Blackout/All Clear

Blackout/All Clear
Connie Willis, 2010

Hugo Winner - 2011

Premise: Takes place in the same world as Doomsday Book (my rating: 3), and To Say Nothing of the Dog (my rating: 1). 

Oh joy. Another one of these books. 

Reading this award-winning duology has finally crystalized for me why I find this series so frustrating. I find the very premise so idiotic that I can't stand the characters. Oh no, these historians are trapped in the Blitz and maybe messed up the timeline!

Why were you there, you dummies? I was willing to sort of accept Doomsday Book, assuming that a time traveler could gain some actually meaningful information about that time period that they couldn't gain any other way. But these morons seem just like any pompous grad students studying something "fun" for the heck of it. Observing people suffering and dying like they're on safari, and then freaking out when things go sideways. Why, why, why is this a good use of time travel? If there's even a chance that something could go wrong, why on earth would you send anyone to WWII, much less this group of insufferable, incompetent academics? 

Yes, the historical part of this book is well-researched and beautifully written. But I can't concentrate on the bravery of Londoners during the Blitz because it's constantly being compared to our main characters. Said characters spend most of the time knowing when and where to be to avoid danger (because time travel), but then fall apart emotionally when their plans go awry. Then they finally "learn" the "true" bravery of the people who kept living their lives despite not knowing when the bombs would fall... etc. etc. I've spent the last few hundred pages waiting for you to get your act together, Polly. If you are only learning this now, you are bad at your job. 

Besides which the whole thing is told in these alternating storylines in different times with just enough vague details that you are supposed to be in suspense about what happens to the characters, but I didn't care about these characters, so the fact that it took forever to reveal that one character did that or the other thing was just annoying. 

PLUS it did the one thing that I hoped it wouldn't do and gave the most annoying entitled asshole of a character who was just in the beginning a heroic arc and the girl he wanted. Nope. Just Nope.

The historical stuff is interesting, and it probably deserves at least 3 stars. But I'm reading this as a Hugo winner, and the time travel is inane. Yes, of course I knew what was going to happen, because I read the Pern books when I was a teenager in the 90s. It's just a closed loop. It's not that hard to understand or predict. 

And because of the way it works out, the very existence of the time travelers completely cheapens the actions and bravery of the people actually of the time that the book was trying so hard to champion. 

1 Star - Frustrating throughout. 


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