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All Clear by Connie Willis

All Clear (edition 2012)

by Connie Willis

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1,261946,273 (4.07)222
Title:All Clear
Authors:Connie Willis
Info:Gollancz (2012), Paperback, 800 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:read 2013, sci-fi

Work details

All Clear by Connie Willis

  1. 20
    Farthing by Jo Walton (ryvre)
  2. 00
    The Little Book by Selden Edwards (becksdakex)
    becksdakex: Time travel, WWII, change history?
  3. 02
    The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie (sturlington)
    sturlington: Referenced several times in All Clear.

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» See also 222 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
I don’t think I’ve ever been so sad to leave a set of characters behind. After spending more than 1,000 pages with them between All Clear and its predecessor Blackout, most of it set during the Blitz of London with lots of high tension twists and turns, heartaches and triumphs, I feel like we’ve been through the war together and it’s hard to let go. With three time traveling historians as protagonists and numerous less prominent but well developed supporting characters, both books have lots of varied Blitz experiences for readers to live through vicariously.

While at times the narrative seemed overly long, Willis is highly skilled at weaving plot lines together and involving you deeply in her characters’ lives such that the ending is a masterpiece of emotional catharsis. A distracted and clumsy Alan Turing, the code breaking genius of Bletchley Park, is among the notables who make brief cameo appearances, but most of the story involves ordinary people and their everyday acts of determined coping and homefront heroism. I listened to the audio version of All Clear and the narrator is absolutely wonderful and so very good at creating different voices that I still hear her in my head when reading the text. ( )
  Jaylia3 | Oct 4, 2014 |
This is a short review of “All Clear” part two of a two part novel by Connie Willis. First impression is that it is a continuation of “Blackout.” Not all fans really liked this arrangement: two books, same story, and no stand-alone novel. Kind of like the Harry Potter novels in some respects. But the similarities end there.

What is this book? The historians fresh from Oxford in the year 2070 have been stuck in the past. Their “drops” (gates back home) don’t work and they seem stranded in the past. “Blackout” was annoying in the sense of jumping around from person to person several chapters apart.

This changes in “All Clear,” where the characters follow one to the next. The gimmick of a historian changing his/her name depending on where they’re at in the time stream is interesting and surprising to this reader, as I did not know who was who until it was apparent near the end.

And the wrong conclusions drawn by the characters were so convincing that when these conclusions are brought forth as false, this reader could not help but be relieved.

SPOILER: When a character seems dead and then is not so, that was one of those moments. Or when another character gets despondent and tries to “protect” the others by hiding important facts that could lead them home, was quite annoying to this reader. Polly, let us say, was not who she seemed to be! END SPOILER

The characters that really take the cake are Alf and Binnie, two Dickensian-type kids who make a game out of the disaster that was the Blitz – the Luftwaffe bombing runs on the British – and how they try to survive. Eileen, their sometimes-caretaker, cannot wait to relieve herself of them yet at the same time finds she cannot go on without them. There’s a bright, intelligent subplot here with the kids and Eileen that I found heartwarming, despite it not being that interesting to the main characters. These kids really take the cake!

Bottom Line: What makes this story flow? Is it the time travel aspect? No, in fact that’s rarely touched upon. Is it the survival spirit of the British people? Yes, at times. Or is it Colin, a character who was introduced in “Blackout” as a young historian who wants to go back in time and help out Polly, who out of love and self-sacrifice spends a large portion of his life looking for a way around the sudden stoppage of the “drops” to save Polly and crew.

Less bumps in this Part II, lots more characterization and lots less bouncing around – clearly a novel to be read!

Good job, Connie.

( )
  jmourgos | Sep 12, 2014 |
All Clear by Connie Willis is the conclusion to Blackout. The various Oxford time travel researchers are still trying to get home and the net seems to be completely FUBARed.

These two volumes are really one epically long book, coming close to 1300 pages. For all of those pages, it's very sparse on actual plot. There are a couple of groups stuck in London near the start of WWII. There is another group stuck in London near and at the end of the war. All of them were there to do specific research projects for specific lengths of time. Their deployments were rushed and something went wrong in the process.

Some amount of slippage is normal but all of these deployments have gone noticeably, disturbingly wrong. The research aspects these trips have all been tossed aside as everyone wants to get home.

Most of All Clear is spent with the various characters either surviving being shelled, worrying that the others haven't survived, or trying desperately to get to their presumed pick up spots, even though through repeated failures they've come to realize the net might not being opening at all.

In the end there's some wibbly wobbly time stuff that comes as a direct result of the problems of the net failure. But it's too little and too late. Really this sort of paradox should have been woven in more, rather than being just hinted at during one of the many frantic crowd scenes. These two books would have been a much better story had it been a single volume at about a third the total length. ( )
  pussreboots | Aug 26, 2014 |
Just brilliant. ( )
  nwdavies | Aug 21, 2014 |
(This is a review for both Blackout and All Clear, because they are really one book)

Connie Willis is one of my favorite writers, mainly because she combines history and science fiction so very well. What also helps is that her novels are sort of wish-fulfillment for me, because they have historians from the now (well, the future now) travel to the past to study it, even if the historians usually get into trouble. The first book I read by Willis was "Doomsday Book", which takes place in 1300s/2060, well in my favorite historic period, the middle ages. The second book was "To Say Nothing Of the Dog", taking place in 1800s/2060, not my favorite period, but the Victorians are still interesting and entertaining. The latest time travelling historians book(s) is/are "Blackout" and "All Clear", two novels that are one story (they cannot be read out-of-order or separately). This story takes place in 1940/45 and 2060, the Second World War in England. Definitely not my favorite period, too close to home. Because of that I was hesitant to read this story. Eventually the fact that it was by Willis won out over my non-love (not hate) for the period. And I am so glad I did, because this story was terrific.

We're back with the Oxford historians in the 2060s. Several students have trips planned to the past for their research. However, the lab is canceling trips left and right and switching schedules around. Michael, Polly and Merope try their best to have their trips to the past happen anyway, despite being less than well prepared. Merope goes to the English countryside in WWII, as a servant at a country house that has taken in evacuated children from London. Polly is in London during the Blitz, safe because she knows where the bombs will hit. And Michael is near Dover to experience the evacuation of British soldiers from France by the local fishermen.
But the lab had its reasons for being so panicky with regards to the time-travel trips. Because things don't seem to happen as they should. And our students are doing things that seem to affect the past. Could they, by saving one of their local friends or by being caught up in the moment, change the outcome of the Battle of Britain? And how will they return to Oxford, now that the drop sites seem disabled? And is Professor Dunworthy just going to leave them stuck in the past?

Because the historians in these stories are remarkably similar to us (living in relative peace, with advanced technology) their observations of the period of WWII and the people living through that time are very relatable. Even for me, someone who rather avoids any 'entertainment' to do with WWII, these two books were great. I think the fact that the story is contained in England (mostly London and surroundings) and because the people who Merope, Polly and Michael meet are just the regular people from the street, it makes it hit home. People working in a store, trying to keep their daily lives going despite nightly bombing raids. The time-travel adventure (will they return home, have they ruined the future, will they die in the past?) is very good too, and you feel the sense of urgency in the story. Simply terrific, and I really understand why this book has already won the big three awards of science fiction (Hugo, Nebula and Locus) and was nominated for one more (Campbell memorial award). For me, both parts are five out of five stars. ( )
  divinenanny | Aug 3, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
For this reviewer, it’s not every day these days that a book arrives that makes you want to jump in the minute it lands at the doorstep. However, after my review of Black Out (the first part of this duology, reviewed HERE) this is one for me. Like many other Connie Willis fans, this book’s been a long time a-waiting for.

After the cliff-hanger ending of the first part, we get straight back into the tale. There’s a little bit of reminding of what went before (note: do read the first book first!) but pretty soon we’re back into the WW2 dilemma of Polly, Mary, and Mike. This can be a little confusing if it’s been a while since you read Black Out: you really do need to read this as one continuous novel.

The complexities of the time travel element become a little more involved here as the apparent changes in Black Out have their effect. We now find that there is a great deal of slippage: over four years, when the longest previously was about six months. Mr Dunworthy finds himself entering the fray from 2060, Mary finds herself involved with an RAF officer, whilst Mike, in his search for Gerald Phipps, finds himself at Bletchley Park and intermixing with the mathematicians involved in the ultra-secret Enigma code-breaking project. There’s also the welcome return of a character from the beginning of Black Out who has a pivotal part to play in this tale.

So we’re combining Enigma or Cryptonomicon with our previous tale. This gives Connie a chance to get away from the seemingly endless bombing of London and the London Underground shelters and tell of the quiet war, with Alan Turing and his team working in intense secret, on devising a computer/machine to be able to break the German’s unbreakable codes.

This is great fun. We also switch between times, as Phipps is in 1944 looking at the Normandy invasions and setting up false trails for the Germans.

However, by this stage it’s not easy to keep all those plot threads going. The Enigma tale is soon forgotten as we look to wider issues and the future. Managing that great balance between telling a tale in a historical context and giving readers a feel of what the place was like in the 1940’s is not easy. To say that Willis manages this is a great achievement.

On the negative side there’s a lot more running from place to place and an increasingly frustrating inability to get to drop zones. This is explained as the tale progresses - it’s all part of the book’s plan – but at times, whilst entertaining, it all seems (until the end) as a little unnecessary.

I’m also not sure that all this running around during bombing raids, and leaving messages for people about V1 and V2 attacks could have been got away with without someone becoming suspicious.

Nevertheless, by that end, the reader may feel, as I did, that they have been through a lot. There is love, death, sacrifice and complications within complications, and yet, in the end, the overall feeling is one of optimism and hope. The difficulties of the war in 1940’s England may have been replaced by bombings and global change in 2060, yet the endurance of the human condition comes through. This is a book that not only appreciates the sacrifices of the past but is a testament to endurance against crushing difficulties. What this book celebrates is that heroism comes in many ways, and not just the big heroic acts but the many minor actions often overlooked.

Whilst it is rather long – clearly a tale that grew in the telling – it is still a wonderfully worthwhile read. Most fans of Connie Willis will not be disappointed. This is a pleasure, from a formidable writer whose storytelling skills are still a treat. I’m very pleased to write that this book sustains its tale for over 1000 pages and it is a wonderfully thrilling and compelling immersive story with characters you care about.

Please don’t leave it so long before the next tale, Connie.

added by PLReader | editSFF World, Mark Yon (Dec 2, 2010)

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Connie Willisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kellgren, KatherineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Omori, N.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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You will make all kinds of mistakes; but as long as you are generous and true, and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her. --Winston Churchill
To all the ambulance drivers, firewatchers, air-raid wardens, nurses, canteen workers, airplane spotters, rescue workere, mathematicians, vicars, vergers, shopgirls, chorus girls, librarians, debutantes, spinsters, fishermen, retired sailors, servants, evacuees, Shakespearean actors, and mystery novelists who won the war.
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By noon Michael and Merope still hadn't returned from Stepney, and Polly was beginning to get really worried.
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When three Oxford historians become unexpectedly trapped in 1940, they struggle not only to find their way home but to survive as Hitler's bombers attempt to pummel London into submission. Meanwhile, in 2060 Oxford, the historians' supervisor and seventeen-year-old Colin Templer are engaged in a frantic and seemingly impossible struggle to find them.… (more)

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