All Clear is the second volume in the multiple-award winning scifi Blackout/All Clear diptych. See my review of the first volume Blackout here. As a quick recap, Blackout/All Clear takes place in a near future in which historians travel time through the “net” to an agreed upon location, the “drop”. When unexpected “slippage” occurs, experts agree the space time continuum is correcting time travel against paradoxes.
All Clear begins immediately after Blackout ends, with time-traveling historians Mike, Polly, and Eileen trapped in the Blitz in 1940. When none of their drops open to return them to their own time, and small details about the war start happening wrong, the trio believe one of them may have affected the past as we know it. As students, they were taught no observer can alter the past, but all current evidence contradicts the central tenant of time travel theory.
Every hope to escape the past is thoroughly investigated (despite repetitive minor obstacles) by both the time-traveling historians and the present day rescuers. Painstakingly so, as this audiobook requires nearly twenty-four hours for a listen, on top of the nineteen hours for Blackout. Despite the largely witty and suspenseful story, this is a long book, and you’ll feel the length.
The three protagonists each take on their own distinct personalities in the second volume, but they still do not live up to the return of my favorite secondary characters, tactless street urchins Alf and Binnie Hodbin, and romantic Shakespearean actor Sir Godfrey Kingsman. Scenes with the latter are extremely lively, humorous, and genuinely lovely moments that grounded the story and increased the stakes.
Although Blackout/All Clear has some issues, it’s strengths lie in the sheer magnitude of detail, the historical accuracy, and the illustration of the every-day heroism of civilians during the war. Recommended for history buffs, fans of tight time travel stories, literature references, and anyone interested in a more street-level view of London during the raids of the Blitz.
“But if she’d come then, she would never have properly appreciated it. She’d have seen the happy crowds and the Union Jacks and the bonfires, but she’d have no idea of what it meant to see the lights on after years of navigating in the dark, what it meant to look up at an approaching plane without fear, to hear church bells after years of air-raid sirens. She’d have had no idea of the years of rationing and shabby clothes and fear which lay behind the smiles and the cheering, no idea of what it had cost to bring this day to pass–the lives of all those soldiers and sailors and airmen and civilians.”