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30 review for Fire Watch

  1. 4 out of 5

    Peter Derk

    Pretty good book, quick read, all that. The main thing I wanted to talk about is time travel because I really do want to talk about what I want to talk about. That would make a great chorus for a pop country song. What's cool about Connie Willis is that, for my money, she handles time travel well. It's not explained in this story, but I had a kindly office mate explain to me that Connie Willis' other books that take place in the same universe involve something called "slippage." Slippage is the th Pretty good book, quick read, all that. The main thing I wanted to talk about is time travel because I really do want to talk about what I want to talk about. That would make a great chorus for a pop country song. What's cool about Connie Willis is that, for my money, she handles time travel well. It's not explained in this story, but I had a kindly office mate explain to me that Connie Willis' other books that take place in the same universe involve something called "slippage." Slippage is the thing that keeps you from going back in time and killing Hitler, for example. If you tried to go back in time to change a large historical event, you would find that your ability to travel accurately, to an exact time or place, would be limited. The larger your potential for changing history, the more time keeps you from placing yourself accurately. I like that. It's a pretty decent explanation for the way in which time travel can still work in a narrative without answering the question of why someone didn't kill Hitler, which is really the ultimate time travel question (The Hitler Paradox, as I like to call it). I've been thinking a lot about time travel narratives lately. At first I thought that the only way time travel narratives work was in comedies, such as Back to the Future. But that's not entirely true because it can also work in things like 12 Monkeys or (on a self-contained level) Memento. So what is it that makes a time travel narrative work, if it's not about theme? The answer, as far as I can tell, is that the time travel is the path the writer takes in order to talk about something that he or she is passionate about. In other words, Connie Willis uses time travel, but really it's mostly about the fact that she wants to write about the Blitz. Additionally, the beauty of time travel is that you can write about something like the Blitz from a modern perspective, which means that you can discuss it while still being respectful of it. Because (as I understand it) characters are not allowed to time travel backwards within their own lifespans, the other problem of time travel is dealt with as well. You know, that whole thing where you run into yourself and then you explode or something? I call it the Hitler Paradox II, not because it has anything to do with Hitler but because I name all my time travel paradoxes that way just so I can index them properly. And if you think about it, the idea of traveling back to see your own young self makes no sense. Normally, it goes one of two ways: Alpha Pete travels back in time. He runs into his young self (who is supposed to also be Alpha Pete) and then changes time somehow. That doesn't make sense because what has happened there is, essentially, cloning. Because the universe now exists in such a way that there are TWO Alpha Petes, yet the only process that occurred was time travel, not cloning. So rather than being one consciousness that is Alpha Pete, there are two iterations of Alpha Pete. But why? Okay, here's the other common scenario: Alpha Pete travels back in time. He is wearing a red sweater. He sees his young self (Beta Pete). This fulfills a pattern that Alpha Pete remembers from his childhood (when he was Beta Pete), a time when a mysterious stranger in a red sweater (Alpha Pete) showed up. This works a little better for me, although if this is the case time travel is very pointless because once young Beta Pete sees grown Alpha Pete, in this scenario, this event will ALWAYS happen for Petes Charlie through Zebra and on and on. Not only that, but it will have always happened in the past as well. In other words, this event is replicated infinitely in the "past" and "future" and is therefore kind of silly and pointless. Anyway, time travel rant over, thanks to Connie Willis for figuring a decent workaround that's good enough to satisfy, yet nebulous enough that it's not fully explained. Because if you ask me, fully-explained science fiction is not only boring, it's not really science fiction anymore. It's just a fictionalized textbook.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Pretty good short that introduced us to the time-traveling historians of Oxford. When comparing this to Blackout/All Clear, you can really see how much Willis has honed her craft over the years.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Karen’s Library

    Interesting story about a time-traveling historian trying to save St. Paul's cathedral during the blitz in London during World War II.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Veeral

    This novelette which won the both Hugo and Nebula, serves as a good primer to Connie Willis' works. I just read To Say Nothing of the Dog a few days ago, so I thought it would be good to read this novelette before reading Doomsday Book. But my advice to anyone interested in her books would be to start directly with To Say Nothing of the Dog or Doomsday Book. Arguably, these two books could be considered to be her best efforts. This novelette which won the both Hugo and Nebula, serves as a good primer to Connie Willis' works. I just read To Say Nothing of the Dog a few days ago, so I thought it would be good to read this novelette before reading Doomsday Book. But my advice to anyone interested in her books would be to start directly with To Say Nothing of the Dog or Doomsday Book. Arguably, these two books could be considered to be her best efforts.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Teleseparatist

    Very good, but damn if the bit about Russia/Communists (who, you know, bombed places left and right) didn't age. The moment I got to it I knew when it must have been written.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    I read this after I finished Blackout and All Clear. There are some minor discrepancies but nothing that a little willing suspension of disbelief won't cover up. It was nice to see Kivrin again. I think Connie Willis has it correct. How often have you romanticized about traveling to the past? I never really take into consideration language differences - let alone differences in norms and folkways - in my flights of fancy. I looked up The Battle of Britain on 29. December 1940 on the internet and f I read this after I finished Blackout and All Clear. There are some minor discrepancies but nothing that a little willing suspension of disbelief won't cover up. It was nice to see Kivrin again. I think Connie Willis has it correct. How often have you romanticized about traveling to the past? I never really take into consideration language differences - let alone differences in norms and folkways - in my flights of fancy. I looked up The Battle of Britain on 29. December 1940 on the internet and found this link. What a time! Living in the United States where, until September 11th 2001, there has been no enemy invasion or destruction; it is hard to imagine what life in London would have been like in the fall and winter of 1940. As I scrolled through the images of the destruction it really hit me how much of a psychological punch that must have been for the whole nation night after horrible night. And then I got to the image with the little boy - not much older than my son - sitting on a pile of rubble clutching a misshapen stuffed animal looking as if he is either too scared to cry or he is summoning every last bit of his fortitude in effort not to cry. I completely lost it and started crying myself. I am tearing up right now just thinking about that image.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Quite possibly the best bit of time-travel fiction I've ever read. 'Scuse me while I devour the rest of the series...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    Powerful time travel story. Apparently, this is only the beginning of a series of huge books. If this is any indication, it going to be good. See you at the other end of Doomsday Book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sara J. (kefuwa)

    That was - perfect! All the feels! Man I did not expect that. And I've read Doomsday Book & Blackout/All Clear! T_T Great start to my 2019 short stories/novelettes reading! First read: 4jan19 That was - perfect! All the feels! Man I did not expect that. And I've read Doomsday Book & Blackout/All Clear! T_T Great start to my 2019 short stories/novelettes reading! First read: 4jan19

  10. 5 out of 5

    kris

    JESUS FUCK THAT ENDING THOUGH. "Of course they're relevant!" I shouted. "They are the history, not all these bloody numbers!"

  11. 5 out of 5

    Angela Demott

    This short story isn’t as developed as the novels in the Oxford Time Travel series in terms of characterization or even plot, but it does still offer that unique and identifying style that is all Connie Willis. Some readers hate it, but this reader can’t get enough.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Naomi Ruth

    I enjoyed this little novella about a time traveling historian and St. Paul's Cathedral. I found it gripping and didn't want to stop until I found out how it all worked out. I'm curious about Connie Willis' other books now.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chris Cutler

    A great introduction to Willis' Oxford Time Travel series. A short story, this excursion into WWII concisely introduces the ideas, feeling, and ethic of her approach to "History" in a way that converts her readers, rather than just informing them. Which, of course, is the whole point.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Durval Menezes

    Quick read, reasonably interesting story at least for someone interested in WW2 history like me. Also informative, learned some things I still didn't know about the London blitz by further researching on some points the story brought up. On the negative side: 1) it's a much worse story than the one told in the "Doomsday Book" novel by the same author. Also, I do not understand why Goodreads lists this as "Book 0.5" in the same series; I see no way in which it's story could somehow come 'before' th Quick read, reasonably interesting story at least for someone interested in WW2 history like me. Also informative, learned some things I still didn't know about the London blitz by further researching on some points the story brought up. On the negative side: 1) it's a much worse story than the one told in the "Doomsday Book" novel by the same author. Also, I do not understand why Goodreads lists this as "Book 0.5" in the same series; I see no way in which it's story could somehow come 'before' that other which is listed as "Book 1". 2) The tale is, in my opinion, told from a too-personal, introspective viewpoint and in such a slow rhythm that at times (despite its shortness) can be somewhat tiring. This is the main reason I liked "The Doomsday Book" better. 3) There are some inconsistencies and mistakes in the historic details on the tale; for example, at a certain point it refers to the "Baedaker raids", while the correct spelling is "Baedeker". This, in my opinion, shows a certain carelessness which detracts from the reading. Would rate it as a 2.5 if Goodreads allowed fractional ratings, rounding it up to 3 in deference to the Authors's aforementioned great book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    I don't know how I would feel about this story if I had never been to St Paul's Cathedral in London. I have, though, and been awestruck. Among other things, this story celebrates the courage and dedication people of the fire watch at St Paul's during World War II. (There is a great photograph of St Paul's surrounded by smoke taken during a German attack on London in 1940. It was taken by Herbert Mason and titled "St Paul's Survives." It can be found on Google under the title of the photograph.) " I don't know how I would feel about this story if I had never been to St Paul's Cathedral in London. I have, though, and been awestruck. Among other things, this story celebrates the courage and dedication people of the fire watch at St Paul's during World War II. (There is a great photograph of St Paul's surrounded by smoke taken during a German attack on London in 1940. It was taken by Herbert Mason and titled "St Paul's Survives." It can be found on Google under the title of the photograph.) "Fire Watch" is basically a time travel science fiction story and it works very well as that. It is part of a series written by Connie Willis, which includes the novels Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout, and All Clear. Like "Fire Watch," Blackout and All Clear (which really make up one novel in two volumes) are also largely set in World War II England. I think "Fire Watch" is a fine and moving story, (view spoiler)[the ending of which, one hopes, will always be fiction. (hide spoiler)]

  16. 4 out of 5

    oshizu

    I had every intention of reading Connie Willis's Oxford Time Travel series next year, so I began this month with this prequel. This novel features the St. Paul's Watch but, since I know nothing about war-time London, I had to go read an article about the fire watch volunteers at St. Paul's Cathedral during 1939-1945. I used a dictionary constantly during this novella, which didn't interest me much until the last 10-15 pages. I did enjoy all the semi-philosophizing about "the historian's mission." H I had every intention of reading Connie Willis's Oxford Time Travel series next year, so I began this month with this prequel. This novel features the St. Paul's Watch but, since I know nothing about war-time London, I had to go read an article about the fire watch volunteers at St. Paul's Cathedral during 1939-1945. I used a dictionary constantly during this novella, which didn't interest me much until the last 10-15 pages. I did enjoy all the semi-philosophizing about "the historian's mission." Hopefully, I will find Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog better reads than this prequel.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kim Clarke

    Teaser intro to the series, leaving me with a lot of questions that I hope will be answered in subsequent books. 1. When the heck is the present? 2. What happened to Denver? and 3. Why are cats so rare in the future? Possibly the best line in any book ever. "If the kippers set Lord Nelson on fire, I shall be a hero"

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Hm. Well, I liked it OK because it is Connie Willis. But I didn't seem to follow or track this one as well? I often felt like I just did not have a handle of what is going on and why. After all the angst about Kivrin going out I just don't see him booting an unprepared guy out? Especially with what HAPPENED to Kivrin. Glad I read it though.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    I love this - although not quite as much as 'To Say Nothing of the Dog', admittedly!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    I literally have nothing to say about this that isn't perfection, but then again I'm biased. I love this series.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Linda S

    Short story collection. The title story is great, but some of the others fall flat

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Hugo winning Novelette that brings the London Blitz brilliantly alive and demonstrates the origins of the Oxford Time Travel series.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Erin Stuhlsatz

    Beautiful.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brooke

    Fun glimpse at an important shadow character in All Clear.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    This novelette is a tad more techy than the Oxford Time Travel novels, so more satisfying. There were no annoying children--a plus. Willis's talent sparkles most brightly in her shorter works. I chuckled at several points, not a common occurrence for me with the OTT books. The story is structured kind of like a diary, as we follow Bartholomew on his assignment. It's a very useful frame for a time travel story and the diary-style writing make for a much more intimate view of events. It's apparent t This novelette is a tad more techy than the Oxford Time Travel novels, so more satisfying. There were no annoying children--a plus. Willis's talent sparkles most brightly in her shorter works. I chuckled at several points, not a common occurrence for me with the OTT books. The story is structured kind of like a diary, as we follow Bartholomew on his assignment. It's a very useful frame for a time travel story and the diary-style writing make for a much more intimate view of events. It's apparent that Willis revamped things between FIRE WATCH and THE DOOMSDAY BOOK, there are elements in FW that appear nowhere else in the series. The Dunworthy of FW and the Dunworthy of DOOMSDAY, BLACKOUT/ALL CLEAR have only the spectacles and love of St. Paul's in common. Kivrin, however, acted as one might expect. Final caveats: Do not read before any of the other OTT novels, there are spoilers. Also, Willis changed her mind about the structure of her story universe, so things possible in FW are not so in the novels. A personal observation: if you love cats, FW contains a very difficult scene.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Roy

    I read To Say Nothing of the Dog a few years ago, so Willis' world of time-traveling Oxford historians was already familiar when I began reading Fire Watch. Nevertheless, it's easy to see why this story got Willis so much critical acclaim, and how it spawned a few novels set in the same universe. In a way, Fire Watch is a story about the relationship between historians and History. It's a plea to look at History closer, to remember the human actors who lived through it instead of the statistics a I read To Say Nothing of the Dog a few years ago, so Willis' world of time-traveling Oxford historians was already familiar when I began reading Fire Watch. Nevertheless, it's easy to see why this story got Willis so much critical acclaim, and how it spawned a few novels set in the same universe. In a way, Fire Watch is a story about the relationship between historians and History. It's a plea to look at History closer, to remember the human actors who lived through it instead of the statistics and the big events. It works perfectly as a novelette, giving us a glimpse into a tiny part of the overall drama of World War Two. Cool stuff. And now I feel like reading Blackout.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Suz

    This was my first Willis read, and I quite enjoyed it. It's a story about time travel, and the main character goes back in time to the Blitz and is put on the fire watch for St. Paul's cathedral (for some kind of Time Travel U degree - it's basically his final exam). It was good, Willis handles time travel well. Apparently characters from her novels are in this story, so I will look forward to reading it again after I've read those. I would have probably enjoyed this story more if I hadn't just re This was my first Willis read, and I quite enjoyed it. It's a story about time travel, and the main character goes back in time to the Blitz and is put on the fire watch for St. Paul's cathedral (for some kind of Time Travel U degree - it's basically his final exam). It was good, Willis handles time travel well. Apparently characters from her novels are in this story, so I will look forward to reading it again after I've read those. I would have probably enjoyed this story more if I hadn't just read a series of stories/novels that seemed to have sucker punched me emotionally. This story doesn't give me a strong emotional reaction, and so I can't say I really enjoyed it more (though I did enjoy the break).

  28. 5 out of 5

    Josie

    I just finished #1 of the Oxford Time Travel series, after reading #2 and #3. (Fate would just not let me read this series in order!) Before I started on #2 I decided to read a summery of this novella. But when I search for the summery on online I found a link to the actual book at http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/stories.... So, I thought why not? It's a quick read. It does not give any special insight to any of the other books or characters. After I read the book I realized that I had heard the st I just finished #1 of the Oxford Time Travel series, after reading #2 and #3. (Fate would just not let me read this series in order!) Before I started on #2 I decided to read a summery of this novella. But when I search for the summery on online I found a link to the actual book at http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/stories.... So, I thought why not? It's a quick read. It does not give any special insight to any of the other books or characters. After I read the book I realized that I had heard the story before on a radio program. (http://archive.org/details/SETheater #27 & #28) It's not exactly the same, but just as entertaining.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hillary

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. **MILD SPOILERS FOR BLACKOUT/ALL CLEAR** I read this "novelette" after finishing Blackout/All Clear. It's interesting to see how Willis's writing style has evolved since this was first published in 1982. Fire Watch is very much a product of its era, both in its dystopian style and in demonization of communism. (In Blackout/All Clear, the pinpoint bomb is an act of terrorism, and communism isn't mentioned as the motivation.) But it was fun to see how she later included details from this story in A **MILD SPOILERS FOR BLACKOUT/ALL CLEAR** I read this "novelette" after finishing Blackout/All Clear. It's interesting to see how Willis's writing style has evolved since this was first published in 1982. Fire Watch is very much a product of its era, both in its dystopian style and in demonization of communism. (In Blackout/All Clear, the pinpoint bomb is an act of terrorism, and communism isn't mentioned as the motivation.) But it was fun to see how she later included details from this story in All Clear - the girl with the open-toed shoes, for example, and Bartholomew hurrying to St. Paul's from the Tube station.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Fox

    Fire Watch did an excellent job of establishing the Oxford Time Travel series. It did an even better job of bringing home just how terrifying WWII England was, and how largely damaged and broken London was by the experience. Connie Willis does a beautiful job of bringing morality and feeling back into history, and breathing life into the experiences and statistics so commonly touted about. It's chilling and heartbreaking, and makes the rest of the series that much more moving to read. Fire Watch did an excellent job of establishing the Oxford Time Travel series. It did an even better job of bringing home just how terrifying WWII England was, and how largely damaged and broken London was by the experience. Connie Willis does a beautiful job of bringing morality and feeling back into history, and breathing life into the experiences and statistics so commonly touted about. It's chilling and heartbreaking, and makes the rest of the series that much more moving to read.

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