**spoiler alert** It is impossible to separate my thoughts on the first volume of this duology from the second—possibly because they never should have...more**spoiler alert** It is impossible to separate my thoughts on the first volume of this duology from the second—possibly because they never should have been separated in the first place. This is a single novel that got way, way out of control, and if Willis (or really, Willis’ editor, who’s supposed to be the responsible one in this case) had had any sense, this monstrosity of a manuscript would have been carefully pared down to one tighter, and much better, book. Where is Max Perkins when you need him?
So I’m not going to discuss the structural problems with these books in much greater detail: said problems are immense, and if you’re going to tackle this story, you have to accept going in that the first volume is entirely setup, and over-long setup at that. Blackout should have probably been the first hundred pages, maybe, of the overall work. All Clear, which contains—finally!—the resolution, is better, but even it took a good 300 pages to start getting anywhere. Willis has a definite style, but it can start to seem like a crutch, especially when there’s not much else going on. It got to the point where I began groaning every time I read “But she didn’t” or “But he didn’t”—just like I grit my teeth through all of Tolkien’s “And lo!” and “And behold!”s in Return of the King.
The characters’ worries and reasoning about whether or not they were screwing up the timeline were frustrating as well. There were far too many instances of them deciding that they had corrupted it—oh wait, no they hadn’t! (See, I swear, it wouldn’t have even been that hard to cut this.) And the actual solution...how was this a surprise? To ANY of them? Am I somehow wrong in thinking that “the time traveler’s actions are and always were part of the timeline” is one of the major theories of how time travel would work? They use it on Doctor Who and Supernatural all the time. Willis’ Oxford books take place in the future, and I’d think that, even if this is a future where time travel has proved possible and this particular theory of time travel has supposedly been disproved, the characters would at least be aware of it. They’ve got a good century of pop culture behind them to make use of, after all! But instead, they’re totally shocked by the possibility, like people in modern zombie films who are totally taken aback by the revelation that a bite means you’re a ticking zombie time bomb. This just makes the characters seem really alarmingly thick.
So far, I’m making it sound like these books totally aren’t worth reading at all, but this isn’t entirely true. They fail on a number of levels, but Willis succeeds on a number of others, too—just to confuse you, I guess. Her depiction of the Blitz is fantastic and brilliantly vivid: as a story of ordinary people pulling together in impossible circumstances, these books are powerful and believable. The characters, once you work through their multiple aliases (very confusing over two books) and get over the fact that they all seem to process information in a startlingly similar way (“But he didn’t”)—they are characters to root for. Both Colin and Sir Godfrey are divine romantic heroes, and Willis, as usual, knows how to tug on your heartstrings, to write sacrifices so they feel painful and fully-realized. Once I got over the 300-page hump, I zipped through the second half of All Clear in an afternoon because I needed to know what happened to everyone. There is something here, to be sure—a spark of a good novel—which in a way makes it even more of a shame that it’s buried under so much excess stuff. Oh, Max, Max: we need to invent time travel for you.(less)
I'm glad I read this graphic novel because it meant discovering it contains 1) a fun sci-fi/action/adventure/conspiracy storyline; 2) a cute interraci...moreI'm glad I read this graphic novel because it meant discovering it contains 1) a fun sci-fi/action/adventure/conspiracy storyline; 2) a cute interracial romance; 3) snazzy art; and 4) a scene where a character wakes from a wet dream and washes the come out of his shorts. Uh...guess what I'll be moving from the Junior Readers to the Young Adult section first thing tomorrow morning?(less)