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Connie Willis–Blackout and All Clear October 6, 2011

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Brilliant words.

Connie Willis’ two part series Blackout and All Clear is read by Katherine Kellgren, who really, really breathes life into what might have been an overly-long  (set of) book (s).  This is not a bad thing (the longness);  both books are detailed in lovely time- and place-centric ways that are absolutely required for time-travel novels, so that’s really required.  Even better, the details add a layer of claustrophobia that is so pervasive that I really felt empathy for the three time-travelling historians trapped in WWII London during the Blitz and getting the snot kicked out of them.  At every turn, they are stymied in their efforts to get back to their own time.  All their “drops”, the time-travel windows through which they must return, seem to stop functioning and they all fear that they have damaged history in a way which will force history to correct itself—probably by erasing them from it.  And history appears to be happy to do just that.

There are lots of lovely bits about heroism, the love of friends and family, sacrifice and cheer, strange courage at odd times by unlikely people, joy and sorrow at reunion and separation.  The anguished thoughts of each of the time-travellers (which they share with no one, not even each other) that they may have done something to get the wrong person killed or let Germany win were actually difficult to bear at times, due to Katherine Kellgren’s dramatic readings (side note: there are dozens of character voices in this book, male and female, and each of them seems distinct to my ear.  Nice work, that). Special guest appearances (in odd ways, just like life) by Alan Turing and Agatha Christie.

The lovely impression one comes away with is that England was a whole nation of heroes at that time, because it was necessary and they were capable; from farmers to shopgirls, vicars and firemen, to teenaged girl ambulance drivers and knighted Shakespearean actors.  And nobody would think it odd at all.

This set of books won a boatload of well-deserved awards: Nebula, Locus and Hugo and is very stangely priced on Amazon:  the Kindle version costs more than the paperback by two dollars.  The Audible version is more than the CD version by eight dollars.  It’s endlessly strange to me that this should be so, since  the on-line version (Kindle or audiobook) is essentially free (to Amazon/Audible) to distribute.  And as long as this is so, there will be piracy.


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