Monday, November 28, 2011

A Pair of Time-Travel Novels

Generally, I like to read things with straightforward plots, clear and understandable. But then there are days that I just want my brain to be twisted into a pretzel, and that's when I pick up books like Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis, which won the prestigious Hugo Award earlier this year.

Set in . . . well, it's hard to say when this is set, because that's the plot, you see. In 2060, humanity has perfected the art of time travel. At Oxford, historians don't just read old diaries and peruse photographs, they go back in time to observe history as it happens. They do their best not to affect events, but they're secure in the knowledge that history is self-correcting and nothing they do can alter its course. Not really, anyway.

England during WWII is every historian's dream, and three lucky people have been selected for assignments there. Polly has traveled back to observe London during the Blitz, Eileen was sent into the English countryside with children evacuated from the city, and Mike has gone to witness the historic evacuation at Dunkirk.

Except that something has gone wrong with the time travel, and no matter what, they can't seem to get back to their own time. As bombs fall about them and all of London seems to be going up in flames, they begin to notice discrepancies between the historical record and what's actually happening. What if the whole theory of time travel is wrong? What if historians from the future really can affect the course of history?

And what if that means they can never get home?

This is actually one complex and mind-bending story in two volumes. Several different storylines, characters, and timelines weave through each other in this meaty treat for history-lovers and sci-fi adventure fans alike.

- Maureen K.

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