Thursday, December 9, 2010

Review: All Clear

I spent last Sunday reading over half of this 640 page book, when I should have been writing a final paper. I just couldn't stop. I had to know what was going to happen.

All Clear, by Connie Willis, is the sequel to Blackout. I would recommend reading them right in a row; All Clear assumes you remember Blackout well. I read it in September, so fortunately I still had a pretty good idea what had happened. Reading them right in a row sounds a little overwhelming, though. These are powerful and suspenseful books. Finishing All Clear left me feeling exhausted, and I'm still thinking about it days later, unable to really start another book.

Polly, Eileen, and Mike, Oxford historians from the year 2060, are still stuck in the London Blitz in 1940. They are dealing not only with nightly bombs, but also worry over why no one has come to rescue them and a nagging fear that they may have somehow changed history. Prevailing time travel theory says that historians can't change the past, but small discrepancies between their knowledge of history and their living experience of it provoke suspicions that something they've done has caused changes which could be disastrous. World War II was full of moments which, had they gone slightly differently, would have completely changed he outcome of the war. But they do have options--other historians have been to the war, and there's hope that one of them could take a message back to Oxford. But the world seems to be conspiring to keep them in 1940, and options are disappearing fast.

As with Blackout, I've come out of All Clear feeling much more knowledgeable about World War II than any class ever managed. All Clear makes the war feel immediate. Though the characters from 2060 know Britain wins the war, their worries over changing history make them as uncertain of the future as any of the "contemps". And knowing Connie Willis's writing, I know she's not afraid to put her characters through a lot of difficulties.

The book is full of a sense of things coming together. Time is a chaotic system, but that doesn't mean it doesn't all add up to something. Polly, Mike and Eileen frequently feel like the world is trying to keep them in 1940, and you can tell that there is a coherent explanation for all this. This is what makes the book so suspenseful. You know that if you just read one more chapter, a little bit more of the picture will come clear.

This was a wonderful book. I feel like I'm not doing it justice, but I loved it, and I couldn't put it down, and I really do have to read everything else Connie Willis has ever written.

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