Review: Blackout by Connie Willis
Reviewed by Kate Smith
When I read the back of Blackout I immediately and excitedly wanted to begin the story. However, while the premise was excellent, I found the execution was a little underwhelming. The story progressed very, very slowly and eventually I was waiting (and hoping) for everything to begin to come together and surprise me with some fantastic realisation. Sadly, it did not. Disappointingly, after finishing the book I discovered that any conclusions would be made in the next book. However, while I do not feel the need to chase down the following text in order to discover the fate of the central characters, Blackout was generally an enjoyable read.
Blackout is a well-written story which will appeal to many people for the information it provides and the detail in creating the world of 1940s England. The beginning of the book is a little difficult to follow as Willis explains the paths of several different characters and that is a little frustrating at times. Eventually the threads do begin to come together and the reader is able to sort through all the information provided and can begin to establish what is going on with the different characters. The characters themselves are generally realistically constructed and likeable, the female characters in particular.
The plot intrigued me: the idea of travelling in time to observe events personally whilst also possessing the benefit of hindsight is a thoroughly interesting one. Having the benefit of both perspectives, especially regarding events where those who actually witnessed events have passed on, would provide some very interesting debates and interpretation. However as this was the main point of interest for me, the lack of specific details on how the characters worked within this concept left me feeling a little let down by the lack of information on the subject. The concept of changing historical events is not dealt with as much consideration as I would have liked. As the characters are supposed to be history academics I suppose I expected more from them and therefore the discussion of this concept in the text. This, however, may be dealt with better in the following book, All Clear, and Harris may do as I hoped she would in Blackout and bring all the different threats of her story together in a magnificent ending.
On finishing Blackout, it occurred that the idea behind it could translate into a television series very nicely, however for those choosing to read this book I would recommend expecting a slow progression of the story, and in doing so will be far more likely to find it a very enjoyable read.