the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘World War II

It’s been a busy work week, and a slow-going reading week.  Yep, no five for Friday for you last week, I was exhausted. Don’t worry, the stuff I’ve been busy with has been all good stuff that is keeping me out of trouble!

 

I’ve been slowly making my way through All Clear by Connie Willis, and I finished it about an hour ago.

 

some thoughts:

OMFG was the never ending scene to get to St. Paul’s annoying!  If she had just told Binnie and Alf to bugger off, and ditched the doctor and the ambulance, maybe she’d have gotten to the church on time!   Those were seriously THE MOST annoying 50 pages I have ever read.  oh, it was only 5 pages? It felt like 50.  I very nearly DNFd this book because that scene was so annoying!

 

The short scenes with Ernest and Fortitude South. I am embarrassed that it took me a gazillion pages to figure out where everyone’s names were from.  come on, I haven’t read that play since high school!  and now I want to know everything about Fortitude South, because holy shit so brilliant!

 

It also took me FOREVER to figure out that people we meet in 1944 are people I’ve already met.  thanks for Agatha Christie’ing me, Willis!

 

Are Connie Willis and Ann Perry friends, or was that just a coincidence?

 

Connie Willis and Robin Hobb must be friends,  they both subscribe to the philosophy of “imagine the worst possible thing that could happen to your characters, and then do it”.

 

That’s who Colin is??  WHAHHHH?????

 

now that I’ve finished the duology, the only thing I want to do is reread them both, so I can pick up all the hints I missed the first time.  I have a feeling this duology is just like that painting that everyone in the book is always going on about – that you see something different every time you look at it.

 

Also, I suddenly feel really bad about  bitching about that interminable-seeming ambulance / chase scene / split up  / climb the rafters / everyone ends up at the hospital even though they are trying to get to St. Paul’s scene.  Every minute was important, and I was a whiny bitch about it.

 

maybe I should take a break from time travel books?  HAHAHAHA, no.

 

Oxford needs to do a “Connie Willis literary tour”.

 

this book was so fucking hopeful it makes me want to cry.  Everything I’ve read by Willis is so damn hopeful. It’s like she’s saying to me “People are capable of so much good. Here, let me show you”. I kinda need that right now.  Is this what hopepunk is?  Please say that it is.

 

that is all.

 

have a great week everyone.

Blackout by Connie Willis

published in 2010*

where I got it: purchased used

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I finished reading Connie Willis’s Blackout shortly after blogging about how much of a Lobster this book is.  When I wrote that blog post, I was about half way through the book, I am pretty sure I read the 2nd half in a non-stop reading marathon.

 

That post, and this post has minor plot spoilers for Blackout.

 

I’m a sucker for time travel thrillers,  and I especially love it when the premise of the thriller is “what could possibly go wrong?” and the author has correctly answered that question is “everything!”,  thus the thrilling storyline.

 

Willis’s Doomsday Book is one of my favorite time travel novels, and I’d heard the sequel was To Say Nothing of the Dog.  I recently bought a copy of TSNofD, and don’t tell anyone I said this, but i DNF’d that book about 50 pages in. I wasn’t getting any of the Three Men in a Boat jokes (yes, I am a midwestern heathen with no education. More on that in a bit, actually),  I wasn’t connecting with any of the characters. So back on the bookshelf that book went. But I still wanted my Connie Willis fix? So I picked up Blackout.

 

Blackout takes place about 5 years after the events of Doomsday Book, and who were the first two characters I met?  Dunworthy and Colin!! This was the sequel to Doomsday Book I’d been looking for!! Colin is nearly college age, and as adorable and puppy-like as always,  Badri knows not to let Colin anywhere near the net, and Dunworthy is his usually curmudgeonly and rushing all about self. Dunworthy cares deeply for his time traveling students, he’s just real good at showing it.  And he keeps rescheduling everyone’s drops and driving the net techs crazy.

 

Just joining us for Connie Willis time travel?  Here’s some context: It’s the year 2060, time travel exists (but somehow smartphones, e-mail, and pages do not**),  and Oxford University sends historians back in time for weeks or months, so the historian can embed themselves in the time and location they are studying.  The language and accent you need will be imported into your implant, you’ll receive tons of training on how to act and dress, and when your drop date arrives, you go to the Net with your props, and the net techs send you through. To avoid anyone being able to change history, the net simply won’t open to let you go through to a moment in the past where you’d have any ability to muck things up. To return home, you got to the “drop” site at specific pre-arranged times when the net will open for you. Pretty cool, right?

 

Minor spoiler:  Dunworthy and Colin are not major characters in Blackout. I think I cried with joy to get to see them again, and even 20 pages with them was enough for me to be OK with not seeing them for another who knows how many pages.  The novel follows four time travelers/historians who I hadn’t met before, and they have all gone back to different areas of England at different points during World War II. They each have an assignment to observe different places.  The good news is that while some things do go wrong, this book is nowhere near as brutal as what all went wrong in The Doomsday Book.

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I’m about half way through Blackout by Connie Willis.

 

Someone told me that To Say Nothing of the Dog is the sequel to The Doomsday Book?  I disagree!! Who is the first person I meet in Blackout? Colin! And who is he looking for? Mr. Dunworthy! And who does Colin run into as he’s running around Oxford? Badri! And who knows to not let Colin anywhere near the net? EVERYONE.  Blackout is the sequel to Doomsday Book says I, as all my fave people are in the first chapter! Don’t at me!

 

Anyway,  I love time travel stories that go a little like this: Let’s go back in time! What could possibly go wrong?  In fact, let’s go back to the London Blitz, and then go to Dunkirk!

 

Um, everything could wrong? Didn’t Dunworthy already learn that the hard way?

 

I’m about half way through and Blackout is a damn Lobster.

 

It’s super intense, and scary AF, and I can’t put it down, it freaks me out to read it, it freaks me out to not be reading it and not know what is going to happen, i want to poke it I’m afraid to poke it.  I call books like that Lobsters.

 

I was so into this book, and being so affected by it,  that when my husband asked me something super basic about dinner, it took me a good 60 seconds to realize that I wasn’t in 1940 London and that I was perfectly safe.

 

What books have been lobsters for you?

 

(this post has minor spoilers for Blackout by Connie Willis)

 

What’s doubly scary is that all our time travellers – Polly, Mike, Eileen, and Mary, they KNOW exactly what happened in England during World War II.  Our time travelers are in fact, historians studying at Oxford in the year 2060.

 

And while the time travellers are on assignment observing people,  if they need to learn something (like how to drive), they can pop through the net back to the future, learn whatever they need to learn, and then pop back right moments after they left. Time travel is neat!

 

But they people they are with, they have no idea where and when the bombs will fall, they have no idea how much war is yet to come.

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Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis

published in 2010

where I got it: purchased new

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I’ve been avoiding this book for a while now. Alternate history is always fun, but I tend to shy away from War stories. When this book was chosen for my local book club, there was no getting around it.

The first few chapters were a little rough going for me, more because the time and place jumps around with little context than that I wasn’t sure I wanted to be reading this. A british boy is caught ripping plants out of a garden, another British child is hidden from his terrifying grandfather, and elsewhere two dark complected siblings survive a harrowing journey to an orphanage in Germany. Time jumps forward nineteen years, it’s 1939, and suddenly I wished I’d paid more attention in history class.

The young boy in the garden is Raybould Marsh. Mentored and then sponsored by John Stephenson, Marsh grows up to become a spy for Her Majesty. Sent to Spain in 1939 to meet an informant,  Marsh gets the clue that something strange is going on when the man bursts into flames, taking most of his evidence with him. The evidence that Stephenson’s team is able to reconstruct makes no sense, and to investigate it, project Milkweed is born.

The siblings are Klaus and Gretel, and the orphanage later becomes Reichsbehörde für die Erweiterung Germanischen Potenzials , the Authority for the Advancement of German Potential. For the glory of the Reich, Dr. von Westarp has spent twenty years trying to create supermen. The subject’s willpower, or willenskrafte, is augmented by battery power, allowing the person to fly, or set something on fire, or read minds, or disappear, or who yet knows what else. Klaus’s talent lies in dematerializing into an ethereal ghost capable of moving through walls and people, and Gretel’s talent lies in seeing the future. The surgical procedures are experimental and dangerous, and nobody talks about the rows and rows of child sized graves.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.