Title: All Clear
Author: Connie Willis
I actually really hate when I can predict a book's ending too early. When I can predict it from the very beginning, I am even more annoyed. That's not to say there isn't some good in All Clear. Serious spoilers in the review.
First of all, it's important to say that this is less a sequel to Blackout and more the end to it. The book apparently was just far too long to be bound in one volume. Thank goodness I didn't read Blackout when it first came out because there was a rather significant publication gap between the two of them, or so I hear.
In my review of Blackout, I point out that it's pretty much a book of characters holding the idiot ball, oblivious that shit's gone wrong. In All Clear, the characters still seem to be holding the idiot ball, but they've now noticed shit's gone wrong. And spend the majority of their time fretting about it.
If this were meant to be an explanation of what living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder was like, it work really well. But I don't feel like that's where Connie Willis is going with this. However, for most of the book, it feels like 80% of it is either the characters freaking out at everything, creating counterfactuals, and playing "coulda, shoulda, woulda."
Unfortunately, this only serves to make the book rather boring and then later underscore what should be significant emotional events. Maybe if I weren't reading the book so quickly it wouldn't have been as much a problem, but when something that should have emotionally impacted me (and the characters) occurred, I was just too exhausted dealing with all of their anxiety to even feel it. In fact, I was merely annoyed.
From here on are the spoilers.
Like I said, I don't like when I can see the ending coming from a mile off. And this one was so inherently obvious to me that it just made me cringe. Now, sometimes it's hard for me to tell the difference between what's obvious to me, and what's obvious to everyone. It's a problem that comes with reading a lot of books. (I used to think it was hindsight bias, but then I started taking notes as I read, and realized, nope. It's not.)
But so in Blackout, they point out that the reason they can't (according to their theory of time travel) affect anything is because they won't be allowed near anything they can affect. This can either be through slippage or basically the universe getting in their way. Trains could be late. Someone could run into them. It's a chaotic system.
To those who have read Blackout, this may sound familiar. Because it's what's constantly happening to the characters, either to keep them separated or to keep them from being able to leave. Hm. It almost sounds like they need to be here because they're a vital bit in history and they did change things but they needed to, so they need to stay.
Yup. That's it.
It all wraps up very neatly, as time travel stories are wont to do. Which is probably why I don't like them that much. It feels very deus ex machina. But what hit me the hardest? The biggest idiot ball in the middle of the plot: Mr. Dunworthy.
So Mr. Dunworthy is the reason that they're so assured in their belief that they can't affect history. And how did he come up with this theory? Basically, he went back in time and came to the conclusion that when he caused slippage, that's what it was doing.
Oh, I'm sure there were some maths involved somewhere. And stuff and things. But it sure didn't seem like he had any reasonable reason to think things worked that way, when he explained it. And apparently everyone bought it. They saw him holding onto the biggest idiot ball of all and went, "Oh, he must be right. This can't be dangerous at all. Let's just gallivant freely in the past."
Connie Willis makes the ending a bit ambiguous, but I was too exhausted with the book to care much for the denouement. I think it's not that the denouement is too long (although that's what it felt like), but I had been waiting for the final reveal for so long that it felt like all of those bits were extra. I also couldn't bring myself to care anymore.