RogerBW's Blog

Blackout/All Clear, Connie Willis 29 September 2018

2010 Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction. Historians from Oxford in 2060 are visiting England in 1940, but things are going oddly wrong. Warning: this is going to be a bit of a rant.

In Doomsday Book, Mr Dunworthy, who seemed in some vague way to be in charge of things, was something of a hero, or at least someone who was trying to do the right thing. Here, he's shuffling everyone's assignments so that they have only a day or two to prepare, in ways that seem certain to generate more mistakes of the sort that happened in that book. What's the bloody rush? The past will still be there next month!

Our three historians sent to 1940 are Merope (cover name Eileen O'Reilly, because apparently this is an England with no prejudice against the Irish), who's a servant looking after evacuated children in Warwickshire; Polly, who's supposed to find work as a shopgirl in London, armed with a list of safe locations during the Blitz; and Mike, who's supposed to cover the Dunkirk evacuation from the safety of Dover. The narrative bounces between them (with occasional hops to other people in 1944, which seems to me like obvious foreshadowing of what's going to happen to at least some of the 1940 bunch, and indeed this turns out to be the case); alas, their personalities are entirely indistinguishable, except that Mike gets severely depressed at the idea that he's caused a change in the timeline… which is, according to the time travel theories – "historians have been traveling to the past for nearly forty years" – categorically impossible, and there's no evidence for it that can't be explained away by the incompleteness of historical records.

You'd think they'd pick historians who were a bit less prone to depression. Or had a bit more intelligence, more perseverance, more oomph. Polly has been sent through with a blue skirt, thanks to the abovementioned unjustified haste; she needs to get a black one for the job as a shopgirl. She's been given huge amounts of local currency in case of emergencies, and is working in a department store where clothes are sold and altered. So… she tries repeatedly to time-travel back to Oxford to get the Wardrobe department to give her the right clothes. (Might it be a ration thing? No; clothing rations didn't start until June 1941, and in any case she has a period-accurate ration book.) Eileen/Merope can't get back to her rendezvous on time because the manor's under quarantine for measles, and she is apparently unable to outwit the elderly gardener who is the only person enforcing this. (Mike's similarly unable to prevent a senile small-boat owner from dragging him to Dunkirk.)

If they can't get back to the "drop" location that'll get them home, or if it isn't working, all they can think of to do is to wait for the retrieval team, a phrase that's repeated rather too often – and to cause all sorts of trouble by trying to make themselves easy to find when the team turns up. Why can't they ask for help by taking out a suitably coded small ad, in a newspaper with archives that survive until 2060? Or, in extremis, writing to "The Master, Balliol" with an inner envelope reading "Not to be opened until 17 July 2060"? Why don't they have some kind of safe house? Or even a fallback time and place to meet?

(In All Clear one of them finally thinks of the newspaper advertisement, and of course they agonise for pages over just what to say to avoid being picked up as spies since they didn't plan this in advance… but it's all too late, too late, I don't care about these people any more.)

More generally, if their return portals aren't opening, and the only theory they've come up with is that they must have changed time so that future-Oxford no longer exists – a perfectly acceptable conceit of time-travel stories – why do they spend so much time and effort looking for other portals used by other historians, when surely if the system has stopped working it's stopped for everybody?

Some of the apparent stupidity is the fault of the narrative – we know very early that all three of them are having trouble getting back to their drops and aren't being met by retrieval teams, but they each have to work this out independently, and only meet in the closing chapters of Blackout. So it's not only that this phase of the story (and it's not concluded in any way at the end of the first book, but they have at least got together and compared notes) is nearly 200,000 words long, it's that we're getting many parts of it three times over.

I know that the friction of everyday life is one of Willis's recurring themes, but she doesn't seem to be aware that ordinary people manage to do things at least as challenging as "buying a skirt" or "arranging to meet in a few hours' time" every day without experiencing the need to give in to despair. It feels like one of those frustration-dreams where you've got to do X, but first you have to find Y, and it's not there, and so on – at fat-novel length. She tries at times for a feeling of farce – such as when a flimsy cover story is about to be broken by "oh, if you were there, you must know X", but the interrogator is repeatedly interrupted by other things – but it ends up leaden. There are multiple scenes, taking multiple pages, of people not being able to remember the name of an airfield where somebody else might be: maybe it begins with P, or was it a B? (And even when someone does finally remember it, it's several drawn-out paragraphs until she shares it with the reader.) That evidence that they don't have eidetic memories grinds oddly against the fact that none of these historians, even before they learn that things have gone Horribly Wrong, ever makes any notes about any of the things they observe.

Although they've presumably had some preparation for time-travelling they're desperately surprised by the idea that another historian, who was in the Blitz years ago in their "home" time, might be there right now in 1940! (And so they take ages explaining it to each other.)

A minor character gets married in 1940 and moves most of the length of England with her husband; by 1944 she's back working where she was before, with no explanation. Who cares? I don't.

And then there's the research. As with Doomsday Book, I feel that when you put this much research into a book, you're asking to be judged on its quality. Both volumes have this introductory paragraph:

But most especially, I want to thank the marvelous group of ladies at the Imperial War Museum the day I was there doing research—women who, it turned out, had all been rescue workers and ambulance drivers and air-raid wardens during the Blitz, and who told me story after story that proved invaluable to the book and to my understanding of the bravery, determination, and humor of the British people as they faced down Hitler.

Uh-huh. She talked to people who were there. Just remember that through what follows. (Well, they were probably into their eighties by then and may not have remembered things exactly right. Or maybe she just didn't listen to their stories.)

There were, and as far as I know are, no garter snakes living wild in England, though they're endemic to North America. Similarly, skunk cabbage doesn't grow here and was not generally known about. There was never a "two-cent stamp", and "tuppence" as a coin didn't come in until decimalisation in 1971. Most of central London does not happen in blocks. If you are English and have studied the history of games, cryptic crosswords should not be an entirely foreign concept to you, even if you are from fifty years in the future. The V-1 is not a "rocket", and it's the educated future characters who are calling it that (in the 1940s even actual rockets were often referred to as "jets"). The V-1's terminal dive was not caused by cutting off the fuel supply, but by jamming the elevators down; the flying-bombs were actually intended to hit the target under power, but a flaw in the fuel feed design led to the characteristic engine cut-off. A hospital would not have been using the Celsius scale for measuring a patient's temperature; nor would you have been readily able to buy grapes to bring to a patient. It's a trilby, not a fedora. The road north of Dover doesn't run along the cliffs; the cliffs go a little north of east from Dover, and there isn't a road along them.

"Have you a telephone?" she asked.

"Downstairs in the vestibule, but it's for local calls only. Five p. If you need to make a trunk call, there's a pillar box on Lampden Road. And no calls after 9 P.M."

"p" is a post-decimalisation (1971) abbreviation; before then it was "d.", pronounced "pence", and you would rarely have used five of them together. A pillar box is a box in which one deposits letters, not a telephone box. (And would a boarding-house have had a "vestibule"? It's not quite the same thing as a hall.)

A wayward child would not be wary of "Child Services", a North American term that in any case only became widely used in the 1950s. "The [local] council", perhaps, but more probably just the police.

The Times is referred to that way, or as The Times of London in the rare case that one might need to distinguish it from some other newspaper borrowing the name; "the London Times" is a blatant Americanism. (Actually, all these supposedly English people talk broad American, full of "outside of" and "sailboat" and "orchestra" for "stalls" and such like, so when someone actually expresses surprise that one of the historians says "elevator" rather than "lift" – he has a mental implant to make him sound American, we're told – it's quite jarring.)

On every street at least one of the clapboard tenements had collapsed inward in a heap of wood and plaster.

The East End was built mostly of brick, not wood; and mostly it was two-up two-down terraced houses. And, again, the narrators are not meant to be Americans; I know "tenement" shows up in Scotland, but it's not otherwise a common UK-English word, and "clapboard" is nearly unknown.

I don't know what a "candy butcher" is (Wikipedia redirects to "concession stand"); apparently he sells sweets on a train. Not in England he doesn't!

A certain Agatha Christie novel is referred to repeatedly as Murder in the Calais Coach, the title under which it was published in the USA; in England it would have been known by its original title, Murder on the Orient Express. (My working theory is that Willis looked up an American publication history, discovered that Orient Express was known in the USA as Calais Coach until 1974 when the film came out, and assumed that this was the world-wide title.)

And Leslie Howard, who Lila thought was so handsome, was in the RAF. He'd be killed in 1943 when his plane was shot down.

Leslie Howard was not in the RAF. "His plane" was a passenger flight from Bristol to Lisbon, with 17 souls on board.

"Two weeks before the invasion, five of the top-top-secret code words appeared in the Daily Herald's crossword puzzle: 'Overlord,' 'mulberry,' 'Utah,' 'sword,' and I forget the other one. The military was convinced the Germans had tumbled to the invasion and was ready to call the entire invasion off."

It was the Daily Telegraph, and it was seven words, in separate puzzles over several months.

"If the Germans had had so much as an inkling that we'd cracked their codes and had access to their top-secret communications, we'd have lost the advantage that won us the war."

Without the ULTRA advantage the war would certainly have taken longer, but given the state of the German economy (and Germany's failure to loot Russia) I think that arguing for a Nazi victory is unjustified.

(And all the girls at Bletchley Park are pretty, apparently.)

There'd been far too many—nearly ten thousand V-1s and eleven hundred V-2s—so she'd focused on the ones which had hit the area around Dulwich, those that had hit London, and the area in between.

Yes, the area in between Dulwich and "London", in that massive gap of five miles filled by, er, Camberwell and Peckham, those places well known not to be part of London. Ten thousand V-1s were launched at England, but fewer than 2,500 actually reached London.

Similarly, in All Clear, one of our time travellers has to drive an officer from Hendon to Whitehall; he tells her to take the Great North Road, and she wishes she could remember which towns lay along it. Well, even if you took that road (which means driving about twice as far as the road that goes from Hendon to Central London in a straight line, that being the A5, and yes, road numbers did exist at the time though they weren't universally used), you would go not through towns but between the suburban areas of Finchley, Holloway, and Camden Town. It's all built-up London, all the way, even in 1940.

The research on the Underground is particularly bad: it's very clear that Willis used a modern map, and paid little attention to the changes in the network over time. Now, you might say, this was written between 2002 and 2010, when you couldn't casually look up a network map from 1940 (er, that link is to a page from 2004), or even a map showing bomb damage – but Clive's UndergrounD Line Guides, giving the dates of opening and closing of every station on every line, were available as early as 1998, and by 2002 Wikipedia was starting to cover the same material in a more readily accessible form.

For a start, there was no Jubilee line in 1940. (Whose Jubilee did you think it was named for, Connie? Queen Victoria's?) Nor was there a Victoria Line, which was planned before the war but did not begin to open until 1968. Because of that, Victoria station was only on the District Line, and was not an interchange ("how are you going to get anywhere if you can't go to Victoria or Bank?"). The Circle Line had no formal existence, and usually wasn't mentioned on maps either. The Hammersmith and City Line (here called the "Hammersmith Line") only gained its own identity in 1990; before then the service was regarded as part of the Metropolitan Line.

If you wanted to go to Trafalgar Square, your destination station would not be (the modern) Charing Cross but, er, Trafalgar Square (or Strand, depending on which line you were already on). That's rather why the modern Charing Cross station is that shape.

The nearest Underground station to St Bartholomew's Hospital is certainly not Cannon Street, which is on the south side of the central loop that would later become the Circle Line, but rather Aldersgate & Barbican (generally still known as Aldersgate in those days) – or St Paul's if you leave through the back way. If you want to get to St Paul's, it'll probably be quicker to walk than to find a taxi; I used to do it in less than five minutes.

Oh, and as far as I can tell the London Underground never used tokens in its ticket gates on any scale; while there were one-way gates to keep passengers going in the right directions, as far as I know ticket-operated gates weren't introduced until the 1960s and the "yellow tickets" (magnetically coded). The Underground has always had a complex fare structure rather than a simple pay-to-enter, and tickets were collected by hand.

(In 1932, after an experiment: "The London Public seems to dislike turnstiles, and it is unlikely that they will be adopted to any extent unless a simple flat fare system similar to New York is introduced." From a fascinating article about the history of fare collection on the London Underground here - written in 2003!)

But the raids damaged two of the main streets in Stepney, so that she had to walk nearly two miles to catch the bus in the morning

Two miles from Stepney puts you in the middle of the City of London, as well as covering plenty of Underground stations on many different lines.

It takes Polly three hours to walk from Euston to her job on Oxford Street. Granted, "there were notices saying Danger UXB barring access to every other street", but it's only a mile and a half! On an earlier occasion it's two hours from Kensington to Oxford Street, a straight run across Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park that should take about 45 minutes. Central London just isn't that huge.

As for why London was bombed in the first place:

Two Luftwaffe pilots had gotten lost in the fog and been unable to find their target, so they'd jettisoned their bombs over what they thought was the English Channel and was actually Cripplegate in London. They'd hit a church and a historic statue of John Milton and killed three civilians and injured twenty-seven others, and as a result, Churchill had ordered the bombing of Berlin, and an enraged Hitler had called a halt to the battle with the RAF and begun bombing London.

Well, ish. London (not specifically Cripplegate, but all over the place) was bombed on the night of 24/25 August, and there were consequent reprisals, but I can find no evidence for the "lost bombers" theory, which seems to have been invented for the excellent 1969 film Battle of Britain. Hitler had commanded that there be no attacks on London without his order, but it's not clear why roughly 100 aircraft attacked London that night anyway. Willis continues:

In the nick of time. The RAF had had fewer than forty planes left […]

Er, no! It's not possible to get exact figures, but in the week ending 24 August the RAF lost 178 aircraft, including 30 exported, plus 15 destroyed on the ground (and gained 145 from new construction and repairs, and had 161 fighters in reserve storage – not active service – at the end of the week). An air force down to its last tens of planes isn't going to export thirty of them. (Thanks to John Dallman for checking T.C.G.James, The Battle of Britain – published in 2000 – for these last two points.)

Someone in Orpington, wanting to get to Dover, hails a taxi and is taken all the way into Victoria Station in London, when all he'd need to do even on the modern post-Beeching timetable is to get a train in to Chislehurst and pick up the main line.

Someone else is trying to get by train from Daventry (Midlands, not far from Birmingham) to London, and goes via Hereford (far west of England, nearly in Wales).

I'm not convinced by a "tweed blazer".

People walk about London all the time – the titular blackout doesn't seem to stop them from finding their way around at night, looking into shop windows, and so on. There's barely any mention of smells, even with the city bombed and on fire.

Willis desperately needed to talk to, or perhaps more importantly listen to, someone resident in Britain, and/or conversant with British history, to get this right. Unfortunately she apparently did do this; I know the British person she used as her main source, and if you buy me enough beer I may tell you who it was. However, even that person wouldn't have made errors like the pillar box/telephone box one; that has to be entirely Willis and her publisher not bothering to get the thing read by anyone who'd spent any time in Britain, or ignoring any feedback they did get.

Blackout is 200,000 words long, and All Clear 240,000, and neither of them really stands alone. Towards the end – which does improve a little, at least in pace, when the narrative starts to remember it's actually meant to be a story about time travel – I was ploughing on mostly through stubbornness and in the hope of finding yet another research howler; I didn't care what happened to any of the people, other than wishing to see them down a spider pit – with a ladder, since I'm not cruel, but they wouldn't use it to climb out because they're too wet and indecisive. There might be a not entirely terrible 200-page novel to be dug out of this monstrosity, but really it needs more developed characters and far less "look at all the research I did". And better research for what does stay in. As it is, this thing is nearly as long as The Lord of the Rings, and it has rather less justification for its length.

There's an interesting story to be told about time-travelling historians: how does it feel to get involved with the locals, and see some live and some die, some succeed and some fail, when in your home time they're all dead? What does a happy ending for them mean in that context? And indeed what does it mean for you? (Didn't Poul Anderson write some rather good books along these lines?) Willis, when she deigns to write the story, sets up a situation perfect for exploring these ideas, and then very nearly ignores them.

Instead, when the plot finally does get round to providing some resolution, it turns out – oh, hell, I suppose I should put in a spoiler warning here, but if this review achieves anything I hope it may save someone else from having to read this monstrosity – that basically A Blind God Did It, that the Second World War is so uniquely improbable that the disruptions caused by time-travellers are needed in order to make it come out right; and that Mysterious Forces were keeping them there (including providing some at least of that friction of daily life) so that they could do the necessary things (by accident, apparently). This is determined, insofar as it is, not by logic or reason but by sudden invention or revelation. Well, so much for all that. And why didn't the same thing apply to that earlier Blitz historian?

All that blethering at the end about the value of everybody's sacrifices doesn't compensate for the fact that everything anyone achieved in the entire book was by accident.

(And both the female historians end up in relationships, whether or not they wanted them.)

My apologies to my wife, who put up with my repeated cries of "bloody Connie Willis" while I was slogging through this blasted thing. Read for Neil Bowers' Hugo-Nebula Joint Winners Reread. The other nominees for the 2011 Hugo were Lois McMaster Bujold's Cryoburn, which I thought pretty good though perhaps not what I would class as "Hugo-quality"; Mira Grant's Feed, which I tried but found unreadable; and Ian McDonald's The Dervish House and N. K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, neither of which I know at all. Nebula nominees apart from this were The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms again, Jack McDevitt's Echo (very meh, certainly not awards material), and two more I don't know: Mary Robinette Kowal's Shades of Milk and Honey and Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death.

And I don't have to read another Connie Willis book ever again.

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See also:
Doomsday Book, Connie Willis


  1. Posted by John Dallman at 01:26pm on 29 September 2018

    I can explain the Hereford error: confusion between there and Hertford, in Hertfordshire, north of London.

    It is pretty easy to confuse the names, especially since Hertford is normally pronounced "Hartford."

  2. Posted by Michael Cule at 02:19pm on 29 September 2018

    Dear me, what a pity.

    I really liked 'TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG'.

  3. Posted by Robert at 05:56pm on 29 September 2018

    I enjoyed the rant for what it’s worth. Phillip Ziegler’s London at War was published in 1995 and that relatively light social history would have helped at least a few of those. Inter-library loan was an amazing pre-Wikipedia opportunity. Thank you for your sacrifices.

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 11:52pm on 29 September 2018

    John: thanks, and that does seem like a plausible sloppiness.

    Michael: after this and Doomsday Book there is simply no way I'm ever going to read it. Sorry.

    Robert: I've just read Christopher Fowler's Full Dark House, from 2004, and that does a significantly better job of giving the atmosphere of London during the Blitz - helped perhaps by having a story a bit more substantial than "oh no, we are stuck here". It runs over a lot of the old clichés (like the police station sign "be good, we're still open") which Willis avoids, but they became clichés for a reason… review coming in due course.

  5. Posted by Owen Smith at 11:54pm on 29 September 2018

    Never mind, I'm sure you'll be better soon Roger.

    WWII uniquely improbable? Really? In the mid 1930s both of my grandfathers were told by their fathers there was clearly going to be another war so they better get themselves into reserved occupations sharpish. Both did so. And that was in Doncaster.

  6. Posted by John Dallman at 12:10am on 30 September 2018

    Thinking about this some more, I've realised what these books have ended up as. They present a wartime Britain that is not alien to present-day Americans, but seems detailed and thereby real. They may well allow American readers who've been tourists here to feel that they recognise details, and thus validate their experiences.

    In this, it is "comforting" rather than "challenging" SF. Which sacrifices the power of the genre, in favour of sales and popularity.

    Are there American characters who are more proactive?

  7. Posted by RogerBW at 07:49am on 30 September 2018

    Owen: I was apparently unclear. It's not the overall presence or absence of a war, but the specific, detailed events of WWII, that are being regarded as uniquely improbable: this particular person was or wasn't hit by a bus, and then did or didn't go on to do something war-changingly important. No explanation is advanced for why this time period is more sensitive than any other.

    John: it's an intriguing theory. Usually this sort of thing ends up as what I describe as the "Historyland theme park": the names and trappings are strange, but in order to give a sense of familiarity the people still behave like "normal" modern people. That's not what this feels like: the trappings are from some invented land and much of the friction is from the contemporary people not behaving like modern people.

    There are no significant American characters; General Patton has a walk-on part but he's more scenery than character.

    It seems to me that if Willis had been trying for familiarity she'd have used time-travellers from an American university rather than Oxford.

  8. Posted by Chris at 12:16pm on 30 September 2018

    That's a nice try, John, but why is Herry easily confused with Heart? The sounds are different. If things which began with the same letter and ended with the same sound got confused with each other, we'd be in a right old mess. ("In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire", but she probably never saw My Fair Lady.)

    The Historyland Theme Park was probably invented by Walter Scott, and I think Georgette Heyer would be a good example of a practitioner: she invented a Regency England that never was for her characters to play in.

    The difference is that neither of those two presented their work as set in the history of people who are still (in some cases at least) alive, and so it wasn't so bloody insulting. Oh, and neither was set in somebody else's country; I think that may be what most makes an English person want to spit about Americans who insist on writing about this England that doesn't exist and never has. And now see Tim Powers, who got the Blitz and the geography of Oxford comprehensively wrong because he is ignorant and/or stupid, too.

    They'd be cross if someone English messed about with their War, so maybe they should leave ours alone?

  9. Posted by Nick Marsh at 08:21pm on 30 September 2018

    Otherwise okay, though?

    I must say, I wasn't at all keen on Domesday Book, which has similarly dithering characters, questionable SF, a dreary vision of the future and fairly easily-debunked research, but it does at least have some heart. Not enough that I enjoyed the book. Do you have any recommendations for good historical time travel books?

  10. Posted by RogerBW at 09:02pm on 30 September 2018

    Chris: perhaps she was going only by reading the words rather than hearing them.

    Nick: hmm. I gather time-travel romance is a significant subgenre (usually a modern woman thrown into the past), but I haven't read any.

    I have a perverse fondness for Simon Hawke's Time Wars series. I wouldn't call them "good", but they are fun, and more thoughtful than they appear. (They're the source of a thing I often mention in the podcast: the nuclear hand grenade that shifts most of its explosive force into an uninhabited parallel dimension, only it turns out in the next book that it is inhabited and they're A Bit Annoyed.)

    The TV series Timeless is pretty good - at least season 1. I haven't caught up with season 2 yet.

    Ward Moore's Bring the Jubilee shows its age now, but works pretty well if you're in the right sort of mood.

    Poul Anderson wrote some decent stories about the Time Patrol, starting with one of that title - and, as far as I remember, some other continuities that also dealt with time travel into historical-to-us periods. Been a while since I read any, though.

    Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates is, for my money, the best thing he's written.

    Harry Turtledove's The Guns of the South is a good example of Turtledove doing the same thing he usually does, which is well worth reading once - and it's just a single novel rather than a trilogy or more.

    Oh! Kage Baker's The Company series. Very strange, very good indeed. Some time I shall re-read and review them.

  11. Posted by Chris at 11:57am on 01 October 2018

    Roger: "Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates is, for my money, the best thing he's written."

    Possibly because you don't know anyone who can tell you what 1810 was actually like? And nor do I, and nor does he, but his incapacity in that regard matters less when you don't know what he gets wrong.

    My favourite of his works is the poet William Ashbless, with The Drawing of the Dark, also an early work, a close second. Neither is within several centuries of now.

  12. Posted by RogerBW at 12:21pm on 01 October 2018

    Yes, that's probably part of it; what I can check is generally correct. But it's also important that he doesn't fill up the book with extraneous detail. So when he has a Rom camp on Hampstead Heath next to a river bank with reeds, I'm more inclined to forgive him and say "oh, well, it's probably one of the ponds".

    (I understand that his rather later Declare takes unreasonable liberties with the geography of Oxford, among other things. Well, we can't all be Dorothy Sayers and have the sense to put a new college on Balliol's cricket-ground rather than distorting streets to fit things in.)

  13. Posted by Chris at 01:04pm on 01 October 2018

    As I understood it from Diana (I didn't bother to read it, having worked out about three books earlier that he was no longer writing things I enjoyed) he didn't take liberties for any actual reason such as needing to put an invented college somewhere, since the book was supposed to be set (in part) in the Oxford that actually existed in 1940-41; he simply got the names of the colleges wrong or put the wrong ones on the wrong streets, which she found unforgivably sloppy of him. It wouldn't have mattered, she said crossly, if he were not so boastful about always doing meticulous research and including recorded fact to hang his fantasies onto. (And to her, who was at Oxford shortly after the war and knew he had made crass mistakes about it.)

    Oh, hang on, Connie Willis does a lot of research too, doesn't she. I wonder whether she tells people who were there that they have got things wrong.

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