You may recall, dear reader, that I recently rather blatantly suggested that Connie Willis might be a supernatural creature. Well, she has revenged herself on me for that outrageous statement, and IN SPADES. I have just finished Blackout… and it ended with a cliffhanger. Do yourself a favor. If you’re going to get Blackout, then go ahead and acquire All Clear at the same time. Trust me on this one. You are going to want to know what happens.
And now I’m left with unanswered questions of my own! HOW will Nancy be able to resist continuing into All Clear, and keep to her schedule by beginning a different author tonight? CAN she finish the Great Balticon Readathon before the convention actually begins? WHO will replenish the family tea supplies so she can keep reading? WILL Nancy be crushed by the growing mounds of unattended laundry surrounding her?
A quick reader response to the book itself: In Blackout, Willis has created a world that one can fall into. (The difficulty is climbing back out: I find myself resenting household mundanities that keep me from pursuing the story.) We learn about the characters organically through their speech and action, and the reactions of other characters to them. Willis is an expert at creating full-fleshed characters without heavy-handed description. You learn about the people of the book by watching them, listening to them, working with them, rather than being told who they are and how you ought to feel about them.
I note that this book took me longer to read than I’d planned. In addition to my broken schedule, I think my very real memory issues impacted my reading. When I create my own work, no matter how real the characters may be to me, I create a dramatis personae chart to refer to as I go along. It would have been helpful to me to have done so with Blackout, at least for the beginning section, as my inability to process made it harder for me to track which character was who, where, when. (This is a feature, not a bug! It replicates the environment of the book. Meta reading experience. I only mention it so that folks with memory or focusing issues will consider making themselves a cheat sheet to refer to.) This is a very dense plot, with intricate patterning.
So: vivid setting, excellent character building, dense and compelling plot. What more could one want from a book? Obviously: Book 2. Unequivocal thumbs up for this fascinating, complex tale of WWII Britain, time travel, and a threatened near future. Bonus points for Shakespeare, and plenty of references to The Tempest (my favorite play). Bonus points for synchronicity, as I have been working on a Tempest-inspired short story for Shakespeare’s birthday.