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All Clear by Connie Willis
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All Clear (edition 2012)

by Connie Willis

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1,210906,612 (4.08)207
Member:littlebookworm
Title:All Clear
Authors:Connie Willis
Info:Gollancz (2012), Paperback, 800 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
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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Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
Second of two books about ordinary people who endured the "Blitz" in London during WWII. The characters more fully developed and we began to love Alf and Binnie, the two child hellions orphaned. Chronology skipped around, so I had to pay attention to when we were. Listening to another 24 hour book was somewhat tedious and I thought the two books could have been shortened. The ending made the listener feel good with mysteries solved and time travelers all in their places. ( )
  buffalogr | Jun 14, 2014 |
Expletive deleted!!!!! This was the worst dreck I have suffered through in years. It was a 37-car wreck on the interstate. So why did I read this pos? Well I made the mistake of reading part 1, which was also horrid, and just like passing a 37-car pile up on the interstate, you know you shouldn't look, but you just can't help slowing down and gawking, I wanted to see it this trash could get any worse. AND IT COULD. Page after page, even skipping vast wastelands of keystone cop-eqsue scenes people unable to find themselves (sometimes EVEN IN THE SAME ROOM) you get to the end. (She wrote the same scene over and over and over, about 2734 times, by my estimate. I felt sorry for her editor. Wait, maybe she didn't have an editor, which would explain the repetitious nature.) It wasn't worth it. Save yourself the trouble. Use it as a door stop.

Oh, did I mention, I didn't like it? ( )
  bke | Mar 30, 2014 |

Time-travel with three main characters that are supposedly historians who are seemingly incapable of taking care of themselves. One character has trouble finding a black skirt. Working on Oxford Street. In a large departement store.

The three main characters turn everything into a huge problem and every chapter is a cliff-hanger with most of them fake scares. At the end of the book you just want the blasted thing to end.

Some of the supporting characters are quite engaging, human and well written but these books are ruined by the inner monologue of the trio from the future. Whingebags, the lot of them.

I have decided to read all the Hugo and Nebula winners come hell or high water and this book is so far one of the low points.
( )
  StigE | Feb 22, 2014 |
In Oxford of 2060, historians don't just read books and manuscripts. The development of time travel had made their profession a lot more exciting and all of them are traveling between the most dangerous parts of the world. There are two big rules in time travel - you cannot be at the same twice and historians cannot influence the past. [All Clear] is the second part of a duology (or a long novel split in two - your choice how you want to call it). In the first part, [Blackout], a few historians start on separate assignments in WWII - the V1 and V2 bombs, Dover, the evacuation of the children, the Blitz. In the meantime, back in Oxford, some scientists start asking difficult questions. Part of the traveling is that you can end up there later than you planned (or in a distance from the goal). The historians had always presumed that this is the time-space continium making sure that they do not influence the past. But anyone that had read [Doomsday Book] or had spent even 10 minutes thinking on the topic would realize that as long as they get to the past, they already change it. Or that would have been true for a linear system - which time is not - it is a chaotic one so things work out at the end. Until 3 of hour young historian (Polly, Mike and Eileen) find themselves stuck in the middle of the London Blitz.

And this is where [All Clear] opens. The drops are not opening, the world is going crazy and they cannot do anything to save themselves. In the meantime, in 1944 and 1945, another set of historians are working on their assignments. Between all of them, the War emerges. Fortitude South, Bletchley Park, the raids, the Blitz, the people, the soldiers, the young girls that turn from just children to drivers and nurses and helpers. Willis may have written a SF novel but if you forget for a second who our historians are, if you remove the parts where they know what is going to happen and their thoughts because they know it, the novel (the set of novels really) is a marvelous picture of a country in a war - completed with all the heroes (who are real people and act as such here) and everything that a nation did in order to help the world defeat Hitler. Because of the places where our protagonists were situated, we see the full expanse of the war - the tragedies and the comedies in it. And every time when you decide that something was exaggerated, that there was no way things to have been that hard or that chaotic, all you need to do is to pick up a history book. And to realize that what seems impossible had been the easy parts of that war; the things that you cannot even imagine is what had been the little complicated ones. And Britain, and the rest of the good guys had managed to do not just these but the impossible things, the ones that noone in their right mind would have expected to work out (such as the whole Fortitude plan - it would have taken one single idiot to ruin it and ruin Normandy and yet it worked).

And in the middle of this, Polly, Mike and Eileen try to find their way home. But while it is happening, they keep getting pulled into the normal activities of the war. And keep influencing and changing things. The Hodbins reappear (but of course), the troupe is back at rehearsing, the wrapping of packages is still a chore and the war goes on. The novel tone is hurried, everything could finish tomorrow and the historians are running out of time. And it can get a bit repetitious - all of the worries of the historians added to the worries of the war and of the fact that even if they are from the future, they don't know every minute detail of the past. As the end of the novel draws close, the different story lines start collapsing into each other; what had been hinted gets confirmed and... the historians are still stuck - with approaching deadlines (when other, earlier versions of them had already been) and death and loss. And all those warnings from the theorists and the possibility that the past can be changed; that they may have caused Hitler to win this war.

It takes a few words said by a stranger for Polly to realize what is really happening; a truth that had been so obvious ever since the first book (or even earlier in the series). But the most obvious is usually the hardest to see. And it takes a boy in love that is not ready to give up. And the realization of who that boy is at the final pages of the novel is what brings the story full circle. ( )
3 vote AnnieMod | Jan 19, 2014 |
Summary: The action of All Clear begins right where Blackout ends. Time-traveling historians Mike, Polly, and Eileen were initially sent on different assignments, but have all converged in London in 1940. None of their drops will open to allow them to get back to 2060 Oxford, and they're worried that they've done something to change the course of the war - particularly Mike, who unwittingly participated in the evacuation from Dunkirk. Since none of their drops are accessible and functioning, their next strategy is to find other historians who are also in 1940 England - Gerald Phipps, who was at Bletchley Park, or John Bartholomew, who was studying the Fire Watch at St. Paul's Cathedral (and is the narrator of the titular story of the collection Fire Watch). And the longer it takes, the more desparate their situation becomes: not only does their knowledge of when and where the bombs will hit during the Blitz end after 1940, but Polly is also operating with a deadline. Her previous assignment was studying the V1 and V2 rocket attacks later in the war, and no historian can be in the same time period twice, so even if she can survive the Blitz, she has to get back to 2060 or risk the time continuum killing her in order to prevent the paradox.

Review: All Clear, like its predecessor/first-half Blackout, has some problems. It's overlong and a little repetitive. The characters can be kind of dumb. Parts are really predictable. And yet, I firmly do not care. Even while objectively recognizing all of those problems, subjectively, I enjoyed the heck out of it. I was totally absorbed the whole time, I was crying at the end, and I honestly felt a little bereft once it was over and I had to go back to regular life and other audiobooks.

Normally I start reviews with things I liked, and then later get into problems I had with the book. In this case, though, I want to address the issues first, since they're present right from the get-go... but I want to stress that even though I was aware of these issues, that didn't stop me from really enjoying the book.

Okay, so, first. This book is long. The Blackout/All Clear duology is loooooong. I have no problem with long books, obviously, but these books are longer than they need to be. Even though All Clear is longer than Blackout, I thought it did a little better earning its length, because there are fewer repetitive parts. Eileen, Mike, and Polly are all in the same place for most of the book, so while there are still parts that are the same event from multiple perspectives, there's at least not the constant cycling of "I should go check my drop / I can't get to my drop / my drop is not working / why is my drop not working?" from each of the three perspectives like there was in Blackout.

That's not to say that there isn't some going in circles, because there definitely is, which brings me to my second issue, which is that argh the characters are pretty dumb at (narratively convenient) times. In general, they're great characters, and I liked and felt like I knew all three of the leads (although I didn't like that Mike decided he was the one responsible for getting the two girls back to the future, when he was neither the smartest nor the most experienced of the bunch, and the fact that each of them was constantly keeping secrets from the others - to protect their feelings / so they didn't have to worry! - was also kind of obnoxious). But my biggest problem was that they'd occasionally forget decisions that they made or things they knew about the way time travel worked, if it was necessary to lead to the next part of the action. The best example is that as the three are trying to come up with other historians who were in London at the time, and whose drops they could potentially use, they start thinking of historians who had been there much earlier (in future time - that is, a historian who had come to 1940 from 2050 instead of 2060). But they realize that that strategy won't work, as those historians, once they'd got back to the future, didn't mention that Polly/Eileen/Mike had found them in the past, so they obviously didn't find them in the past. Makes sense, right? But then, not much later, they set off to try to contact one of these historians anyways, which leads to the frantic events of the night of 29 December 1940, one of the worst air raids of the war. Narratively convenient, but it's a problem if your readers have a better memory than your characters.

(I also had a little bit of an issue with the characters waffling back and forth about whether or not they were changing history, and I couldn't quite get a bead on whether they believed that time was a chaotic system and the continuum would self-correct to prevent any changes from occurring, or whether they believed that their actions could affect the future. Mostly it seemed like they believed both at the same time, without realizing that "chaotic system" meant that their very presences by definition affected everything else. The story itself comes down clearer on those issues by the end, but it annoyed me that the characters were kind of dumb about it for most of the book. And the way the story resolves these issues is pretty predictable to anyone who reads many time travel stories.)

Okay, so. That all sounds really negative. But the thing was, those are all intellectual problems with that book, but in this case, this book grabbed me on such a visceral/emotional level that those intellectual issues only bothered me in the background. The absolute best part of these books is how vividly Willis brings the daily business of 1940s England to life, and I found her storytelling to be so immersive and so absorbing that I was able to overlook a lot of other things. For example, the night of 29 December 1940, that I mentioned above, takes up quite a few chapters. The motivation for what Polly, Mike, and Eileen are doing on that night - trying to find a historian before he goes back to 2054 - doesn't make a lot of sense, but what they actually wind up doing, the depiction of the action of that night during the air raid, is really compelling. Essentially, whenever the characters were sitting around talking about time travel, it was problematic, but whenever they were out living in 1940, the story was great, and luckily, there's more of the latter than the former.

I also absolutely loved the ending, and the way all of the disparate threads and interstitial pieces and various perspectives came together and into focus. Willis is good at that, at the synthesizing of all of the different threads and themes of her story (see Bellwether), but in this case, it plays less like a farce and more like me bawling my eyes out - even though I'd seen a lot of it coming! - while simultaneously marveling at how well it all fit. Also, the audio production was again excellent - Katherine Kellgren does a great job narrating. The only drawback was that in audio, it's hard to flip back and find a particular scene to re-read it, which was unfortunate since this duology features a number of scenes from different perspectives - particularly at the end of All Clear we get second versions of scenes we'd seen for the first time somewhere in the middle of Blackout - and I wanted to go back to compare.

So, overall, this book was not perfect, and I absolutely understand how some people might have found it long, or dragging, or hard to get through. But I was engaged enough with the characters and immersed enough into the world that I couldn't stop listening, and wound up really loving it. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: These books have to be read together, preferably back-to-back (which I almost never do for sequels/series, but made an exception in this case). Definitely recommended for fans of historical fiction and/or time travel-y science fiction, who like their stories vivid and complicated and witty and touching all at once. ( )
1 vote fyrefly98 | Dec 21, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 90 (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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Epigraph
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
Dedication
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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