Books, History Class, Life, World War 2

WWII Speculative Fiction: BLACKOUT and ALL CLEAR by Connie Willis

As progress continues on my upcoming new release, today I’d like to share the first in a series of novels that combine the true stories of the Second World War with speculative fiction.

This first post is actually about two novels: Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis. Author Sarah Higbee and her blog, Brainfluff, introduced me to these stories several years ago, and this isn’t the first time I’ve shared them on this blog. However, they fit my current theme so well that they’re well worth a revisit!

Oxford in the year 2060 sends historians to study history first-hand via time travel. The process has been perfected, and all (well, nearly all) of the experts are convinced that the historians are unable to affect history’s outcome. However, when Polly, Mike, and Eileen are stranded in World War II Britain, it appears that this philosophy may be entirely wrong. History may be changed due to their actions with disasterous outcomes.

As a further complication, the historians have a strict rule that none are allowed to visit a time in history just before a time they have already visited. No one knows for certain what could happen if someone travelled back, say, to June 15th, then travelled back to June 11th and stayed to long, encountering themselves on the 15th. None of the theories of what would happen are positive. However, one of this party of historians has broken that rule and has an upcoming ‘deadline’ by which they must return to the future or risk everything.

Now, whether there are some science fiction elements or not, I like my historical fiction with an emphasis on the ‘historical.’ I loved that Ms. Willis packs her story with a tremendous amount of historical detail, particularly about life during the Blitz.

In fact, there is so much detail that I’ll confess, I suspected at one point during the first book that a few of the POV changes existed for the sole purpose of including some of her research. (And if they were, I couldn’t really judge her. After all, there are so many fascinating stories from the era, it’s hard to cut anything out, even in fiction!)

I’m pleased to announce that my suspicions were unfounded. By the end of book two (in which I felt the pacing moved along a bit better) all plot threads, even the bits about ambulance drivers and Operation Fortitude, were accounted for in a most satisfying way.

Part of “Operation Fortitude” – An inflatable Sherman Tank. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

While not every reader cares to dive into a non-fiction account of history, I enjoy books like “Blackout” because they help us explore history in a different way.

Through them, we can briefly slip on the shoes of her characters and walk the rubble-strewn streets of London, struggle through crowded tube stations as threatening cacophony fills the skies overhead, and meet the everyday heroes who survived the struggle, one day at a time…

…and all of that history is hidden in a speculative fiction novel!

Thank you for stopping by today, Readers! Have any of you checked out any of Connie Willis’s books? What are your thoughts on blending history with sci-fi elements?

8 thoughts on “WWII Speculative Fiction: BLACKOUT and ALL CLEAR by Connie Willis”

  1. I always love time travel stories, even if they can sometimes become paradoxical and I love the idea of mixing that in with some cool history. Will have to look into these books

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciated that she addressed the paradox issue upfront, and- I thought- had a good ‘in universe’ explanation for how it all worked. It’s been a couple of years, but I enjoyed this take on it! My next book I’m featuring is time travel too, actually 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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