**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)
Okay, sometimes this thing were I get a lot of free books through my work can be both a blessing and a curse. Because often, something like this will...moreOkay, sometimes this thing were I get a lot of free books through my work can be both a blessing and a curse. Because often, something like this will fall into my lap totally gratis, and while I would never actually buy it, when I haven't paid I'm all, “Haha, omg: it's time travel genderfuck RPF! This I have to read! It's gonna be hilarious!”
Um, no, it's not. It will be misogynistic and gross, though. *time travels, switches sex, and pats past!self on the head* Have fun, kid.(less)
Hey, dummy! You weren’t impressed by the last book you read by this guy, so why the heck would you try another of his titles? What were you thinking?
B...moreHey, dummy! You weren’t impressed by the last book you read by this guy, so why the heck would you try another of his titles? What were you thinking?
But...but this one’s got time travel! The blurbs all said it was kind of like Life on Mars! I love Life on Mars!
Since when do blurbs ever tell the truth?
Yeah, okay, that one turned out to be totally bogus. But...time travel?
There really aren’t any interesting time travel ideas in this book. It’s boring and pointlessly violent, just like Swierczynski’s last book. And he ends it with another bullshit attempt at a twist ending, more idiotic than even the equally hard to spell Shyamalan’s usual crap. It’s the literary equivalent of a B-movie that would close with a card that says, “The End...Or Is it?!”
Admittedly that kind of made me want to stab myself.
So are you going to learn your lesson finally? Please?
Yeah, if I could, I’d go back in time...and not read this book!
I am so, so ashamed that we are actually the same person.(less)
New to the list of things Misha Collins has made me do: read an Anne Rice book. I really never thought I would do that again. Even at the height of my...moreNew to the list of things Misha Collins has made me do: read an Anne Rice book. I really never thought I would do that again. Even at the height of my Buffy-induced vamp craze, I didn't care for Rice; I dragged myself yawning through Interview With the Vampire. Of course, Rice'd probably just tell me that means I was interrogating the text from the wrong perspective. I do have to thank you for that one, Anne: that meme never gets old.
But then Anne Rice found God, and I found Supernatural's Castiel, and suddenly both of us were worshiping things that are at least vaguely angel-shaped. As much as I mocked Rice's new book for its ridiculous title (“Is it Thursday? Oh goody”—brandishes book—“it be angel tiem nao”), I also sort of wanted to read it. The angel in Angel Time, the internet informed me, is described as having dark hair and bright blue eyes—just like Castiel! The human he saves from perdition himself is a self-hating blond assassin—close enough to Dean for government work and/or idle fantasies. Hello, hilarious assassin AU in convenient “I can read it on the bus” book form!
The novel itself is actually not hilarious at all—it may be, in fact, one of the most self-serious books I've ever read. And yet...it's also not bad. Most of the narrative involves not-Cas sending not-Dean to save a medieval Jewish family from being falsely accused of murder. I didn't care about this part, particularly, especially not in contrast to the interesting glimmers of not-Cas and not-Dean's burgeoning relationship: not-Cas watched him grow up, watched all the tragedy in his life unfold, felt what he felt! It's kind of fabulously over the top, and I know that if I slashed it, Anne Rice would bring the whole internet down upon my head. I will not be posting this review on Amazon.com.
Seriously, though: I'm very aware that I am interrogating this text from the wrong perspective. I am not getting what Anne Rice likely wants me to get out of it at all. I'm okay with that, though. Hopefully, given time and the better angels of her nature, Anne herself will come around.(less)
Ooh. This book is so fabulously clever and smart. It brings together: 1970s New York, the game show The $20,000 Pyramid, the many complexities of inte...moreOoh. This book is so fabulously clever and smart. It brings together: 1970s New York, the game show The $20,000 Pyramid, the many complexities of interpersonal relationships, A Wrinkle in Time, and a fantastic mystery. I loved the characters, and was so impressed with how Stead (seemingly) effortlessly charts the ups and downs of their relationships: friendships forming and falling apart and coming together again. This is a kids’ book, but like I said it is a smart kids’ book, one in which Stead never writes down to her audience. And it’s funny. And suspenseful. And—oh, just read it. It’s brilliant.(less)
This fantastic new essay collection tackles topics as diverse as time travel, laugh tracks, ABBA, and some sports stuff that went over my head. But th...moreThis fantastic new essay collection tackles topics as diverse as time travel, laugh tracks, ABBA, and some sports stuff that went over my head. But that's the great thing about Klosterman as an essayist: even when he's writing on a topic you know nothing about, he'll draw you in, he'll make you care.
It is perhaps also worth noting that this is perhaps the only book Klosterman has ever written that didn't piss me off at some point. I know, right? Perhaps marriage has mellowed him?(less)
I really, really hated Rigler’s first novel, which this book is a sequel to. So why, you might reasonably ask, did I read the follow-up? The answer “I...moreI really, really hated Rigler’s first novel, which this book is a sequel to. So why, you might reasonably ask, did I read the follow-up? The answer “I am a glutton for punishment” might, likewise reasonably, be provided. In truth, the answer is perhaps sadder: I am desperate for time travel stories in which a person from the past travels to the present, and this novel, unlike its predecessor, is one such tale. It was also, thank the god of poor, goofy, don’t-know-what’s-good-for-them readers, significantly less annoying than the first book, and even rather enjoyable at times.
This can probably be attributed in part to Rigler’s growth as a writer—she smoothes out or just plain omits some of the plot points that made Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict so enormously dumb. But the fact is that the premise of our regency-born heroine, the unlikely-named Jane Mansfield, being transported to our present is just much more entertaining than Millennium girl Courtney Stone arriving in the past. For one thing, Jane has genuine reasons to be confused by all she encounters, while the bumbling and complaining Courtney just seemed stupid and whiny when confronted with the past she supposedly so loved to read about. Rigler also lets Jane actually stop and consider her prejudices and even have a bit of a feminist awakening, while Courtney, who in the last book called herself a feminist, consistently acted like the opposite, desperately swooning and waiting for a man to give her life meaning.
This is still not a great book, but I really did enjoy Jane wandering wide-eyed around 2009 Los Angeles. If you’re a fan of this particular—and sadly-underrepresented—sub-genre of time travel stories, than this would be a good title to add to your list; reading the first book is fortunately entirely unnecessary. And if you do know of any other good character-from-the-past-journeys-to-the-present books (or a snazzier name for the same), please do tell me!
P.S. This book, like its predecessor, has absolutely nothing to do with Jane Austen. Nice cheap marketing ploy, there!(less)
This book has a truly rockin’ concept: British polar explorer Titus Oates—he of self-sacrificing “I am just going outside and may be some time” fame—d...moreThis book has a truly rockin’ concept: British polar explorer Titus Oates—he of self-sacrificing “I am just going outside and may be some time” fame—did not in fact perish in Antarctica in 1912, but was instead rescued by scientists experimenting with new time travel technology in 2045. As Wychwood and I discussed in several very capslocky emails, how can one resist a book where, as she put it, “THERE IS TITUS OATES IN FUTURE NEW YORK AND ALSO SPACE ALIENS”? Especially when it’s available for free online? Answer: one cannot.
The execution is not quite as awesome as the concept, although such a thing would admittedly be hard. The narrative is told in a tight 3rd person POV, from Titus’ perspective, and I don’t know if this is a product of that, but the prose is very exclamation mark-heavy, which is not my favorite thing ever. There are also some frustrating misunderstandings, caused as much by Titus not paying attention as by him being thrust more than a hundred years into the future, and I felt that parts of the story dragged. Nevertheless, this is the best “person from the past goes to the future/present” book I’ve found so far, with the space and polar exploration bits being wonderful (no pun intended, Titus, I swear) icing on the cake. The romance is pretty tasty too. And did I mention that you can read it right now, for free? So it’s cake you can have and eat too!
Reread. I last read this when I was much younger, and mostly what I remember is that I found it unsettling and strange. For once, my memory is accurat...moreReread. I last read this when I was much younger, and mostly what I remember is that I found it unsettling and strange. For once, my memory is accurate. This is nominally a time travel story, but perhaps because of time’s inexorable march, the English girls’ boarding school in the “modern” ’50s doesn’t seem all that different to someone reading in 2008 (or 199-whatever) from the English girls’ boarding school in the “past” of 1918. Yes, there’s a war going on in the latter, and that ends up playing a significant role in the story, but still, Charlotte’s present is so thinly sketched out that there almost might as well be one happening there as well. Charlotte, too, seems thin, barely there, so when she starts to feel like she’s losing herself in the identity of Clare, the girl she’s replaced in the past, the unease one feels is more that she never existed in the first place.
Maybe I’ll try again in another ten years, but I’m still not sure if I’ll know what to make of this book.(less)
Much better than Out of Time, although I still feel these books are getting sillier and sillier. I was also disappointed that Devonny-in-the-future t...moreMuch better than Out of Time, although I still feel these books are getting sillier and sillier. I was also disappointed that Devonny-in-the-future took up so little of the narrative, but that’s more of a personal thing. What I did like: that Cooney doesn’t make the Devonny/Tod infatuation out to be more than it was, and the little redemption arc of Devonny’s cold, callous English fiancé. I am a sucker for that crap.
Actually, apply that last sentence to my relationship with these books IN GENERAL, and it’s possible that truer words have never, at any time, been spoken.(less)
Oh dear. This represents a serious drop in quality from its predecessor. Cooney allows the melodrama to totally take over: there are Victorian mental...moreOh dear. This represents a serious drop in quality from its predecessor. Cooney allows the melodrama to totally take over: there are Victorian mental hospitals! And teenage girls struck down by tuberculosis! And dastardly dudes plotting dastardly deeds! With the rapid intercutting between various characters, all of whom are separated from each other for one reason or another, it even reads like a soap opera: short scene-short scene-dramatic sting! Commercial/chapter break.
I’m also annoyed that Cooney apparently decided she was writing herself into a corner with the ending of Both Sides of Time, in which Annie realizes she’s being thrust backward instead of back to the future. But rather than include even a two-line explanation on how Annie got herself out of that one, Cooney just decides to ignore it. NOT COOL.
I’d probably give up right here, except the next one (finally!) involves one of those crazy Strattons coming forward in time. Way to suck me back in, Cooney. Way to suck me back in.(less)
Oh, the ridiculous time travel melodrama of my youth! This was actually better than I remembered. Yes, Annie and Strat do find TRUE LOVE at FIRST SIGH...moreOh, the ridiculous time travel melodrama of my youth! This was actually better than I remembered. Yes, Annie and Strat do find TRUE LOVE at FIRST SIGHT, and yes, the ending’s a bit abrupt and not terribly well set-up. But I liked that Cooney kept this away from being total fluff by emphasizing how hard it would have been to be a woman—of any class—in the 19th century. Wow, books for teenage girls used to actually have empowering, feminist messages in them? Too bad that’s gone out of style. *cough TwilightyesIstillhaveissuescough*
Though I remember pretty distinctly reading this when I was 12, I never read the sequels. (Maybe our tiny town library didn’t have them?) I intend to remedy that now.(less)
I’m having a hard time figuring out how I feel about this book. The POV is great—Zits, the troubled half-Native American narrator, bounds out of his f...moreI’m having a hard time figuring out how I feel about this book. The POV is great—Zits, the troubled half-Native American narrator, bounds out of his foster home and gets in your face. And the plot, which follows him as he comits a horrific act of violence, then gets sent bouncing around through time to other tumultuous points, is inescapably compelling. But I felt that in some ways Alexie is skating on the surface of the horror of this cycle of violence. Both the reader and Zits are jerked around so quickly that I kind of feel like everyone is let off too easily. White people—who are described as “beautiful” in this book with disturbing frequency—are given much too much of a free pass for what was, let’s face it, genocide. Maybe this is my liberal guilt overriding critical capacity, but…
This was still a really interesting book and I’m glad I read it. I should probably read more of Alexie’s work; it would likely give me insight into the themes he’s discussing here.(less)
English chicklit which I read for the time travel/deaging. Except it’s not really time travel OR deaging; it’s kind of trying to be both (or neither?)...moreEnglish chicklit which I read for the time travel/deaging. Except it’s not really time travel OR deaging; it’s kind of trying to be both (or neither?), so it’s basically all a muddle with no internal logic. Also the end’s a big cheat—why set up one of those “the protagonist must be clever and phrase her wish EXACTLY THE RIGHT WAY” scenarios if you’re just going to let her wish any old thing and have it come out peachy keen? While breezily written with some humorous bits and flashes of interesting characterization, this suffers badly from being a fantasy written by someone clearly unfamiliar with common fantasy tropes and even basic fantasy RULES. I’m all for breaking the rules, but you have to understand them first. If not…well, like I said, what you end up with is a total muddle.(less)
Romance in which a 19th century cowboy travels forward in time to find true love with a 21st century female sheriff. This wasn’t awful; it was mostly...moreRomance in which a 19th century cowboy travels forward in time to find true love with a 21st century female sheriff. This wasn’t awful; it was mostly just bland. I got the most enjoyment out of the opening, when Sam’s terribly confused by everything modern and Taylor thinks he’s insane; as usual, once they start to fall in love, I got bored. The problem with a lot of one-shot romance novels, I guess, is that I’m just not invested enough: the characters have to be pretty damn dynamic for me to care about them gazing dopily at each other for 250 pages, especially if there’s nothing that exciting about the external tension. Here, Taylor’s trying to get reelected sheriff, but since she didn’t seem to care all that much about winning (that’s actually a plot point—that she doesn’t care about winning as long as she has Sam, which, while possibly healthy, really rubbed me the wrong way), neither did I. So, I read this for the time travel LOLs, but once those were over, there was just nothing here to keep me involved.(less)
Like William Sleator, Vande Velde is one of the writers I read compulsively when I was about 12 or 13, even though I was often surprised at the rathe...moreLike William Sleator, Vande Velde is one of the writers I read compulsively when I was about 12 or 13, even though I was often surprised at the rather dramatic shifts in quality from work to work. This novel is not one of Vande Velde’s worst, though neither is it one of her best. It is, however, one I’ve read before—something I realized only halfway through, which suggests that this is also one of her more forgettable books. Yeah: there’s really not all that much of note here. While on vacation in the French countryside, Deanna accidentally drops her Mickey Mouse watch into a magic wall, potentially causing a paradox that she must go back in time and correct before the future is altered. With the help of some rather gay elves, she finds herself back in medieval France. Unfortunately, as Vande Velde writes it, the past is as Disney as the watch. Way too much of the narrative is spent on Deanna fumbling around this plasticy version of a castle filled with plasticy lords and ladies (and even a plasticy wizard). The only really interesting part of the book involves Deanna’s cat Oliver, whom the elves turn into a boy and send back in time to help her. I liked Oliver’s mix of humanness and catness (he’s amusingly literal—like Anya, in a way!) but his and Deanna’s relationship is glossed over until the very end, which puts a dampener on what’s by far the most original part of the novel. So, judging by my poor memory, this book didn’t impress me much when I was 12, and it doesn’t impress me much now either.(less)
Nora Roberts seems pretty awesome, often stepping in as the voice of reason whenever there’s a romance fandom kerfuffle (it happens more than you migh...moreNora Roberts seems pretty awesome, often stepping in as the voice of reason whenever there’s a romance fandom kerfuffle (it happens more than you might think). I wish I could have felt as positive about this book, but it was just…bad. On a technical level, it was far more competent than a lot of romance novels I’ve read (and than a lot of novels, period), but it suffered from many of my typical problems with the genre.
An accident knocks 23rd century pilot Caleb Hornblower (yes, really. Am I missing some sort of winking reference to C.S. Forester or something?) back to the 20th century, where he crash-lands near a cabin belonging to Liberty Stone (yes, really). And once that happens, proximity—both physical and temporal—seems to be enough to make Libby and Caleb fall in love. There’s really nothing about their personalities or interactions that would make one think that they are right for each other, but nevertheless, fall in love they do. And that’s basically the entire plot.
I read this for the time travel, surprise surprise. I liked the idea of future!dude coming back and being perplexed by the (then-)present. But the glimpses Roberts provides of Caleb’s 23rd century society really make no sense at all, so it’s hard to relate to where he’s coming from. Worse, there never stops being creepy undertones of male sexual power and female weakness. All of Caleb and Libby’s intimate encounters involve him forcing her a little, or getting too rough for a while before deciding to try to be gentle. It’s kind of squicky, and I found it totally unsexy. This book was first published in 1989, and from my perspective in the far distant future of the 21st century, it really does seem like a long ago, primitive era—and not one I’d care to revisit.(less)
Well, it’s been two months, so the burning hatred I felt for this book when I first put it down has faded somewhat. It remains, however, idiotic and n...moreWell, it’s been two months, so the burning hatred I felt for this book when I first put it down has faded somewhat. It remains, however, idiotic and nonsensical even in memory. Courtney Stone, a modern-day Angeleno and the supposed Jane Austen addict of the title, miraculously finds herself transported back not only to Austen’s England, but into the life—and body—of a woman named Jane Mansfield (yup). Despite having supposedly read all of Austen’s books multiple times, Courtney seems shocked—shocked!—by almost every aspect of Regency life—basic stuff that even I am familiar with, despite being only a Casual Jane Austen Reader at Best. Courtney also frequently mentions the fact that she is a feminist, but all her goals and aspirations in life seem to involve finding a man. Plus she’s whiny. Basically, I spent most of the book wanting to punch her in the neck, which doesn’t make her a terribly good protagonist for a bit of fluff like this.
The ending of the book is also a vortex of bad ideas, poorly executed. What a waste of time.(less)
This is a hard book to review, because from what I’ve heard/read/absorbed through fannish osmosis, this book has been influential in inspiring/shaping...moreThis is a hard book to review, because from what I’ve heard/read/absorbed through fannish osmosis, this book has been influential in inspiring/shaping a lot of time travel narratives since it was first published in 1973. Unfortunately, a lot of what was once innovative now seems old hat—I’m not sure anything featured in this book was new to me. So I guess I appreciate it, intellectually, but on its own it didn’t do much for me.
I knew all the major things that were going to happen from the beginning, and I enjoyed some of them more than others (a lot of other reviewers seem skeeved by the protagonist having a lot of sex with himself, which frankly sort of puzzles/amuses me—but then I guess I am a big old perv, so perhaps I should envy them their innocence). The knotty logic of how the various time jumps affect everything eventually gave me a bit of a headache; I still don’t understand all the intricacies of it, really, nor can I be sure it actually works, although this is all so theoretical that I suppose it doesn’t really matter. I’ve actually gotten much more pleasure out of time travel narratives that make much less sense—Terminator, Back to the Future, etc. This book is really more of an intellectual exercise than a fun story, and again, I see why that was important, but now that the groundwork’s been laid, I didn’t find it terribly exciting.
Also, the protagonist’s kind of an idiot. If I wanted someone to pen an article entitled, “How Not to Have Any Fun at All With Your Awesome Time Travel Belt,” I’d totally look to him to write it.
And speaking of idiocy…I really wish the copy of this that I got off BookMooch hadn’t been the 20th anniversary edition. Because “anniversary edition” turns out to mean “updated edition.” I hate this trend of “updating” books so that newer readers only have to be exposed to books that take place in their present, instead of in the time they were written. One of the things that I love about older books is that they’re artifacts of their times—I want all the crazy clothing trends! The pop culture references! The outdated political concerns! (I also feel, on some level, that it’s insanely stupid to do this to a time travel novel. Or is it just really meta?) I don’t need to read a book that I’ve tried to get into a ’70s mindset to enjoy, only to be confronted with a reference to 9/11.
Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that this is a good book to read if you’re trying to learn about the history and development of science fiction, but if you’re just looking for a fun yarn, you should search elsewhere. And I suppose I could go back in time to say that much more succinctly, but we all know that WOULDN’T END WELL, would it?(less)