Savannah's Reviews > All Clear

All Clear by Connie Willis
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Mar 31, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: fiction, history, librarybook, scifi, series, timetravel, war, alternate-history
Read from March 31 to April 03, 2011

** spoiler alert ** I have to stand by the fact that I liked this second book of the pair (which really make one oversized novel) quite a bit despite its shortcomings.

Really, if anything stands as a good case for the need for editing, this is a fine example. I think that there would probably have been one tightly written 500-page book in all of this if an assertive editor had really given this a good workover. In addition to the overly repetitive and expository beginning chapters in book 1, this volume suffered from a strong case of the dithers while trying to escape its middle section and get the plot moving forward again. And then, after so very long with its characters increasingly aware that they are stuck, the resolution moved forward jerkily, overly hasty, and somewhat poorly explained beyond yet a bit more repetitiveness.

This book feels like the author had too much descriptive material--as well done as it is--and too little plot. It reads as though she got simply outnumbered by her research and failed to regain the upper hand. And that's a shame, because the historical sections are really well done and well set off by the time travelers' contrasting experience in their own times. Some of the characters are hilarious and wonderful--primarily the nearly Dickensian Hodbins--while others are clearly there only to move a bit of plot forward. In fact, by the time the reader slogs all the way to the end, the wrap back to the beginning is kind of lost for them because too many of those characters and events were too thrown away, too far away, and the impact of the circularity is thus substantially diminished (unless one goes back to reread the beginning and, frankly, after all of those pages I simply didn't care enough to invest that much effort). For all we revisit Michael's early history in the book, at Dunkirk, we skip right over the far more critical, in terms of the denouement, episodes in Polly's other timeline.

I also felt that an editor could have made the author tighten up what kind of book she was writing. Is this time travel? an historical? Or, as one starts to wonder in the final couple hundred pages, a mystery, especially given the homage to Christie? It's not that it cannot be all of these things, but that is better carried out simultaneously than sequentially, lest one get the impression, as happens here, that the author has simply lost her way.

Again, let me say that I enjoyed this book a lot. I just didn't quite enjoy it as strongly as it went on. I would have loved the daylights out of the tight 500-pager that it could have been made into, though.
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