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All Clear

by Connie Willis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: All Clear (2), Oxford Time Travel series (4)

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2,2021496,775 (4.07)381
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)
  1. 20
    Farthing by Jo Walton (ryvre)
  2. 00
    The Little Book by Selden Edwards (becksdakex)
    becksdakex: Time travel, WWII, change history?
  3. 11
    11/22/63 by Stephen King (Navarone)
  4. 02
    The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie (sturlington)
    sturlington: Referenced several times in All Clear.

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» See also 381 mentions

English (148)  Swedish (1)  All languages (149)
Showing 1-5 of 148 (next | show all)
This is a review/commentary on both Blackout and All Clear, which are one long novel which was arbitrarily divided and published as two books.

Blackout/All Clear is an incredibly complex novel about time travel, with approximately seven story lines:
* Oxford in 2060--a line that's insanely messy, for reasons that are not fully explained though they're later addressed.
* London (mostly) in 1940 and '41 has three stories (call 'em Elaine, Polly, and Mike, after their principal characters); these folks are stranded in the Blitz by some sort of time-travel anomaly and their stories eventually merge.
* Great Britain in 1944 and '45--two stories (Mary & Ernest) that don't merge but do kind of collide; their relationships to the London stories are eventually explained. I'd mostly figured out Mary's connection before it was elucidated, and recognized Ernest's hints after the explanation arrived.
* The Imperial War Museum (London) in 1995, where a reunion of Blitz survivors offers clues about the novel's central problem.

There are also two story lines--call those Mr. Dunworthy and Colin--which don't fit well in this framework; explaining those in any detail would add spoilers to this discussion. From the entire novel's perspective they're minor subplots but are terribly important.

While most of the story's set in the 1940-41 lines, the plot skips from one line to another apparently at random throughout the novel. Each timeline's treated sequentially, but the skips are often disorienting. Throw in a couple dozen recurring characters and several important subplots and it's pretty easy to get disoriented. But a careful reader will notice that there are connections between the stories before those are explained, though the full explication necessarily waits for the last few chapters.


Mix thoroughly, with interesting characters and a lot of humor. It's an excellent read; for several days it dominated my life and I don't regret investing that time. I kind of agree with those reviewers who'd prefer editing that would shorten the book--300 pages seems like a possible reduction--but fully understand that the extra length adds value. And it's really not necessary to accept Dunworthy's analysis of the story's central problem--how did these folks get stranded--to enjoy the story. ( )
  joeldinda | Jan 14, 2023 |
The final volume of the novel begun in Blackout, All Clear concludes the story of time traveling historians Michael Davies, Polly Churchill, and Merope Ward, who have been sent from Oxford University in 2060 to observe the Second World War. They find themselves stranded in the middle of the blitz in London without a way to return to their own century, and unintentionally become a part of the history that they thought they would only observe. Fretting that their actions may unwittingly contribute to a German victory, they frantically try to locate fellow time travelers in wartime England who are there at the same time and historians in the future that will come to retrieve them.

These two fast paced volumes will be applauded by readers of Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction or Science Fiction. ( )
  MaowangVater | Sep 11, 2022 |
Meh ( )
  J.Flux | Aug 13, 2022 |
The plot is based on keeping secrets from the reader. I guess you are supposed to memorize stuff from the various plot lines so it will be delightful when the connections are wondrously revealed.

The continuing mentions of Agatha Christie books are odd, because the things that make her novels fun, the gradual revelation of clues, involving the reader, the twists and trickery, are completely absent in All Clear. The reader is kept in the dark until the big reveal, then it's over.

Overlong and an infuriating read. Willis's worst, by far.
( )
  wunder | Feb 3, 2022 |
Part 2 of "Black out"
One of the best ever! ( )
  lryer | Jan 25, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 148 (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)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Connie Willisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brock, ChalresCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Crouzet, IsabelleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kellgren, KatherineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kennedy, SteveDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kern, ClaudiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Omori, N.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Potter, J. K.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wintrebert, JoëlleTranslatorsecondary 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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(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.

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