Blackout is the title of the newest Connie Willis novel. It is her first novel since 2001. With Blackout Ms. Willis revisits her vision of time travel. Her writings are generally characterized as science fiction, but I prefer the term alternative reality. Time travel is a theme that has won her rewards in the past. To date she has won ten Hugo Awards and six Nebula Awards and all of her time travel stories have been winners.
Blackout comprised my beach reading for this summer. The Thursday before we left for the Cabin, I was in Borders searching for some summer reading. Armed with my iPhone of mass distraction, I continually googled for possible titles, but to no avail. None of them were in stock. Scanning the bookshelves also turned up nothing of interest. I even got distracted and started to look at DVDs, but still found nothing that I wanted to part money for. After an hour of fruitless search, on the edge of despair, I spied upon the bottom shelf a single copy of Blackout. Oh Rapture, Oh Joy, my beach vacation was saved! I gladly forked out full hardcover price and marched home triumphantly. Wanting to save the entire reading experience for that time when sand lay below my feet, I did not dare to even crack the book’s spine. Instead I went to the web, just to read a review or two.
I soon discovered that I had not purchased a Connie Willis novel, but only the first half of one. The second half of this story is scheduled to be published later this year, under the title All Clear. Serialization has been a publishing ploy for many more years then I have been on this earth and by all appearances will continue long after my departure. Lately though the media companies have taken a new tack. Now, they are doubling down on a sure bet. The poster child for this tactic is the upcoming final Harry Potter movie. Are they finally giving more screen time to capture more of the nuances of J.K. Rowling’s always incredibly rich novels or are they just doubling their profit margins on this last chance at an incredibly lucrative franchise? Regarding Harry Potter, I suspect that it was all about the money. I am disappointed that I also suspect the same about Connie Willis.
With all this griping about the book industry, I must say that I still enjoy their products. Especially, when featuring such an artist, as Ms. Willis. My beach reading was not spoiled knowing that the book that I was reading would end as a cliffhanger. I took that fact as stoically as any of her 1940’s contemps took the Blitz and pressed on regardless. I am now poised for and patiently awaiting the “sequel”, All Clear. Will Britain survive? Will nary a historian be left alive? Only time will tell.