Elizabeth's Reviews > All Clear

All Clear by Connie Willis
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Feb 02, 12

bookshelves: adult-fiction, historical-fiction, sci-fi-and-fantasy, time-travel, mystery
Recommended for: People who like time travel stories and/or WWII historical fiction
Read from January 29 to February 02, 2012

My review here will be for both Blackout All Clear 1 and All Clear All Clear 2, since they are essentially one book split in two (and since I read them back-to-back and can't really differentiate between them in my mind or remember precisely where the split was).

I listened to the audio versions of these, narrated by Katherine Kellgren, who did a fantastic job. Every character had a distinct and entirely appropriate voice, to the point where I forgot, at times, that I was listening to just one person reading the book.

As for the books themselves, I wasn't sure at first that I was going to enjoy them all that much. It took me a while to get into the first book, and I figured it was going to be a mediocre read that would sufficiently pass the time, but which I wouldn't end up loving. That changed maybe 1/3 of the way into the first book. I'm not entirely sure what made me change my mind, but all of a sudden, I was completely intrigued to find out what would happen next. I think the fact that the story starts off with all the main characters doing their own things and living their own separate lives is what made it difficult to get into. Once things starting connecting up, though, I was pulled in.

The further we got into the story, and the more we learned about the interrelationships with other "contemps" (the people who lived in and belonged to the past), I was sold. Particular favorites were the vicar, Mr. Good; Talbot, the ambulance driver in 1944; and of course, Sir Godfrey (my personal favorite character in the entire story). These people and their relationships with our main characters are what made the book good and not just another sci-fi novel about people travelling through time.

There were a few things that kept me from giving the book a 5-star rating, however. One was possibly due to the audiobook format: because every chapter starts off with a time and location, and it jumps around so much from 1940/1941 to 1944 to 2060, etc., it was sometimes difficult to follow and keep track of who was who and where we were in the chronological time stream. It would have perhaps been easier to follow in print format, since it would be easy enough to flip back to the beginning of a chapter and look. It was easier once we got further in the book, and I was able to remember who/where/when the various characters were. (view spoiler)

It felt a bit forced and overdramatic, at times, too. The characters drew conclusions that seemed a bit far-fetched and fatalistic (though I suppose living through a constant barrage of bombings every night would fray anyone's nerves, even if they weren't stranded in the past, so I suppose maybe that's okay.)

Overall, though, I was gripped with the story and in love with several of the characters. As I've said, Sir Godfrey may be one of my all-time favorite fictional characters ever. (view spoiler)

Connie Willis may not be the best author ever, nor were these the greatest books ever written, but they definitely held my attention, wrenched my heart a time or two, and were a very enjoyable read.
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