All Clear is the sequel to Blackout, so if you haven’t read the first book beware that there may be spoilers in this review.
This is the second half of the tale of three time travelers from the future who are stuck in England in World War II. They are still scheming and planning; trying to get a message through somehow to the future so that someone can come to rescue them.
Since All Clear and Blackout were written as one book and then split in two to be published, a lot of what I had to say about All Clear is relevant when it comes to Blackout. As I stated in my first review:
I have noticed what I thought was a pattern in [Connie Willis'] writing style, but have come to see how the style of writing has a particular logic in each book, and is actually a larger metaphor for the overarching theme of the story. The style is not so much a style as it is a mechanism of the plot; one that is subtly giving you clues as you read.
For example, in Blackout everything that happens or doesn’t happen seems to be a near miss. People are looking for each other without success, sometimes passing within a block of each other, sometimes one sees the other but something impedes their progress. One person’s actions cause a chain of events that end up delaying another person and it saves their life. And so on and so forth throughout the novel, and I was on edge waiting to see if the effects of their actions would have dire consequences.
I noticed this pattern of near misses even more in All Clear, because by this time I was thinking, “How many hundreds of pages of near misses can you have without being ridiculous?” The answer of course is . . . read the books and find out. There really is a logic and meaning behind everything that is happening, but the close calls can become a bit frustrating until you realize why things are the way they are. It wasn’t until the author started to hint at what was going on (via one of the main characters) that I started to realize that rather than being just annoying, it might actually serve a purpose in the story.
Did I like the second book as much as the first? Almost. Both books together were very long and yet I read them both in one week. So why does the second book not seem as good as the first? The first book ended abruptly, leaving me desperate to find out what happened in the next volume. I was so determined to read the book that I drove to our neighboring town to check it out from their library rather than have to wait an extra day to receive it via inter-library loan.
When I think of the first book I remember that wonderful anticipation I felt for the next book. After finishing the second book I felt satisfied, but had hoped (especially after a combined total of 1100+ pages) that there would have been a more detailed ending. Something along the lines of what the producers did with the third Lord of the Rings movie. I put in my time and I want a long and detailed happy ending for Pete’s sake. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a cliffhanger or anything. Loose ends were tied up, but after all of that build up I felt like I deserved an explicitly detailed ending in reward for all of the time I invested.
Overall I loved what the author did with the characters and thought that almost all were interesting and well-developed. There are a lot of minor characters to remember, but it was a fun mental-juggling act trying to piece everything together and figure out how they all were important to the plot.
As I said in my previous review of Blackout, I love stories about World War II and time travel so I would have been hard-pressed not to love these books. I plan to purchase my own copies and reread them for fun at some point in the future.