Blackout (All Clear #1) - Connie Willis The first half of a two-part story, and the third of novels set around a future-based academic time-travel department at Oxford, Blackout is my second favorite of the bunch behind the incomparable Doomsday Book. Where Blackout frustrates is in its pacing, with a heady amount of over-talking and thoughts broken off mid-sentence. These tricks heighten the suspense, but in a way that can be frustrating and bothersome rather than enjoyably prolonging the mystery. The Oxford characters also vary between believable shock and ridiculous over-thinking, again in a manner that seems to draw out the story in a way the plot doesn't need. But the story does give readers an incredible sense of what England survived during the Second World War: the sacrifices made by everyday citizens seem incredulous to a selfish and outright spoiled American mindset, and imagining any kind of similar response happening today -- department stores holding bomb sales, the conscription of civilian vessels at Dunkirk -- is impossible. 9/11 has changed America irreparably and, in ways we don't stop to question, we have surrendered something invaluable about ourselves and collective self-worth to the process. As enjoyable as it is on the surface, Blackout's publication has something to remind us about how a nation can unify around a central purpose and not, notable here, eat itself alive.