Didn't start to gel until page 440. Since the story is split over two volumes, that means I was ~960 pages in before Willis settled down to business.Didn't start to gel until page 440. Since the story is split over two volumes, that means I was ~960 pages in before Willis settled down to business. There's no question this story could have been told in a single book; Willis could have just left out all the running around and interminable personal questioning.
But how would we gain insight into the characters' thoughts without internal monologues? Would that even be important? Must every monologue be based on questions? How many questions are enough? Is annoying the reader part of the fun? Chekov said, "The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them." Are endless questions Willis' attempt at being literary? Is this really the best way to tell a story?
Uh, no. Still wondering how this won all the awards....more
I am at a loss. This novel garnered Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards and the only conclusion I can draw is: the other nominees must have been terrible.I am at a loss. This novel garnered Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards and the only conclusion I can draw is: the other nominees must have been terrible. Even discounting the Locus (evidently awarded based on cover art—story quality is obviously not considered), that's still two respectable awards for a colossally repetitive World War II Three's Company episode.
I read this only because I'd already bought All Clear, unaware that it was the second half of this story. These should have been packaged as a single book, because Blackout cannot stand on its own. There is no ending AT ALL, which is especially frustrating given how interminable the set up.
This story suffers from the same issue that annoyed me in Doomsday Book: a mysterious time travel problem confounds our plucky heroes ("Oh why won't my blasted drop open? I do ever so wish it would!") but we have no hope of deducing what it is. Willis drowns us in detail, but not clues, so it's impossible for us to decipher the problem on our own. It's difficult to stay engaged with a story of the form:
1. Deposit hero in bad situation (Dunkirk, Blitz, measles quarantine). 2. Describe, at length, why situation is bad. 3. Send hero back and forth to build tension. 4. Thwart hero's escape at every turn, over and over and over. 5. Cry, "There's something wrong with time travel!" 6. Explain something, or provide resolution/growth (← this never happens). 7. Go to step 1
There are fifty-three chapters of this, at the end of which nothing is resolved. ("For the riveting conclusion to Blackout, be sure not to miss Connie Willis's All Clear." Yeah, right…)
What do I do? Read another 650 pages or ignore the sunk cost and move on? I rated this book generously, considering, well, this book. If I finish the next one and it's more of the same, I'm taking back some stars.
[Update] The second volume is better, but doesn't make this one any less peripatetic or frenzied. The incredibly low signal-to-noise-ratio for this book makes it very frustrating to read....more
Interesting extrapolation of a simple idea: education (read: intelligence) can dramatically separate people. Charlie Gordon's experience illustrates tInteresting extrapolation of a simple idea: education (read: intelligence) can dramatically separate people. Charlie Gordon's experience illustrates the point in the extreme, but the poignancy of his transformation is what makes the story so readable....more
Read the novella, not the expanded novel. I was only mildly interested by the central concept, which (predictably) turned the story into one of majoriRead the novella, not the expanded novel. I was only mildly interested by the central concept, which (predictably) turned the story into one of majority fear/minority persecution....more
Was really hoping for something along the lines of To Say Nothing of the Dog (a little more light-hearted/romantic), and held out hope right up untilWas really hoping for something along the lines of To Say Nothing of the Dog (a little more light-hearted/romantic), and held out hope right up until the end. I'm still not sure exactly what to make of the ending, or most of the story, to be honest... There was a fair bit of character development (which I appreciate), but in the end, what was the point? Kivrin certainly appears moved, but her growth—if that's what it was—just wasn't that interesting, and the rest of the characters... Well, they didn't get much of a chance to experience growth, did they?
I mean, is the point of this romp really to put a human face on the Black Death?
I also found the plot "mysteries" incredibly frustrating, in part because it took forever to describe them (the book really would have benefitted from more aggressive editing), but mostly because the reader never had any hope of solving them. If the solution is going to be essentially arbitrary, don't string me along interminably making me think I'm supposed to deduce something. Were these elements MacGuffins?...more