I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Thursday, May 14, 2015

All Clear by Connie Willis

This is the spectacular sequel to Black Out, the story of three historians from 2060 who have gone back to World War II to observe events.  Eileen, on her first mission, is sent to the country to be a maid at an estate that takes in children sent from London to stay in the country for their safety.  There she meets the poor, dirty, demon children, the Hobbins.  After she finds out her drop to take her back to 2060 is closed, she heads to London to try to find Polly, whom she knows was spending the Blitz working as a shop girl.

Mike, who thought he missed his chance to witness the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1939, goes to sleep on an unseaworthy vessel and finds himself halfway there, with a teen and his great-grandfather going there to do their bit.  While there he saves the boy, the boat, and a soldier who would later save over 500 men, and Mike damages his foot.  His drop is now not working either, so once he gets out of the hospital, he heads to London to also find Polly, hoping that her drop will work.

Each of these historians had slippage during their drop.  The scientists have always believed that this was due to being unable to land in the designated area at that time due to such things as a person being in the vicinity who might see them.  But the slippage has become a real problem.  They are losing days instead of hours.  By the time Polly arrives in London, the Blitz has been going on for a week.  At first, she receives a frosty welcome from those at the air raid shelter, but a kind gentleman, Sir Geoffrey, an older man, and famous stage actor, who develops a crush on her and sees her as Violet from Twelfth Night.  Soon the group begins to put on performances for those avoiding the bombs in the subways.  Polly knows where the attacks are coming up until the end of 1942 and in December of 1943, she has already been in England elsewhere working as an ambulance driver.  If she does not get out before this date, a paradox will occur and she will die.

The group remembers that another historian is supposed to be there around the time of St. Paul's bombing on December 29, 1942.  When they arrive, they are immediately swept up in the events happening around them.  Mike finds himself helping the fire brigade and saving two men from a collapsing building.  Eileen takes over an ambulance when the driver is hurt and with the help of the Hobbins' kids takes the wounded to various hospitals and saves many lives.  Somehow, however, they miss the historian and his drop.  Not knowing what else to do, they fall back on the time-honored way of communicating with the future historians who may be looking for them by placing ads in the personals of the papers with secret messages letting them know where they are.

In a surprise twist, it turns out that Mr. Humphries, the man in charge of the historians was the last person to be able to make a drop where they were, but his drop no longer works.  Worse, he has news from the future.  The time slippages are likely the historical time line trying to correct itself.  Everyone these historians have met is in danger of being killed just for having come into contact with them.  It seems that they may have changed history and the Allies might not win the war.  Their only hope is the young man Collin, who as a teenager had a crush on Polly and swore to her that he would rescue her if she ever needed it.  Mr. Humphries also has a deadline and it's only a few months away.

Not all of them live or make it out of London.  This book is truly fascinating in its details of the time of the Blitz of London during World War II and the effects it had on the British people.  It also makes you think of the impact you have on others in this life and how everything can change on a dime and turn out differently than planned.  These are the dangers of playing with time travel and how it can cause a whole world to unravel.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/All-Clear-Connie-Willis/dp/0553592882/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1473426620&sr=1-1&keywords=all+clear