Thursday, November 25, 2010

SF/F: All Clear by Connie Willis

It seems absolutely appropriate that, the year after she was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Connie Willis should publish not one, but two massive books. The most recent of those two, All Clear (Spectra) starts precisely where Blackout left off, except things start off worse than they did in that book. Much worse.

Time travel and alternate history both have a significant role in All Clear. I mention it in this way because readers who avoid stories that revolve around that type of plot tend to do so for a reason. Since Willis is a science fiction maven, writing here at the top of her game, the alternate history haters will find a lot here not to like. Other readers, however, should find All Clear an entertaining ride.

A couple of caveats. One is that, where many series novels can be read out of sequence, Blackout and All Clear are not two of those. If you haven't read Blackout, I would caution you not to even bother with this newer book. (Which is possibly the reason the two books are being offered so closely together.)

The second quibble (though it, truly, is more than that) is that there’s just too much going on in these two books. A slight simplification of plot and the number of characters would have made All Clear an easier book to follow, not to mention a stronger read. There are times when Willis seems to meander a bit. Others where the story threatens to collapse under its own weight. Neither thing happens, of course -- the very skilled and talented Willis pulls her book out, but I didn’t want to have to need her intervention in order to finish the book

Fans of this very celebrated author will like All Clear. Those who are still waiting to become fans will want to start with Blackout. ◊

Lincoln Cho is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in the Chicago area, where he works in the high-tech industry. He is currently working on a his first novel, a science-fiction thriller set in the world of telecommunications.

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