All clear by

2 January 2012

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Genre: ,
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Rated :

Sequel to Blackout, and set in the Mr. Dunworthy ‘verse. Or at least that’s what I’m calling this series-ish of books.
This is my first read for the 2012 Science Fiction Experience & you can find out what everyone else is reading/watching on the review site.

This is a direct sequel to Blackout and if you haven’t read that you’ll have no idea what is going on here. Really they should probably have been combined into one book. This book starts off in 1940, and Polly, Mike, & Eileen are trapped in London. They are all historians. But these historians do more than research papers and artefacts. They have travelled back in time to research the actual life of their subjects. Mike was researching everyday heroes. Polly had been investigating how people coped with the Blitz, and Eileen’s assignment had involved the children evacuated from London. But none of them could get their drops to reopen and they are now trapped in 1940s London. And faced with the possibility that they are trapped because one of them has done something to introduce a discrepancy! And maybe even lost the allies the war! But historians can’t alter the past, can they?

All Clear by Connie Willis

All Clear by Connie Willis

If you remember my review of Blackout then you may recall that I said it was a bit slow to start. Well this doesn’t suffer that problem, however it did take me a chapter or two to remember exactly what had been going on. So if you are planning on reading these I’d have both to hand so there isn’t a gap between them. That way it’ll just read like one really long book, which is how I think it should be read.

And like the first there is loads of fascinating details and historical bits and pieces. If you are a fan of historical fiction you’ll enjoy this part of the story. It was certainly my favourite bit. But the whole mystery surrounding why exactly they were stranded wasn’t that great. And the characters spent too long trying to protect each other from the truth. Come on, you are supposed to be professionals at this business. Don’t be hiding crucial information from each other.

And I also didn’t buy the theory Show Spoiler ▼

That made no sense to me, considering all the opportunities for that to happen and yet it hadn’t. So that was another aspect that just didn’t ring true for me.

All clear has some great writing. It is very easy to read, and you don’t really want to put it down. But at the same time I felt it was overlong. And bits definitely could have been left out. For a while it felt like the characters were just going in circles, which was accurate in one respect as they tried to solve their own problem and mystery, but at the same time it was annoying to read. Of course, this far into the books you’ll just have to push on through and find out what happens everyone in the end.

The end…

I didn’t like it. Show Spoiler ▼

But maybe I’m just too cynical :) And despite all my complaints in this review I did enjoy this book. I just think it’d be twice as good if it and Blackout were merged and at least a quarter of each gotten rid of.

Other reviews: Val’s random comments ; Rhapsody in books ; i09
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12 Responses

  1. Kathleen says:

    I'd definitely like to start this series this year. I've heard so many good things about it!

  2. Paul B says:

    Good review. I'm still umm'ing and ahh'ing over whether to read this book. I reviewed Blackout last year, mainly because of the Hugo, and found it rather repetetive and way too long. Your review seems to confirm my worst suspicions that 'All Clear' suffers from the same issues.

    Don't get me wrong, the book is beautifully written and impeccably researched, I just wish the editing was up to the same standard.

    I really like the way you put in drop down spoilers, by the way. It makes reading reviews of books that I haven't yet read much, much more enjoyable.

    • Fence says:

      If you didn't like Blackout for those reasons then I don't think I'd recommend continuing on with All Clear. It is very much more of the same. I still enjoyed Blackout and All Clear, but I don't think they deserved to win any prizes, due mainly to the longwinded-ness of it all.

      The spoilers are hidden using the wordpress plugin called enhanced simple spoilers, but I see you use a blog, so I'm not sure if you can use plugins?

  3. Ellie says:

    An interesting premise, though I'd have to read the first book.

    I like the spoilers idea too (and a quick google tells me I can do the same on Blogger).
    Ellie´s last blog post ..It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

    • Fence says:

      You would :)

      I hate reading spoilers so feel it is only polite to hide them in case other people think the same, and those that don't mind can read them if they choose.

  4. Thank you for leaving a comment on my blog today. I'm not sure I've ever heard of "Women's Christmas." Little Christmas, as I'd understood it, was the Visit of the Magi — but in America, at least, we've moved the feast to the first Sunday after the New Year.

    I'm not familiar with the series you've written about in this post, but I've read my share of alternate history — I've read more books (and followed more series) than I care to admit by Harry Turtledove. I just read the latest installment of his Alt WWII series that starts by supposing Chamberlain had stood up to Hitler at Munich and committed Britain to oppose Germany's attempt to dismember Czechoslovakia. Maybe I don't find this series as interesting because I don't buy either the idea of Chamberlain standing up to Hitler or the idea of the war actually starting at that point as a result. I seem to recall Churchill being absolutely certain that, even as late as Munich, Hitler would have backed down — or his generals would have rebelled — if Britain had stood firm. Of course, I suppose Churchill was always absolutely certain about everything.

    Lately I've enjoyed a number of books in the 1632 series by Eric Flint and various co-authors. Flint also has a couple of books that start by supposing that Sam Houston wasn't that badly injured in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and wind up radically changing American race relations.

    And Stephen Baxter — often a rather pessimistic and depressing, but very good, 'hard' sci-fi author — did an alt history series (Time's Tapestry) that I followed. I've sampled some alt history by Robert Conroy, too.

    But I find I don't much like writing book reviews. You might agree — most people do, I think — that the best (or at least most entertaining) reviews are often the most scathing. Roger Ebert's movie reviews, for example, are generally wonderful, but his really negative ones are, by far, the most fun. But I find I can't write a review for a book I don't like.

    • Fence says:

      There is a wikipage all about Little Christmas. I hadn't realised that the Epiphany was celebrated on a different date in the States. Although I suppose it makes sense to have it on a weekend.

      I've read one by Turtledove, in his alternate civil war series. Was interesting.

      I definitely think that it easier to write a scathing review. It is certainly more fun. It's also great if you really love a book, but I find that writing a review also helps me get my thoughts out about a book that can often help me figure out what I liked or disliked it.

  5. Carl V. says:

    I had every intention of reading these last year and didn't get around to it. I did start Blackout and was enjoying it but at the time was involved in too many group reads to stick with it. Here's hoping for this year.

    Considering the size of each book I'm glad it isn't just one massive chunkster, though at the same time I can understand why it might not work as well being two separate books.
    Carl V.´s last blog post ..Patrick Rothfuss Sez…

    • Fence says:

      Oh year, it is far too large for one book, I can see why they split it. I just think that if it was edited so that it was that much shorter it'd be a better book. Of course I may be wrong :)

  6. Karen says:

    Sounds interesting. I think I would be more like you, interested in the historical aspect rather than the story itself.
    Karen´s last blog post ..A Discovery Of Witches – Deborah Harkness

    • Fence says:

      The problem I had with the time travel storyline was that I just didn't really care because I knew that it'd all be sorted, so I didn't feel any real worry or drama about that aspect. The details of life in the Blitz on the other hand was great.