Willis wants to contrast their panic with the stolidity and bravery of Londoners watching their own world disintegrate...?

*
*
*
possible spoiler alert

*
*
*
 

I really get the feeling that a lot of the story is going to come together in the next book, and seemingly unimportant details will suddenly make sense and become important.  For example, the jacket text mentions spies--I'm sure the young man Mike meets in Orpington, Hugh Tensing, will turn out to be a German spy.  What effect will he have on everything?  And what about some of the other characters?  I'm willing to bet the Hodbins will figure in All Clear--their departure was too abrupt.  And something about the play Polly and the others are putting on--I haven't read The Admirable Crichton so don't know if there's a tie-in here...but she's built that part up too much not to do something with it.

I do agree that the miscommunications issue gets a little problematic.  Why doesn't anyone have a cellphone, for one thing?  I can't help wondering if in her own life Willis doesn't use one (I own one, but it lives in my purse and is rarely used, so if I wrote contemporary I might forget about them).  I also agree that their ignorance is a little odd,--not so much for the tiny details about what buildings get bombed when, but you'd think they'd know more broadly about what regions of England were getting hit at any given time.  I wonder if that issue is intentional and it turns out there was a reason they were ignorant...?

Also speaking as a writer, I have to say that I'm pretty disgusted by readers on Amazon giving this one star because they're cheesed off that it ends on a cliff-hanger, even if they enjoyed the book.  :(
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: AnneB on March 25, 2010, 02:05 PM
{I will not read this. I will not read this. Blackout is "in transit" and with luck I will have it by the weekend...}  {there. I managed to post w/o reading anything since ecb's Spoiler Alert....}
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: writer928 on March 25, 2010, 02:15 PM
I am NOT reading this thread either!  You reminded me (thank you!) that I want to read To Say Nothing of the Dog first.  Then I'll pick up Blackout -- They both sound amazing!
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Whizbee on March 25, 2010, 02:19 PM
To Say Nothing of the Dog has been on my list... so it'll take me a while to catch up to you all! By the time I do, maybe her next book will be out and I won't have to be in ecb's shoes, waiting to find out what happens next :)
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: ecb on March 25, 2010, 04:20 PM
Well, not that you guys are going to even see this post, but there's really no reason to read TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG first, since this book is completely unrelated to that one (a couple of characters overlap, but nothing else)... if anything, you could read DOOMSDAY BOOK first, because BLACKOUT is *almost* a sequel to DB, but not in any meaningful sense. I hadn't read DB in almost twenty years.

***
Thanks, Marissa.  That's really what I figured, but I think being left to puzzle over it was not a decision I'd make, as a writer. I know that technically this is only half the story... but if it's being published as a standalone, then it should be able to stand alone... and to me that means, spread the plot out through the first half a little better. :)

Now tapping foot impatiently until September.
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Marissa Doyle on March 25, 2010, 04:43 PM
Thanks, Marissa.  That's really what I figured, but I think being left to puzzle over it was not a decision I'd make, as a writer. I know that technically this is only half the story... but if it's being published as a standalone, then it should be able to stand alone... and to me that means, spread the plot out through the first half a little better. :)

I'm dying to know just why publishing it happened this way...or why they didn't make the decision to wait on "Blackout" so that it could be released much closer in time to "All Clear".  I wonder if All Clear will be another 800 pages, and publishing such a behemoth as one volume just wasn't in the cards.  I get the impression that all did not run smoothly in the whole process.

Now tapping foot impatiently until September.

Worse than "who shot J.R.?"  :)
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Whizbee on March 26, 2010, 01:15 PM
Well, not that you guys are going to even see this post, but there's really no reason to read TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG first, since this book is completely unrelated to that one (a couple of characters overlap, but nothing else)... if anything, you could read DOOMSDAY BOOK first, because BLACKOUT is *almost* a sequel to DB, but not in any meaningful sense. I hadn't read DB in almost twenty years.


Oh! Thanks for the tip.
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: rab on March 27, 2010, 11:50 AM
My copy just came in at the library and I started to read, then noticed in the acknowledgments that she says the book is split in two. So I flipped to the end to see the notice about "the riveting conclusion" coming out in Fall 2010. Does this book end on a cliffhanger? Because if it does, I might have to try to wait until the sequel comes out to read it, since I'll forget all the important details over the summer. (Not that there's really any chance of me not reading it now that I have my hot little hands on it!)
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: AnneB on March 27, 2010, 02:52 PM
{Am only on the early chapters and I have been very, very good about not reading your comments!}
Here is the first thing that strikes me about the book: Connie, you have to start incorporating cell phones and the internet. The book is set in the future, 9/11 has happened, but the technology is still stuck in 1990!
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: ecb on March 27, 2010, 03:24 PM
Maybe the Web was wiped out in the same terrorist attack that took out St. Paul's. :dr
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: whbeck on March 27, 2010, 09:01 PM
Quote
Here is the first thing that strikes me about the book: Connie, you have to start incorporating cell phones and the internet. The book is set in the future, 9/11 has happened, but the technology is still stuck in 1990!

Yes! I thought the same thing with all the phone messages in the beginning!

Becky
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: AnneB on April 02, 2010, 05:20 PM
I snarfed the book in one week; just finished it this evening. I started to figure out, about 20 pages from the end that this wasn't going to get wrapped up by the end because the Hugh Tensing character never reappeared and neither had Colin. Me, I'm hoping Tensing belongs to the SIS or MI5. Sir Godfrey might be the spy. Unless Sir Godfrey is Colin....?

Time travel is so darn confusing.

ecb said: And as much as I love Willis's writing, I do find myself growing weary of her "shtick--" the constant miscommunications and interrupted phone calls and the confusing bureaucracy... I think it was handled much better here than in PASSAGE, but I don't remember any of that from LINCOLN'S DREAMS, and while I do see some of it in DOOMSDAY BOOK, it's not so slapstick-ridiculous.

ecb, I agree wholeheartedly. If this was the first Connie Willis I'd read, I wouldn't notice it, but they all seem to be breathless or filled with miscommunication or the character is terribly sleep deprived. For an interesting movie involving Dunkirk, borrow/rent Mrs. Miniver (the 1942 version with Greer Garson).

I have a book of her short stories, entitled The Winds of Marble Arch, which deals with a lot of the same material. I'd love to know how she happened to spend all that time in England doing the research, and when it occurred. Some of that happens with in the short stories, but not so constantly. Of course, I was reading pretty swiftly, too, because it was a New Book with a one-week loan period! Have to return it tomorrow.

Marissa said: I also agree that their ignorance is a little odd,--not so much for the tiny details about what buildings get bombed when, but you'd think they'd know more broadly about what regions of England were getting hit at any given time.  I wonder if that issue is intentional and it turns out there was a reason they were ignorant...?

I'm guessing that all the rearrangement was put in place to skew events ever so slightly and prevent the bombing of St. Paul's that cost half a million people. And maybe that's why there are no cell phones. On p. 65 the tech brings out an i-com cargo kilt. "These are the only blacks I could find."  "No," Polly said.  "The kilt's cellphone's only a replica. It's not dangerous." But it also hadn't been invented until the 1980s, and the cargo kilt hadn't been invented until 2014. She made the tech put in a rush order for..... etc.

Although I also had the thought that Marissa did about Connie Willis living in a remote area of Colorado. But she travels widely and she has kids, I'm pretty sure. So I doubt she's not a luddite. I suspect she wove this thread in to give this book continuity with the universe of Doomsday Book, which preceded the cell era, I'm pretty sure.  (Isn't it a shame the title is Doomsday instead of Domesday? If Iever meet her, that's one thing I want to ask! How sick did it make you when the publisher did that?)

I knew about the evacuation of children because Anthony Lane (film critic for The New Yorker) was one and wrote a long piece about it ten or fifteen years ago; it stayed with me because he had been sent to Kettering, Ohio, which was not far from where I grew up, and stayed in the home of a family that I had heard of because they were prominent in the area.

I had NO idea the RAF was down to so few planes or that invasion was so imminent. So even allowing for the breathlessness of it all, it was a great read. It may be just another example of successful authors receiving little to no editorial guidance beyond copyediting.

And speaking of copyediting, what's with the Gwendolyn/he  Lady Bracknell/he material in Kent--April 1944 (p. 132-134)? As in, "I thought the tanks were Gwendolyn's job."  "He's in Hawkhurst. Dental appointments"  and "There must  be someone else who can do it. What about Lady Bracknell? He'd be perfect for the job. He's full of hot air." Is this just Brit humor, or did I miss something? I just loved the "blowing up the tanks" business, though.

OKay, back to real life. Thanks, Elizabeth, for starting this thread. It was a good book to have for a difficult week here!

Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Marissa Doyle on April 02, 2010, 09:20 PM
QUick response because it's midnight and I'm pooped...but I think Doomsday Book works as a title because of the subject matter of the book---the worry that a pandemic might be about to strike and spell doom for mankind...so it's a play on words on many levels.

I hadn't thought about the possibility of no cellphones because she didn't write them into Doomsday Book (published 1992) or To Say Nothing of the Dog (published 1998) and wanted to maintain consistency.

No, I doubt Sir Godfrey is Colin--he's well known, so that doesn't work--plus the age difference (Colin's like 16).  Just from the way she writes about Hugh Tensing made him seem "not quite right", which is why I suspect him.

And yes, a lot of the historians are sleep-deprived--or time-lagged, which supposedly has the same symptoms.  To Say Nothing of the Dog makes a lot of use of it.

I don't think they'd try to stop the bombing of St. Paul's--it's a cardinal rule not to change things.  It's got to have something to do with the research by the other scientist that time travel is inherently unstable and unsafe...

October is too far away!
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: ecb on April 02, 2010, 11:36 PM
Willis lives in Greeley, where there's a university and a population of nearly 100,000. I bet they have all sorts of newfangled things there... cars, electricity, phones, 'n' everything! :dr  (And, seriously: I have a friend who lives in--and gave birth in--a yurt in *truly* remote CO, where they don't have cell phones... and even *she* has the Internet! :dr).  So I stand my my original theory: they were all destroyed in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.  Or maybe they're just so commonplace that she didn't need to specify?

Quote
I'm guessing that all the rearrangement was put in place to skew events ever so slightly and prevent the bombing of St. Paul's that cost half a million people. And maybe that's why there are no cell phones. On p. 65 the tech brings out an i-com cargo kilt. "These are the only blacks I could find."  "No," Polly said.  "The kilt's cellphone's only a replica. It's not dangerous." But it also hadn't been invented until the 1980s, and the cargo kilt hadn't been invented until 2014. She made the tech put in a rush order for..... etc.

...And on that note, did anyone else wonder why Polly didn't just go across the street to one of the other department stores and *buy* a black skirt? Yes, I know we'd lose the wonderful moment of pathos when her boss gives her one, but really. If she has to buy food, surely she can also buy clothing.

All that aside (sorry, Connie!), loved the book. Want more. Now. (tappity tap...)
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: AnneB on April 03, 2010, 09:34 AM
..And on that note, did anyone else wonder why Polly didn't just go across the street to one of the other department stores and *buy* a black skirt? Yes, I know we'd lose the wonderful moment of pathos when her boss gives her one, but really. If she has to buy food, surely she can also buy clothing.

I think ecb is right: Polly probably didn't go buy a skirt for the same reason that Cary Grant didn't just get himself a good lawyer in North by Northwest! Reality logic sometimes does not ≠ plot logic and the author/director has to hope that we'll be too swept up in the fictional dream to notice.

Or, the book deadline is just too short and there's barely time to get the first draft out, let alone go back and fine-tune motivations, especially when you're doing all of WWII with half a dozen plotlines that need to be tied up at some point. 

Me, I'm going to skim through Blackout again in August (I hope it will be off the 7-Day Book shelf by then!) so I can sort the plotlines out at my leisure and see how CW ties them up.

For all the critiquing, she is my absolute favorite SF author and on my [unranked] Top Ten.
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: rab on April 03, 2010, 05:51 PM
I'm not reading what's already been written so as to avoid spoilers, but I just have to say: I am on page 356 and this book is making me incredibly tense. And I get the feeling I'm not going to get even a tiny bit of closure until the sequel is published. True? Give it to me straight, I can take it!

Ok, other thing: I know there's been some disgruntlement over the lack of cell phones, which may or may not have been destroyed when St. Paul's went kaplooie. But is anyone beside me also a little disturbed by how nonchalant all these historians are about time travel--when the book makes it perfectly clear they shouldn't be?! (I think I felt this way about Doomsday Book, too, but it's been a long time.) Anyway, I've been trying to think of comparable contemporary things of major importance than certain groups of people don't take nearly as seriously as they should. Um, banking executives not paying attention to subprime loans? Is that comparable? Got others?
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Marissa Doyle on April 03, 2010, 07:53 PM
True, Rebecca.  Sorry.   :cry2

Re not taking something potentially dangerous seriously: they predate me a by some years, but those x-ray machines that shoe stores used to have come to mind.   :ahh   

Their attitude doesn't bother me, though.  One, they're mostly young (grad students) who don't necessarily think of the possible dangers as something that applies to them, and two, it's been an accepted part of their world for a long time, so the thought of risk has probably worn off. 
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: rab on April 04, 2010, 06:47 AM
Stayed up late last night to finish it--I may have complaints, but was this ever a compelling read. Very hard to put down. And now I've gone back and read this whole thread, which has been helpful in answering some of my questions.

*
*
*
*
*
SPOILER

*
*
*
*

I'm with Marissa on Hugh Tensing being a spy, unless we're being deliberately misdirected, which could be possible, given how huge the I AM A SPY clues were. The idea of Sir Godfrey as Colin is intriguing; whoever Sir Godfrey is, he does seem to be from the future, right? But I assumed that was Colin coming through in the last chapter. No? I'll have to go back for another look.

The fact that all the 1944 entries stopped shortly after Mike got injured suggests that maybe he's right; maybe he really did change events. Because those entries didn't stop right when he was injured, but a tiny bit later--when Hardy rescues all those soldiers, or maybe when Jonathan and his grandfather are killed.

I did NOT get that Polly and Mary Kent are the same person in two different years until I read it here. But what's up with those tank-movers? One of them is a spy or something, right? He's hiding some papers and he's writing things to be published in local papers that are coded messages to somebody, right?

Like others, I figure these historians would have a better general idea about the times they're visiting before they go visit them, but I loved it when Merope thought Andersen was a person, not a backyard shelter. That's just the kind of detail that wouldn't necessarily make it into the main historical sources. But when I was complaining about how haphazard and nonchalant people were about something as huge as time travel, I was thinking about the in-charge folks back in Oxford. All that changing of dates and places of a drop right when somebody was prepared with the information and implants and clothes, for a different place? That was hard for me to believe. I hope there's a good explanation for it in ALL CLEAR.

Somebody called the writing frantic, I think, or maybe breathless. Margaret Mahy does that sometimes, too, and while I often really like it, it can get tiresome when it's sustained over a long period. Here, that breathlessness, combined with the repetition, made all the characters (but especially Polly) seem a little OCD. I found it frustrating and felt like there could have been some compression of events or some chapters combined or deleted. Because sometimes I felt like screaming at these people!

But I also liked, as somebody already said, the juxtaposition of the 2060 people's anxiety with the contemps' stoic behavior. I wondered if either the Oxford people or Willis was trying to give these historians a more authentic experience of the war, of what it felt like to not know whether Hitler would win--or whether they, individually, would survive.
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: ecb on April 04, 2010, 02:53 PM
Quote
The idea of Sir Godfrey as Colin is intriguing; whoever Sir Godfrey is, he does seem to be from the future, right? But I assumed that was Colin coming through in the last chapter.

OMG. I *just* got what you guys are saying!! Wow. I hope not, though. I love the attraction so much as it is.
***
As for the techs' nonchalance, well, they're kind of like airport staff, right? That's a pretty dangerous responsibility, and you really hope everybody working in, around, on, or near those planes is paying 100% attention 100% of the time, but we've all been in enough airports to know how blase they can seem about herding people through security, checking boarding passes, making the safety announcements, rescheduling delayed flights, etc.
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: olmue on May 07, 2010, 08:55 AM
Okay, my library finally got it and I just read it.

(SPOILERS)




Colin just HAS to be Godfrey. It can't be Colin coming through in the last chapter! Unless he came through and then couldn't find anyone and went back and THEN returned as Godfrey. Except that he's aged since then. (I don't have a problem with the age, because that's exactly what Colin was trying to do--go into the past and catch up in age to Polly. If something went wrong, as has been happening, he could have aged a lot more than he wanted to.) Which would mean the end of Godfrey? And his reincarnation, so to speak, as young Colin? I don't know. It just seems that Willis is hinting loudly that Godfrey is Colin, because every single time Polly interacts with G, he reminds her of Colin. What if the last chapter is Dunworthy? The character seems a bit lighthearted for Dunworthy (who, I may add, is never actually on stage in this book), but he DOES love St. Paul's. I can't remember from other stories if he has been there already or not.

I think Polly IS Mary Kent because towards the end of the book Polly says that she knows they won the war because she was there at VE day. And that's why she's convinced she's doomed unless someone rescues them, because you can't exist in the same place twice, and if she's not gone by the end of the war, her current self will...disappear?

I'm guessing Hugh Tensing is the last guy they're looking for, the annoying one? Unless Mike knew him--I forget. Otherwise, yeah, he does seem suspicious.

As to the historians not really feeling the danger, I think that's reasonable--they have immunizations the others don't, they have knowledge the others don't, and they have a Way Out. It's when their Way Out fails that they start to take everything much more seriously.

I should have waited until September to read this. It just...stops. And they're all stuck. And I'll be thinking of that until I get the next book. Grr.
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Marissa Doyle on May 07, 2010, 03:09 PM
Nope, I still don't think Sir Godfrey is Colin.  He's too well-known to be--he's a world-famous actor--and he's elderly.  So unless Colin got himself sent back decades before...which makes my head hurt.

Hugh Tensing can't be Phipps--Mike saw him back in the lab, very early in the book.

Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: olmue on May 07, 2010, 03:19 PM
Ah, right. I'd forgotten that Mike saw Phipps.

Is Sir Godfrey a real-life famous actor? Or just in the book? (I obviously know very little about famous actors...)
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Marissa Doyle on May 07, 2010, 03:26 PM
Just in the book, as far as I know. 
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: olmue on May 07, 2010, 05:04 PM
See, Colin could have come back earlier and things went wrong with the drop and he got stuck and aged like that.

I wouldn't have thought anything about it except that EVERY time he's mentioned, so is Colin...
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Marissa Doyle on October 12, 2010, 11:34 AM
Okay, All Clear comes out in one week.  Yes, I pre-ordered it about three months ago... :yup anyone else?   Shall we resume this conversation in a few weeks time?  Anyone ready to make any predictions?

Marissa, only mildly obsessed  :crazy
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: AnneB on October 12, 2010, 01:12 PM
Blast. I'm 8th of 8 holds at the library. However, there is one already in process and four more on order; I should catch up with it by mid-November!
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Marissa Doyle on October 20, 2010, 02:16 PM
All Clear arrived today...  :woo  already on page 37...  :reading2
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: rab on October 20, 2010, 05:32 PM
This is killing me. Just got a revision letter today, and I'm under water at work, so things are definitely not All Clear here. Aargh!
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: MysteryRobin on October 26, 2010, 10:37 AM
Oooo, I can't wait to read this book! *studiously avoiding the spoilers till book arrives*  :hiding
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Marissa Doyle on October 27, 2010, 08:07 PM
I just finished All Clear, sobbing happily through the last 75 pages or so (and laughing occasionally, too).  It's WONDERFUL (yes, I'm shouting) and deeply moving and satisfying on a level that very few writers achieve for me.  I can't wait until the discussion starts.
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: olmue on November 13, 2010, 07:13 PM
I'm about 100 pages into ALL CLEAR and very much wishing there was a cast list for me to refer to. There are so many plot lines and people coming and going and changing names, that it's hard for me to remember who was what from the last book--especially as I read that four months ago or so. (Or maybe the fact that EVERY time I've picked up the book, my kids rush over and climb on me. The one bit I haven't forgotten is the Hodbins. Wonder why...) Reading this thread over again is helping me remember who Tensing was and the Mary/Polly thing, which is good.

I'll come back when I'm done...
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: olmue on November 14, 2010, 11:59 AM
Well, I'm back. Anyone else read it yet? I'm looking forward to the discussion! Especially since I finished it late last night, went straight to bed, and don't have anyone around to talk about it with.

Anyone?
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: rab on November 15, 2010, 02:03 PM
Just turned in a revision and currently avoiding a massive pile of papers that need to be graded, but I'm really hoping to read ALL CLEAR this coming weekend. I'll be back!
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Marissa Doyle on November 15, 2010, 02:11 PM
I'm here and happy to discuss it whenever we're ready.  Did you like it, Rose?
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: olmue on November 15, 2010, 02:25 PM
Yay, Marissa!

I did, although like I said it took a long time to get back into the story. I saw a reader review somewhere that suggested it should have been edited with a +5 axe, and um, I agree. I felt like the central plot line was rather obscured by all the running around in panic, and there were repetitions that could have been trimmed. But, I do love long books, so I wasn't too disturbed. Mostly that six month gap between reading parts 1 and 2 did me in. (And the fact that I had to special order book 2 and the first book isn't in any library around here for me to consult.)

SPOILERS**************************************************************









(Is that enough space?)

I REALLY thought Godfrey was Colin. And then both of them sort of fell out of the first half (3/4?) of the book. I know Colin has been in love with Polly for forever, but I really wanted to see more interaction between them? She barely thinks of him at all in the second book, and it takes a while for us to even get to the scenes with him looking for her. I rather like Colin, and I wanted to see more of him. And more of them together. Because it’s hard to believe that she really loves him at the end—sure, she’s so glad to be rescued before she ceases to exist, and yes, we can see how much he loves her—and how much all of her friends love her, actually, since they are all willing to give their lives to make sure she has one. But I think she should have thought more of him. (That is the romantic in me--I have to see it to believe it. It was the one flaw of Harry Potter, too, IMO.)

I really loved the way it ended, other than that. I liked how instead of it all being a doomsday situation, it spun positive, and the net was keeping them there so that they could accomplish the good things they were meant to do. I confess that while I love high drama, dystopia isn’t my favorite. I’ve never been a fan of bleak. So I really liked this. Also the idea that they ALL won the war, not just One Great Hero. Every small thing people did helped win it. You could really feel the love Willis has for this time period and the people of England who lived through that.

********************************END SPOILERS
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Marissa Doyle on November 15, 2010, 02:48 PM
Yes, I definitely recommend reading the two books back-to-back.  I didn't, but I'd spent enough time thinking about Blackout that I didn't have too much trouble sliding back into the world.

SPOILER DISCUSSION***********************
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
I agree with you to some extent about wishing the relationship between Polly and Colin had been more developed too.  All I can think of is that it sort of developed in her head over the months she was in the Blitz, so that once he actually arrived, she was in that mental space...except that he was still 17 when she left, so that's a little sketchy.  I LOVED watching the Hodbins begin to change as they came to trust and love Eileen...and that Alf ended up as a judge!  The exchange between Binnie and Colin at the War Museum was one of my favorite parts of the book...and the way Mike redeemed himself from being rather unlikeable (at least I found him so) in Book 1 to being a hero in All Clear was also very moving. 

No, I never thought Colin was Sir Godfrey...but I was sure Tensing was a German spy.  I'd already guessed about Bletchley Park because I've read a fair amount of non-fiction about Enigma and the Codes departments (if you want to read an incredible memoir on the subject, try Leo Marks's Between Silk and Cyanide.  I stayed up all night to finish it, and then gave it to my husband, who did the same.)

And yes to an uplifting ending!! She almost always delivers those...even Passage, where the MC dies partway through, is uplifting.
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: olmue on November 15, 2010, 04:55 PM
Oh, I LOVED the horrible Hodbins! And it was awesome how they ended up.
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Marissa Doyle on November 17, 2010, 12:05 PM
Anyone else had a chance to read All Clear yet?
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: AnneB on November 17, 2010, 07:36 PM
I loved the ending, but couldn't get into the story, so I bailed after the first 75 pp and jumped to the final 50 pp to see how it came out. I found that very satisfying, actually.

So the verdict is: loved Blackout, loved the ending to All Clear, the stuff in between... not so much.

Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: rab on November 22, 2010, 06:10 PM
I am about 300 pages into ALL CLEAR and taking a little break because I was getting WAY too tense. I'll admit to being annoyed at the huge pile of near misses and all the things Polly, Mike, and Eileen don't bother to tell each other until it's too late, but I'm still enjoying the ride.
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: rab on November 24, 2010, 07:59 PM
I finally finished ALL CLEAR. I loved many things about it, but I didn't feel the emotions I might have if I hadn't been so frustrated by being drowned in minutiae. Do we have to read every single solitary newspaper advertisement that Ernest writes? Must we go through every single confused thought that a concussed character is having? I really wish the book had been pared down because if it had been, I would have loved the whole thing. Or perhaps if I'd read it at a less busy time.





SPOILERS









I love what Marissa says about the growth of the Hodbins, which was one of my favorite parts, and I agree with Rose about wanting to see more of Colin and Polly together so I'd really feel her love for him, not just her relief in being rescued and her love for her friends because of what they did for her. I was a little disappointed that Sir Godfrey didn't turn out to be somebody from the future because it sure seemed like we were being given hints in that direction (he knew Polly was from the future, right?).

I'm confused about a lot of things. Lady Bracknell is a cover name for a man, right? The masculine pronouns for Lady Bracknell and Gwendolyn threw me. (I had to find a copy of BLACKOUT to find my way back into the story because I'd forgotten too much.) And about Eileen: when she stayed, how did she know at that point that it was her responsibility to help Colin find Polly and Mr. Dunworthy? Or did she know that? I haven't looked, but did she not have any family back in 2060? I mean, I know that historians can be a bit clannish, but these folks seemed to know no one except other Oxford historians---but then when they get to 1941, they make all sorts of friends very easily. Hmm.

Another confusion: I don't understand what would have happened if, when Colin found Mike, he had also found Polly. That was the 1944 Polly, which she had visited before she visited 1941. If Colin had found her then, would that have prevented her from going to 1941? And why did Mr. Dunworthy refuse to acknowledge Polly when he first saw her? Was that because he already thought he'd messed up? Did he have a good reason to assume the war had been lost? Or was he just being pessimistic and assuming that because the drop wouldn't open, Hitler must have won?
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: wildoates on November 29, 2010, 02:51 PM
I'm confused about a lot of things. Lady Bracknell is a cover name for a man, right? The masculine pronouns for Lady Bracknell and Gwendolyn threw me. (I had to find a copy of BLACKOUT to find my way back into the story because I'd forgotten too much.)

These are all characters from Oscar Wilde's play "The Importnace of being Earnest".
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: rab on November 29, 2010, 02:54 PM
Wow. I completely missed that. Haven't read or seen the play for 25 years. Thanks, wildoates!
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: wildoates on November 29, 2010, 05:04 PM
I am a fan of Connie Willis; I am especially fond of her short story "Even the Queen" and have made all of my children read it, even my son (it is a small 'f' feminist work of great humour, which won the 1993 Hugo for Best Short Story).

While I really enjoyed reading both ‘Blackout’ and ‘All Clear’ (I read them both books in under a week!) I agree with those who feel that a good edit would have made storyline tighter and the books a better read.

SPOILER ALERT ................. SPOILER ALERT







I felt that the female figures were just a little bit naff. I refuse to believe that the women who are to be born in the future are going to be so namby-pamby (code for the word I really want to use). The two main women characters portrayed in these novels seemed unable to treat each other as adults; these are women who have (one assumes) a tertiary level education on being an historian and on time travel. Surely there were classes on dealing with the difficulties and risks of time travel. If my daughters acted as silly as these two occasionally manage to, I would be ashamed of myself and feel that I had failed as a mother.

And Mike – pfffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffft. Hero complex, serious hero complex (though I really did like the nod to ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and that whole storyline).

Given the Hodbins tendency to sneak up behind people, (and Polly and Eileen’s lack of discretion when talking about their problems), it is hardly surprising that the Hodbins guessed that the women came from the future; but I was glad that Binnie was able to be involved towards the end of the story, and without that lack of discretion from Eileen and Polly, that would not have been possible.

I loved the Hodbins and laughed out loud when I read the career path that Alf took. So fitting.

And I still think that Colin and Sir Godfrey are the same person. I cannot remember any  talk of the work that Sir Godfrey did when he was young; and there is a quote that both Sir Godfrey AND Colin uses right as Polly and he are stepping into the shimmering light (something about a lark – dang it all, where is my Kindle when I need it!).

But overall, I loved the books and yes, Marissa, I too sobbed my way through the last 75 pages or so.

Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Marissa Doyle on November 29, 2010, 07:29 PM
Importance of Being Earnest!  Thank you--I knew it was referring to something that was eluding me.  How appropriate, when you think of it.

SPOILER-ISH
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
I agree with all everyone has said about these books benefitting from being on a tighter editorial leash...and yet, for me, I can forgive the rambling, because she so thoroughly pulls me into her world that I'm happy for the extra words.  Not many authors can do that to me (I never even bothered reading the 7th Harry Potter book because after 4, 5, and 6 I'd totally lost all trust in JKR).

I wonder if her conflating Colin and Sir Geoffrey in some ways (though it never struck me much) was how she had Polly fall in love with Colin...since she'd already come to love Sir Geoffrey.  Just a thought.

Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Elisabeth on December 05, 2010, 01:24 PM
II was so excited about BLACKOUT and ALL CLEAR, because PASSAGES was the first Connie Willis book ever that didn't work for me - I finished it because it was Connie Willis and she's one of my favorite writers ever, but I was too often confused by the scientific conversations, and I didn't like the ending. So it was nice to have something new from her, and in her time travel series too. I just finished ALL CLEAR today (I read BLACKOUT months ago). The break between books meant it took me a while to orient myself when I started ALL CLEAR.

These didn't have as many  :lol2 moments for me as To Say Nothing of the Dog, and I got lost sometimes in the rambling (panicked) thoughts of Mike and Polly, but I still really enjoyed the books.

{spoilers below}












I can understand why Polly wouldn't have thought about Colin during those months since to her, as someone already mentioned, he was just 17. To me it seemed that the relationship she had with Sir Godfrey, which I absolutely loved, sets the stage [ahem, sorry  :dr] for the relationship with Colin, once she discovers that he has aged several years since she left.

Ironically (and unusually for me in a CW book) my favorite characters where the "supporting cast" and not the time travelers (except Colin). The Hodbins, the troupe of performers, Sir Godfrey, they had as much to do with why I kept reading as Mary/Polly, Mike/Ernest etc. Of the time travelers, Eileen/Merope was my favorite because of how she grew over the course of the books.

Did anyone else get this feeling, at the end, that Colin is some descendant of Eileen or Binnie? I've been trying to figure out what grown up Binnie/Eileen meant when she said to Colin at the war museum (page 610) "I wonder if she...." and "That would explain..."

He asks her about it on p. 614, and she gives him an explanation (pp. 614-615) that he doesn't believe, and we're sort of left to read between the lines, but I can't figure it out... Can anyone enlighten me?

All in all, I enjoyed both books. But I agree that both could have benefitted from heavier editing, to make it less confusing to follow. I felt like it took me longer to put things together (like Mary=Polly, and Mike=Ernest) than it should have.
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Marissa Doyle on December 05, 2010, 01:59 PM
SPOILER (in answer to EL's question):
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
Yes, Colin's a descendent of Eileen's...did you read Doomsday Book?  Remember that Colin's great-aunt was named Mary?  I think Colin's descended from Eileen's son Godfrey.
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: Elisabeth on December 05, 2010, 11:04 PM
Ah! Thank you Marissa. It's been several years since I read Doomsday book. At least I jumped to the right conclusion.

I'm kind of in withdrawl now. I should get back to writing on my WIP but it's like this outside:  :snowplow and I would love to curl up and lose myself in another 600 page book!
Title: Re: BLACKOUT--Connie Willis
Post by: wildoates on December 08, 2010, 03:12 PM
I'm kind of in withdrawl now. I should get back to writing on my WIP but it's like this outside:  :snowplow and I would love to curl up and lose myself in another 600 page book!

So here are some suggestions (not all Science Fiction):

Wolf Hall - the machinations of the Tudor court in the time of Henry VIII, from the viewpoint of his trusted advisor, Thomas Cromwell. Took me about 100 pages to really get into it, and then when I did, my family had to feed themselves for 2 days while I finished it (it is OK, my youngest is 21).

A Movable Feast - Ernest Hemingway. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Paris.

Zima Blue - Alastair Reynolds. Sience Fiction, short stories. Bye the way, how dang diggely do dah day good are British Science Fiction writers!!! Here is a list: China Mieville (weird and wonderful), Iain M Banks (my family just sighs when he publishes anything because I do not talk to them for days - too busy reading), Neil Asher, Stephen Baxter, Neil Gaiman (i just LOVE American Gods, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard book), Peter F Hamilton, Gwyneth Jones, Terry Pratchett (I am not allowed to read Pratchett in bed anymore, because I laugh so loud I wake up my hubby) , Christopher Priest, Justina Robson, Richard Morgan, Charles Stross

Anything by John Scalzi (Science Fiction) - I have only read his short stories so far, but will be tranisitioning to his novels over Christmas (which I will be spending on the beach!) (with my Kindle)

I could go on and on and on, but, luckily for you, I have a book to read!

Christmas Greetings all!

 :-*