Thursday, January 9, 2014

Books that Made you NUTS ! The Connie Willis Blackout/All Clear edition

I know these books have won awards, etc. etc. but they didn't work for me - at all. I can only put the Hugo down to the fact that Connie Willis herself is apparently such a nice person. 

I read Blackout and All Clear when they came out [the time gap between releases was torture] because Connie Willis has written some of my favorite books (To Say Nothing of the Dog and Bellweather) but I have to tell you these books were enough to make me never read another word by this author and made me doubt my love for TSNotD - which was basically a farce so I was able to overlook the historical and logical inaccuracies. And I love her writing style!  But I can't stand the TSTL main characters anymore and ...  

I kept hearing about how long she worked these books and how they are supposed to be meticulously researched, but there are huge errors in them and it made me nuts.

If you don't don't anything about London, and don't really know much about WWII, the story will probably work fine for you but if you have ever been in London, or live in the UK, these books are pure torture.

For example - some simple ones: There aren't any garter snakes in England. Nor is there any skunk cabbage. The Victoria line opened in 1968 and the Jubilee Line was built for the Queen Elizabeth II's 1977 Silver Jubilee and opened in 1979! So, every time it was mentioned in the book it jerked me out of the story. A pillar box is a post box for mail, not a telephone box, so telling someone to go to the pillar box on the corner to make a phone call is patently ridiculous.

I think that a) her meticulous research never apparently included a map of London and b) she really has no idea how small London proper is. It is a truly walkable city. The characters kept getting frantic about catching the tube or worrying if the bus was going to be on time - to get between two places that it would be easier and faster to just walk! Seriously - the stairs down to the platform would be longer than the walk to their destination. There would be pages of inner dialog about how frantic they were to get from point A to point B while I would be thinking - just WALK damn it.  It would take less time to walk than it took to read the damn description of them fapping on about it!

That heroic ambulance run ? It was a between two places about two blocks apart.  Seriously - there is this trick that natives will play on tourists where they give you this route along three or four tube lines - all just so that you end up basically across the street from where you started (because the famous tube map bares no relation to surface geography). These characters apparently fell for that trick over and over. 

These errors (and several other historical ones that would take too long to explain without going into laborious detail) seriously detracted from my enjoyment to the point that I practically hated the author by the end of the second book.

Plus - she totally chucked the way time travel worked in To Say Nothing of the Dog to generate something that made no sense. I ended up absolutely hating All Clear by the end and was in a foul mood for days because of it. 

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