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All Clear (Hugo Award Winner - Best Novel) Hardcover – October 19, 2010
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“As vivid an evocation of England during World War II as anyone has ever written . . . You’ll find here a novelist who can plot like Agatha Christie and whose books possess a bounce and stylishness that Preston Sturges might envy.”—The Washington Post
“A tour-de-force. [Willis is] one of America’s finest writers.”—The Denver Post
“[Willis has] researched Blackout so thoroughly her readers may imagine she had access to the time machine her characters use.”—The Seattle Times
“This compassionate and deeply imagined novel . . . gives the reader a strong you-were-there feeling.”—The Times-Picayune
“A page-turning thriller . . . Willis uses detail and period language exquisitely well, creating an engaging, exciting tale.”—Publishers Weekly
“Depicts the times and the spirit of the British people remarkably vividly. . . . multifaceted and believable.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“[A] book with something for everyone that ends up working on every level. It is adventure. It is history. It is science. It is, indeed, thrilling. And it is unforgettable.”—January Magazine
“I loved this book. It is informative, subtle, full of great characters and has a wonderful plot. . . . Brilliant. Willis at her finest.”—Michael Moorcock
About the Author
- Item Weight : 2.02 pounds
- Hardcover : 656 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0553807676
- ISBN-13 : 978-0553807677
- Dimensions : 6.3 x 1.8 x 9.52 inches
- Publisher : Spectra; 1st edition (October 19, 2010)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #323,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I guess Hugo/Nebula awards have lost much meaning.
That time travelers can't make their scheduled rendezvous and then chase each other around in circles, losing and finding each other like a Keystone Cops movie is bad enough, but pages and pages repeatedly, neurotically and uselessly agonizing whether the sequence of events was still on track, puzzling endlessly how to contact the future, find numerous (organized) travelers, and nobody ever put a simple backup contact plan or message drop in place ahead of time - in 20th century LONDON, REALLY?
Just plain absurd.
This ain't a story about a lone traveler in the Jurassic.
Plot holes everywhere, and wrong opinions (like the V2 "if you hear the bang, you already survived" was somehow far scarier than the 'here I come' ... then ominous silence, anticipation, of the V1 - opposite of what my own family said everyone felt) make this a tedious, annoying read.
A good editor could have chopped the thousand page two volume set into perhaps one 350 page book easily.
Connie Willis creates characters in such depth that you feel as if you're living inside their skin, especially if you listen to the audiobook while reading, which is narrated brilliantly by Katherine Kellgren. I honestly felt as if I were there in the shelters during the Blitz, living in the blackout, and dealing with the shortages and rationing. And I recently discovered a website called Bomb Sight which shows the location of just about every bomb that fell on London during the war, which will be a wonderful resource for locations when I reread this omnibus book (because I definitely will reread it; there was so much detail I lost the first time through, it will take a second reading just to have a better handle on what was going on). Connie Willis did a truly stupendous amount of research on WWII England, and it really shows. I found myself regularly doing independent research on wartime events that I might have heard of briefly in passing but had never looked into in detail, or researching people I'd never encountered before, and that added to the entire reading/listening experience for me.
I know some people find the book(s) tediously long, but I didn't. I didn't mind the historians' introspection -- since they couldn't reveal their true identity to the "contemps," after all -- especially since there's always a voice or three narrating life in my head, too. If you have plenty of time to spend and really want to learn about WWII England and immerse yourself in the life of these time travelers to the past, I highly recommend Blackout and All Clear. (And read them in that order or you'll be beyond hopelessly confused!)
This second part begins with them attempting to survive the Blitz and worrying about how their actions could impact the outcome of the war. Willis rarely describes exactly how time travel works in her novels, but the concept of slippage recurs. Slippage is when an historian arrives before or after the time to which they intended to go and, as it becomes clearer and clearer that the historians are influencing events, the head of Oxford's time travel program postulates that "it wasn't a line of defense guarding against damage we might do to the continuum. It was a rearguard action against an attack that had already happened—an attempt to hold a castle whose walls had already been breached" (pg. 398). The historians must grapple with the uncertainty of chaos theory and decide what to do as it appears they are stuck in one of the most critical times in modern history.
Willis expertly researched her period and the focus on the ordinary heroism of everyday people is certainly entertaining, but the story feels rather unnecessarily long at points, as characters find their attempts to get back to their own time thwarted again and again. One interesting element is Willis' moving backward and forward in time as Polly had visited World War II out-of-order, with a trip to VE-Day, to 1944, and then to the Blitz. Similarly, Michael's story jumps around in time a bit between "contemporary" events and those that occur later, but are connected. This may be disconcerting for casual readers, but the connections are rewarding as they become apparent. Those who enjoy Willis' writing will find plenty to enjoy here and the story has a rewarding conclusion for those who stick through till the end. She endows her characters, even minor ones, with such life that one cannot help but become invested in them.
Top reviews from other countries
The whole story here - both Blackout and All Clear combined - is to my mind about heroes, but not perhaps where you'd expected them. I came to that conclusion "watching" the characters get involved so intimately with the many problems that beset the Home Front during WWII. Eileen's courage and determination through the measles outbreak among evacuees in part one, far away as she was from the bombing of the Blitz. Polly's determination to save lives while driving an ambulance around the city as a FANY - under a different name - and her survival of the 29th December 1940. Both heartbreaking and breathtaking. Michael's trip to Bletchley Park, to a field of inflatable tanks, to Dunkirk and the D-Day landings and finally to Croydon and a printing-press disseminating misinformation to foil the Germans. And Colin, who loved a lady and simply would not give up until he'd won her over and saved the day. There was heroism aplenty among the civilians, living under such intolerable stress and strain, coping daily with the prospect of defeat or death. Connie Willis describes the Blitz in such compelling detail and with such clarity that you feel you were there, holding your breath as you ran past the next crumbling, fire-damaged building before it collapsed.
This may all sound depressing and dire, but it wasn't. There were lighter moments and thank goodness for Alf and Binnie! You read about them in Blackout, well here they are again paying a more pivotal role in the conclusion than you would probably have imagined. They were a wonderful pair, proving more useful to the story than you might have expected as they and Eileen became more close-knit. A family. And then there's Agatha Christie ...
As in the author's previous time-travel stories Mr Dunworthy is the man in charge of the historians adventures, but when he makes an appearance here in the Blitz - a failed attempt to rescue everybody - it shows that even he doesn't understand what effects all these people travelling back in time has been having, will have. Or won't. Basically he is rescued by his charges. They have suffered more than he has and made it through, so it takes one of them to see answers and conclusions he hasn't been able to.
It's hard to be negative about a story that has enthralled and kept me reading early till late, hating to put either book down, but I think I agree the constant hand-wringing about cause and effect was over-done, and sometimes stalled the story. But I loved the visuals evoked by clever and careful description, I felt the emotion of a population at war but not at the front line, suffering all the same. The reality is so many people's stories were never told, their lives unrecorded and silent to history, yet here they are, alive and contributing to the modern world we know. You have to love them all.
It is very poignant that the author suggests how no one who hasn't lived through the previous years of terror, deprivation, death and destruction could understand the sheer jubilation that surrounded VE day. An incredibly valid point and one that poses the question that even if time-travellers were able to voyage back to these landmark events in history, would they truly, ever be able to fully understand them?
And throughout the tale we have tantalising glimpses at another story, one which might explain the eventual destruction of St Pauls the historians of Oxford in 2060 know all about.
A remarkable story, brilliantly told.
So why 1 star and not 3? It is just too long and takes too many pages to go nowhere. I lost hope on the journey to the end.........