"Blackout" and "All Clear" by Connie Willis

While wondering around the bookstore with my boyfriend, I found myself in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy section. This is not normally where I dwell in bookstores, but occasionally I peruse sections other than Cookbooks, Fiction/Literature, and Poetry and I am so glad this was one of those occasions. I was struck by the planes dropping bombs and St. Paul’s spire clouded in smoke pictured on the cover of Blackout. When I read “Oxford 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-traveling historians being send to the past” and “World War II” on the back cover, I was sold. I almost would have left at that, but I was so excited about it that my boyfriend, thank goodness, asked if there were any more books in the series. Low and behold, there was the Hugo and Nebula award-winning All Clear too.

I try to keep my obsession with historical fiction under wraps because, honestly, most of it isn’t that good…but I am consoled by telling myself that having a degree in English literature just gives me a more critical sense of high and low literature. Either way, now that the cats out of the bag, I am prepared to gush about these two books. They are phenomenal. It has been quite a while since I found myself so absorbed with a book that I forget to cook dinner and forego sleep just so I can keep reading. I read just about everything I can get my hands on, but this was quite a treat.

These books are well researched (though still very much fiction and sci-fi) and quite compelling despite the unusual mixing of time travel and historical fiction. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why it took so long to find a genre like this. My bigger concern, however, is where can I find more? I finished these novels and instead of picking up the next book on top of the pile like usual, I actually held off on starting a new novel for a couple days just to savor the series a bit longer.

The characters are endearing, and having voluntarily put themselves in to the midst of the Blitz only to find themselves stuck and trying to survive the characters bring the terror of the Blitz to life like nothing else I have encountered. More than just bringing history of an almost unfathomable war to life, these novels challenge the idea that “hindsight is 20/20″ because history can only be documented in so many ways. The reality of that being documented often falls quite short of the true experience. Additionally, adding time-travel to the mix allows for not just the challenge to the truth of history, but also creates a discourse on how espionage techniques can drastically alter the historic record of events. The concept of these novels and the characters that populate this version of the future and the past are entirely captivating. These books read like Connie Willis loved writing them as much as I loved reading them. I have since found myself searching for some indication that she plans to write more books in this vein, but much to my chagrin, it doesn’t appear to be true; she seems to be sticking to it being a two-novel series.

As I told my mom the other day, I’m happy to lend these books, but I am pretty sure I’ll be itching to reread them within two or three months so she’ll have to mail them back to me as soon as she has finished them. You will definitely want to buy these books, but if you don’t want to spend the money now, run out and rent these from the library. Do be warned, though, you’ll not put these down easily so warn your family and friends not do interrupt you too much while you become absorbed in these incredible novels.

If you want to buy these for your Kindle, click here: Blackout (Oxford Time Travel) and All Clear (Oxford Time Travel). Enjoy!

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