Review: All Clear by Connie Willis

All ClearAll Clear by Con­nie Willis
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

Well, this vol­ume moved much more quick­ly than Black­out did! Hav­ing read a brief piece writ­ten by Ms. Willis thank­ing those who stood by her as one book spread into two, I think I have a slight­ly bet­ter under­stand­ing now of what hap­pened that led to my unhap­pi­ness with the way the first book end­ed. They real­ly shouldn’t be two books, but they couldn’t phys­i­cal­ly fit into one vol­ume. Or, for many e-read­ers, one ebook.

It is still a large book! And, as in Black­out, it isn’t always clear just who a char­ac­ter is. I’m read­ing along hap­pi­ly and all of a sud­den, there’s a new main char­ac­ter! Wait, who is this? Has Col­in got­ten through some­how? Or is it anoth­er his­to­ri­an? Or anoth­er trip by one of the peo­ple we already know? Or–but–…Ms. Willis does a mar­velous job of keep­ing us guess­ing. And the his­to­ri­ans’ habit of using dif­fer­ent names on dif­fer­ent assign­ments meant that I didn’t always know which per­son I was read­ing about even when I thought I did know who he or she was! The read­er has to catch the tini­est details to know that some­thing isn’t quite right, or be left com­plete­ly sur­prised at the reveal! The many ref­er­ences to Agatha Christie are def­i­nite­ly mean­ing­ful, and I’ve come to believe that I haven’t read near­ly enough of her work!

I’ve always con­sid­ered Ms. Willis a cere­bral author, but my emo­tions were heav­i­ly engaged here. The anal­o­gy of Pol­ly, Sir God­frey, and The Admirable Crich­ton was so apt, and that dread­ful busi­ness in the Phoenix had me bawl­ing. By the time a hero we’d grown to know and love dear­ly fell, and fell so, so close to home, I was a bas­ket case.

After fin­ish­ing this mas­sive duol­o­gy (which real­ly should count as one enor­mous book spread across two vol­umes), you would think that I would be sick and tired of all things Willis and not want to read anoth­er word by her for the next year or so. Instead, I want to know, right now, what comes next. I want to read about Eileen and the Vic­ar, and watch Alf and Bin­nie grow up. I want to see Pol­ly and Colin’s rela­tion­ship grow.

I imag­ine Ms. Willis is rather tired of all of them, though, and hap­py to rest for a while and remem­ber what it is to live back in this cen­tu­ry again. The Oxford Time Trav­el uni­verse offers so many rich and fas­ci­nat­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties for fic­tion, and I hope she choos­es to write many more nov­els set in it. I’ll def­i­nite­ly be will­ing to read them!

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Review: Blackout by Connie Willis

Blackout (All Clear #1)Black­out by Con­nie Willis
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, Ms. Willis! I can­not believe you did this to me! A cliffhang­er? After 512 many pages? And I hung in there SO long in the begin­ning, when the book was so slow to get going!

Seriously–during all that nat­ter­ing about over changed sched­ules and find­ing drop sites I near­ly screamed to just get on with it already! So it is absolute­ly ridicu­lous to find that after more than 500 pages, I am not a nice res­o­lu­tion to any of the var­i­ous plot lines, but rather am referred to the next boook, All Clear!

It’s a bloody good thing that I 1) real­ly, real­ly like Ms. Willis’ work; and 2) already have All Clear on hand and ready to go, or I would have been sore­ly tempt­ed, sore­ly, I say, to throw the book across the room. That isn’t near­ly so sat­is­fy­ing with ebooks, and tends to do absolute­ly noth­ing but dam­age one’s hard­ware, so I imag­ine I would have refrained.

But I absolute­ly would not sug­gest this work to a first-time Willis read­er. To Say Noth­ing of the Dog, cer­tain­ly. Bell­wether, even more so. But not this one, and not Dooms­day Book or Lincoln’s Dreams or, hon­est­ly, even Fire Watch (the sto­ry on which the All Clear duol­o­gy is based).

Willis doesn’t write sim­plis­tic sto­ries, or I prob­a­bly wouldn’t enjoy her work so much, but she has a way of mak­ing the com­plex clear that’s beau­ti­ful. It’s just that these require a bit more desire to get there on the part of the read­er, to my way of think­ing, than the oth­er two. And once one is seduced by those, it is clear that the effort is whol­ly worth­while.

In any case, there’s no doubt but that I’m going right on ahead to read All Clear. I’m just a bit put out with the author at the moment–and very, very glad, con­sid­er­ing the heft of these tomes, that I’ve switched to ebooks!

I still think that read­ers deserve some small reward for the sheer aggra­va­tion met­ed out thus far. Sure­ly resolv­ing some small plot issues would not have caused trou­ble? For instance, authors who are accus­tomed to work­ing with mul­ti-book series reg­u­lar­ly wrap up some issues in each book, while leav­ing oth­er, larg­er plot threads to car­ry over into future vol­umes to pro­vide con­ti­nu­ity.

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