All Clear

Connie Willis
In Blackout, award-winning author Connie Willis returned to the time-traveling future of 2060—the setting for several of her most celebrated works—and sent three Oxford historians to World War II England: Michael Davies, intent on observing heroism during the Miracle of Dunkirk; Merope Ward, studying children evacuated from London; and Polly Churchill, posing as a shopgirl in the middle of the Blitz. But when the three 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. Now the situation has grown even more dire. Small discrepancies in the historical record seem to indicate that one or all of them have somehow affected the past, changing the outcome of the war. The belief that the past can be observed but never altered has always been a core belief of time-travel theory—but suddenly it seems that the theory is horribly, tragically wrong. Meanwhile, in 2060 Oxford, the historians’ supervisor, Mr. Dunworthy, and seventeen-year-old Colin Templer, who nurses a powerful crush on Polly, are engaged in a frantic and seemingly impossible struggle of their own—to find three missing needles in the haystack of history. Told with compassion, humor, and an artistry both uplifting and devastating, All Clear is more than just the triumphant culmination of the adventure that began with Blackout. It’s Connie Willis’s most humane, heartfelt novel yet—a clear-eyed celebration of faith, love, and the quiet, ordinary acts of heroism and sacrifice too often overlooked by history.   


Reviewed: 2016-12-15
Not a perfect book by any means, but this is a worthy ending to the duo of books which began with [b:Blackout|6506307|Blackout|Connie Willis||6697901].

A star must be deducted, however, because it is abundantly clear that the two books could have been printed as one if an editor had taken Willis by the arms and forced her to cut down on the "Missed Connections" blather. Honestly, telling us a tale from different ppoints of view, then giving us detailed and lengthy discourses on what the present PoV thinks the other ones are hiding from them, and of course detailing over and over again what they are themselves keeping schtum... pages and pages and pages of this.

When she stops this palaver and gets back to writing the book this simply sparkles. Fantastic ideas about the conundrums of time travel, only marred by the historian's apparent cluelessness about, well, history. I understand that history (in the universe of the books) is in a balkanized specialist state due to the effects of timetravel, but, come on! a historian examining women's roles in WW2 not knowing about Bletchley?
Reviewed: 2016-11-25
Fascinating subject matter, and I learned so much about WWII that I never knew! The characters did get the tiniest bit annoying with all their self-sacrifice, and I think it could have been shortened without losing anything.
Reviewed: 2015-04-07
Think of the traditional war narrative: guy goes off adventuring, faithful gal waits at home. Because the guy goes off to do his warring elsewhere, the reader doesn't have to feel too bad about the death and destruction that is wreaked on them. The repercussions are all limited in time and place, and the guy can come back a hero. Rarely does the narrative tell us much about the gal waiting except that she's patience on a monument, the embodiment of perfection.

Over the past hundred years or so, there has been an exponential increase in war narratives. The focus has shifted from the great leader and hero to the more average guy, not necessarily brave, overwhelmed by the situation in which he finds himself. Fiction or memoir, 20th century narratives focused on that crazy, dislocated feeling, using time travel or other juxtaposition as a device. Of course, there were also far more stories about people caught up in war who were not traditional heroes: women, children, lower class folks who had an opportunity to rise suddenly.

Willis goes that narrative one better. She writes of World War Two as a conflict that involves everyone in Britain. Because it's such a big thing it can't be done in a single book. All of her time travel stories fit in, from [b:Fire Watch|24986|Fire Watch|Connie Willis||2324159] to [b:Doomsday Book|24983|Doomsday Book|Connie Willis||2439628], and even [b:To Say Nothing of the Dog|77773|To Say Nothing of the Dog|Connie Willis||696], as well as the two centerpieces, [b:Blackout|6506307|Blackout (All Clear, #1)|Connie Willis||6697901] and All Clear. Not many people have the skill to write an engaging epic about people doing mundane tasks, but in her focus on the concrete and specific (queuing for sandwiches in the tube station, selling a coat for a child about to be evacuated) Willis manages something transcendent.

Later on I may change my mind, but I'm willing to say that collectively these volumes are the greatest work of science fiction ever written.
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