2010: 117. All Clear

All Clear, Connie Willis

“By noon Michael and Merope still hadn’t returned from Stepney, and Polly was beginning to get really worried.”

All Clear, Connie Willis

          All Clear is the sequel to Blackout, or, as I understand it, really the second half – the story being that Willis wrote such a long book that they had to split it half and sell it as two.  It’s a great read – by the end I found it to be unputdownable, and I imagine I’ll read it again sometime – perhaps reading all in one big chunk as the author originally intended.  It is, simply, the continuation of the story started in Blackout – the story of historians from the future getting stuck in World War II Britain, and it has all the charms of Blackout (particularly the authentic and moving writing about the war) along with a much more urgent plot.  Where Blackout was largely about getting pieces in place, and thus, the urgency seemed somewhat false, in All Clear there is a real problem – whether the historians will ever get home (particularly since one has a “deadline” of VE day – because she had she previously visited the past on that day, and because a person cannot be alive twice on the same day, she knows she will die in some way before VE day if she can’t get back to her own time).  The danger is real, and thus the stuff I liked from the first book – the history and the characters are even better, since they are attached to a real plot.

          My only quibble is that I’m not really sure this needed to be two books.  Because it wasn’t conceived and plotted that way, it makes Blackout seem sort of extraneous – it’s all getting the pieces in place, and all the good stuff happens in All Clear.  It seems to be that a good editor might have tightened it up better into one long book –or, at least, worked on the structure so that the first book didn’t seem so unimportant on reflection.  I mean, it does the heavy lifting that makes the ending of All Clear resonant, but there was so much going back and forth and running around, that I can’t help but think that if Willis had been ruthless about editing there could have been one phenomenal book instead of two really enjoyable ones.  But I appreciate that she shot for the moon, and she still landed in the stars (as the old hoary saying goes).

 

Categories:  Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017