I’m struggling to adequately complete my third homework assignment in my Philosophy class today. I finished reading Chapter 7 on Ethics this past weekend and spent time Sunday between movie breaks gathering my notes to answer my professor’s questions. I am almost finished; just agonizing over a couple of questions that require my opinion which I am very uncomfortable stating in writing in an assignment for which I will receive a grade. Not fun.
Over lunch I took a book break to continue reading Version Control when I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read this paragraph:
… keep in mind the difference between a person and the data generated by a person as she moves through life. This is a distinction that is easy to forget. Information is not a person, and a person is made up of more than information. A person has beliefs and feelings and a will and a soul: information does not. You have to remember this because we do not want to dehumanize our clients by speaking of them in terms of numbers, but you must also remember that while it is possible to have a moral or ethical obligation to a person, it is impossible to have such an obligation toward data. The very idea is nonsensical. What would it mean to talk about being fair to…bits? How would you talk about treating bits with respect?
The future is coming…for some, sooner than others.
Ellis Rogers is an ordinary man who is about to embark on an extraordinary journey. All his life he has played it safe and done the right thing, but when faced with a terminal illness, he’s willing to take an insane gamble. He’s built a time machine in his garage, and if it works, he’ll face a world that challenges his understanding of what it means to be human, what it takes to love, and the cost of paradise. He could find more than a cure for his illness; he might find what everyone has been searching for since time began…but only if he can survive Hollow World.
In the not-too-distant future, competing giant fast food factions rule the world. Leonard works for Neetsa Pizza, the Pythagorean pizza chain, in a lonely but highly surveilled home office, answering calls on his complaints hotline. It’s a boring job, but he likes it—there’s a set answer for every scenario, and he never has to leave the house. Except then he starts getting calls from Marco, who claims to be a thirteenth-century explorer just returned from Cathay. And what do you say to a caller like that? Plus, Neetsa Pizza doesn’t like it when you go off script.
Meanwhile, Leonard’s sister keeps disappearing on secret missions with her “book club,” leaving him to take care of his nephew, which means Leonard has to go outside. And outside is where the trouble starts.
Brendan Doyle is a biographer and researcher specializing in poetry and prose of the early 19th century. In fact, it’s his knowledge of Coleridge and the obscure contemporary William Ashbless that leads Doyle into his time traveling adventure. An eccentric named Darrow has discovered a method of time travel. To secure venture capital for his personal scheme, he sells tickets to a Coleridge lecture in 1810. Doyle is hired as the Coleridge expert brought along to prep the audience.
The party arrives successfully in London in 1810 and convinces Coleridge to give an impromptu lecture. Darrow had misinformation about the date of the “real” lecture. At the conclusion of the lecture, Doyle is sent to fetch the carriages and is kidnapped.
I thoroughly enjoyed all the 14th century scenes and plot. I didn’t care for the ‘now’ (i.e. present day) interludes. The peasants, priests, lords and aliens proved more believable than a modern-day female quantum physicist cohabitating with a male cliologist (described as a ‘big picture’ statistical history theorist or something along those lines).
A very good first contact story juxtaposed with historical fiction set during some of the darkest days endured by Europeans. Yet, as mentioned by another reviewer, I feel Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book creates a more believable scenario and sympathetic characters. Flynn’s research yielded superior science and vivid images and glimpses into the lives of 14th century people, but he stretched my suspension of belief that these same people would so willingly accept the aliens among them.
This was a very enjoyable jaunt through time in search of a missing bishop’s bird stump for the Coventry Cathedral’s restoration. It’s 2057 and Lady Shrapnell (very aptly named by the way) is restoring the Coventry Cathedral exactly as it was before it’s destruction in 1940 in a German air raid. She commandeers the services of Oxford’s space-time continuum researchers and lab to travel back in time and solve the mystery of the bird stump’s disappearance.
Initially, we meet Ned Henry, one of the researchers and time travelers, as he’s searching the still burning ruins of Coventry Cathedral in 1940 as an Air Raid Patrolman. He fails to locate the bird stump but starts acting strangely, a clear indication of severe time-lag. He returns to 2057 and is ordered by the Infirmary nurse to two weeks of bed rest. Lady Shrapnell will have none of that so Mr. Dunworthy, the head researcher or professor, send Mr. Henry back to 1888 on a simple mission and to hide him from the overbearing Lady Schrapnell.
Still suffering from the symptoms of the time-lag, Ned can’t remember the specifics of his assignment. He chances to meet a young man, a student at Oxford, who convinces Ned to hire a boat for a trip downriver on the Thames.
Ned continues to meeting unbelievably interesting quixotic people and unusual circumstances – all highly hilarious. I kept hearing or seeing the actors from Monty Python’s Flying Circus or Michael Caine performing the voices and antics of these delightful Victorian characters. Even the pets are supporting actors, especially Cyril the English bulldog.
A very quick read for me. A time travel tale with vaguely described quantum physics (string theory and gravitons) and shallow character development. A satisfying ending, but too happy and convenient with a dash of poetic or ironic justice to appeal to me. The religious aspects didn’t disturb me; in fact, they intrigued me. I look forward to the book club discussion.
Wonderful, exceptional, loved every page. I find myself unable to describe what truly astonishes me about this novel without giving away huge spoilers. I laughed, I cried, my heart filled to bursting and erupted with hope and inspiration.
All Clear picks up where Blackout abruptly ended, back in the Blitz, London during the Blackout, the air raids, the shelters, life marches on for the stoic British citizens. Our stranded time-traveling historians face the facts, for the most part, and buckle down to survive. Rationing recipes, holding down jobs, wondering if the next air raid will destroy your employer’s building or your home, constant commute disruptions caused by bombed out streets, communication disruptions (telephone lines down and mail slowed to a crawl), doing the odd heroic rescue on the side, and don’t forget the rehearsals for the latest diversionary play performed in the underground tube stations by the hodgepodge of amateur actors directed by none other than Sir Godfrey.
Connie Willis revealed the essence of Britain during the Second World War through these glimpses into the everyday lives of it’s citizens.
Now that I have reached the end, and seen all the pieces fall into place, I must re-read both novels to truly appreciate the masterful ingenious tale crafted by Connie Willis.
Fifty years in our future, time-traveling Oxford historians studying key moments early in the Second World War become stranded in time in various locales around England. Like the contemporaries they are assigned to observe, the historians increasingly feel the weight of impending doom.
Doubt seeps into their belief that the continuum, the embodiment of a chaotic system, prevents damage or alteration to the time line; a self-correcting system. The butterfly effect, more aptly referenced with the catch phrase ‘For want of a nail’ becomes an argument both for and against altering the time-line. All doors back to Oxford and home seem sealed off and hope flickers and flutters against the background of air raid sirens and the Blackout.
The author peeled back the curtains to give us a glimpse of England in 1940, the astonishing courage and fortitude of her citizens. Amidst all the danger and bleakness, the light and compassion continued to shine. And the occasional comedic interludes, especially as respects to two incorrigible children, Alf and Binnie, and a rag tag amateur acting troupe forged in the shelters and tube stations during air raids, directed by a retired knighted Shakespearean actor, Sir Godfrey. Willis captures the soul of the British to a tea.
Be prepared to move directly on to the second novel immediately. The only reason I didn’t give this first novel five stars relates to the torture I would have endured waiting six months to read the second half. I didn’t torture myself, though, because I waited until All Clear was released before starting Blackout.