book review: all clear, connie willis
Title: All Clear
Author: Connie Willis
Category: Science-Fiction, Time Travel, Historical Fiction
Publisher: October 2010
Starred Review: 5 out of 5 stars
All Clear is the second half of Connie Willis’s latest time travel historians novel. The first, Blackout, came out in February and I reviewed it earlier. Here’s the amazing plot in a nutshell: Historians in the year 2060 study history by time travel. Three historians travel at the same time to various places in the UK during World War II. One to London during the Blitz, one to the evacuation of Dunkirk, and one to study children evacuees in the country. It soon becomes apparent that they are stuck in WWII England, and Blackout ended abruptly with this panic of not being able to get back to 2060. All Clear picks up there — how can they get back to 2060, can they get back to 2060, and what happens if they can’t?
I seriously love these two books. Really, it’s one book that was cut in half seeing as combined, they are over 1400 pages. I have to admit that with 8 months between the first and second though, made it slightly difficult to get immediately back into All Clear. I spent about 100 pages slightly confused and re-reading and flipping back and forth to check characters and years since the book jumps around a lot. The other problem is that sometimes the historians study more than one part of a time period, and their alias’s are different each time. This problem is that Willis always addresses the character by their current name — and one of the characters, Polly, was not only in London during the Blitz in the early 1940s, but she also studied ambulance drives in 1944 London as a woman named Mary. Same character, both shown in various times, but with different names. And there isn’t any definitive moment that states Mary and Polly are the same person in different times.
Ugh, I am even confusing myself at the moment. Time travel of any means is always confusing, honestly. Though it was pretty cool that I pretty much had a big handle on part of the problem/plot before the characters do. Maybe this was because it was kind of a cliche means to an end with time travel, or maybe because it just made so much sense what else could it be? But it didn’t matter. It was still fantastic.
I love WWII-era historical fiction. Combined with time travel, Blackout and All Clear are just the ideal books for me. I definitely recommend them to everyone — seriously, everyone — providing that you don’t mind huge books. They’re both over 700 pages and intimidating, but they read quickly and the characters are whole and engaging and I want to either be their best friends or be them.
All Clear packed a few surprising punches with regards to plot twists and even to the ending. That only made it more fun for me!