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Marilee J. Layman

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09:16 pm: Blackout by Connie Willis

We pretty much all agreed that this had a lot of padding in it. When you add All Clear, which is really the second part of the book, I wonder if it was the publisher who wanted her to break it and thus put in the padding. The structure of this book is somewhat similar to Doomsday Book, involving time travel gone wrong.

In 1960, we meet a number of people from Oxford who are historians and need to be in history to get the information. While they're all set up for their drops, their supervisor changes many of the times and placements and on top of that, their placements -- time and position -- turn out wrong. This book only covers three of the people in depth: Polly is being a shopgirl in the Blitz, Merope is watching the children's evacuation in WWII, and Mike wanted to know who the ordinary heros were at Dunkirk. They all have their drops stop working as well as lots of things go wrong and it takes them until the last fifth of the book to get the idea that something might have been/gone wrong because all those drops were rescheduled. They do get together near the end of the book rushing off for errands, and then we see an "ending" with an unknown boy clattering down the emergency stairwell in a tube station.

The only inaccurate thing I found was that she says the "cargo kilt" wasn't made until 2014, but of course, Utilikits came out with one in 2000. Those who knew more about the UK and that history had lists of errors, starting with the pictures on the front cover. The planes are US bombing Tokyo and the dome is St. Patrick. One of the bookgroup members shared Simon Bisson's two LJ posts on it.

I'm going to read All Clear next, but at this point, I'm not sure how good it will be. The only thing I'm really looking forward to finding out is if one old man at that time was a boy who has aged himself to be Polly's boyfriend. He went a little over-date, if that's true, but he sure knows things that should only be known by time travelers.



[User Picture]
Date:March 20th, 2011 02:24 am (UTC)
Some say "padding," but to me it's immersion. I think it's there to drive home what it was like to be there then. Especially at the end, where they all get run over by a giant AG@#$%!

[User Picture]
Date:March 20th, 2011 10:17 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:March 20th, 2011 01:20 pm (UTC)
The only inaccurate thing I found was that she says the "cargo kilt" wasn't made until 2014,

Then you weren't looking hard enough. For me, the throw-book-at-wall moment was when Mike is rooting around in a waste paper basket for an envelope so he can check a postmark for the date -- and finds a letter with a two cent stamp. In rural England, in 1940? Er, no, I don't think so ...

Nor do her English protagonists circa 2060 know what a mobile phone is -- a somewhat improbable eventuality, given that in this island of 60 million souls there are around 80 million active mobile phone accounts right now. (Not to mention 2060s Oxford feeling more like 1960s Oxford with added time machines ...)

Oh, and as others have pointed out: the Jubilee Line of the London Underground, which plays a not-insignificant part in the books, was so named for the event it commemorates -- Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee, i.e. 1977.

I could go on. Let's just say, for a native British person the first book suffers hugely from geographical and temporal mistakes and the future parts of the book are just not even remotely plausible. I didn't bother with the second book -- didn't even bother finishing the first.

NB: To some extent this is a side-effect of Connie having unfortunately chosen a third rail topic in British cultural consciousness, much like a Brit trying to write a time travel story set in the middle of the US civil war. (The Blitz and WW2 have been coopted as a foundational myth for the modern [post-empire] British state: the Just War from which everything emerged.)

PS: drplokta is not Simon Bisson.

Edited at 2011-03-20 01:24 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:March 20th, 2011 10:25 pm (UTC)
I couldn't look closer because I know almost nothing about English history. I taught myself at home other than three years and I only learned what I wanted, which is not history. We did discuss the cellphone lack -- if she'd had them, she couldn't set up the disjunct between the characters at the beginning.

The guy who brought the posts from drplokta said he was Simon Bisson, but I should have known better -- Mike & Allison came to a Minicon a while back (obviously, since they were married then) and I think Sue was there that one, too. Plus, if I see Simon Bisson's LJ name & icon, I'll recognize it.
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