"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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Saturday, March 12, 2011

All Clear (audiobook) by Connie Willis

A sci-fi book for lovers of history

20 CDs
23 hours, 56 minutes
Read by Katherine Kellgren

43 hours of audio listening later (read wonderfully by Katherine Kellgren who handled a wide variety of accents and aging characters with real skill), I am finally done with the Blackout/All Clear saga. These books are intended to be one giant book, not a series, although you would never. ever know that from the audiobook's cover. To her credit, the author, Hugo and Nebula Award winning author Connie Willis introduces the second half of this audiobook with a warning that you had better listen to the first half first. Indeed you should and you should listen to the second installment as soon as you can after hearing the first one because there is no review, no scenes where the characters re-hash everything for the benefit of the listener. This is literally the second half of a very large book and she starts out exactly where she left off.

See my review of Blackout here.

All Clear continues the premise of Blackout (of course) and follows the adventures of late 21st century historians who learn about the past by time travelling. They observe and learn by blending in and becoming part of the past. They operate under the belief that they are unable to actually alter history (and apparently they have never read Jack Finney's Time and Again!) but they should not really do anything to test that theory.

Blackout/All Clear is both science fiction and historical fiction. Its real strength lies in its historical research and the way that it makes the reader experience London during World War II. The bombings, the inconveniences, the rationing, the danger, the weariness, the randomness of death from a bomb dropped from the sky - those aspects of the war come through crystal clear. Some reviewers have complained about the length of the books (and they are a big chunk, believe me, I know).  Certainly, a Reader's Digest type of editing job could easily cut out hours and hours of listening time without much affecting the plot of the story. Scenes could be cut, conversations could be shortened. There are certainly aspects of mind-blowingly stupid behavior on the part of the characters that had me wondering of Willis had gone daft.

Connie Willis
But, Willis has created an experience here. This is not so much a story but an homage to the regular, everyday people that endured the cruel attacks of a dictator, the privations of war, made communities in subway tunnels, survived when they were literally alone in the world. It is a bit of their experience and as such it is priceless. I teach history so nothing about this book really surprised me. I knew the bare facts but Willis has created a chance for the listener to get a taste of what it was like to live the facts, not just know them. For that, I have to thank her.

Throw in a bit of drama, a touch of sci-fi, the lovable completely awful Hodbins and I have to recommend Blackout/All Clear to anyone interested in World War II. Sci-fi fans are bound to be disappointed but I like both and I certainly enjoyed this.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found here: All Clear.

Reviewed on March 12, 2011.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with every word of your review(s) for Blackout/All Clear. This is easily the best audiobook I've spent time with for several years...except possibly the *Bloody Jack* series by LA Meyer (also ready by Katie Kellgren).

    My only difficulty now: finding something nearly as good to listen to, now that I've finished All Clear. Sigh.