All Clear by Connie Willis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
All Clear is the second half of the novel Connie Willis began in Blackout. Despite being a fan of much of Willis' other work, I only stuck with this one because it won the 2010 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and I've made a project of reading all of them. As I stated in my review of Blackout, it was very disappointing.
All Clear was somewhat better. With Blackout behind it, the conflict is set up, so the reader is much more engaged with the plot. (I'll describe the conflict in a relatively spoiler-free manner as, "Something is wrong with time travel.") Still, the plot feels like high-quality fabric stretched too far...like double-bed sheets on a king-size bed. Willis is not interested in a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo about how time travel works. That's fine, but under those circumstances, there's only so much interest I have in reading the characters speculate about how things work. The bottom line is that it works however Willis wants it to work, so let's get on with seeing what that is.
I give this book 3 stars versus Blackout's 2 stars because it really comes together in the second half. I know you can't just cut out the first 3/4 of the Blackout/All Clear story and get something coherent, but I wish an editor had made her figure out a way to do it. It's touching, well-written and interesting -- everything I've come to expect from her other time-travel books. But I arrived there with a bad taste in my mouth of slogging through hundreds of pages of backstory. A shame.
So now I've read all of the Nebula Best Novels from 1992-2010 (also 5 from the '80s, 6 from the '70s and 1 from the '60s). I've started Stations of the Tide, the 1991 winner. I probably won't continue in chronological order. I'm continuing on an e-book kick, but not all of the winners are available in that format. Also, the 1990 winner is Tehanu, the fourth Earthsea books, and I want to re-read the first 3 of those, but I'd rather check them out of the library and save a little money. We'll see when I get to that; I will probably pick an earlier winner instead.
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