This is the second part of the time traveling tale which started in Blackout. Please read Blackout first!

Publication year: 2010
Format: Audio
Publisher: Spectra

The three time traveling historians are trapped in World War II. They are all in London and working together so that they could get back into 2050. They are afraid that they are going to change history. The book has also two other story lines: Polly in her previous assignment as an ambulance driver and Michael in a different assignment as part of the war effort to mislead Nazis. The people on future Oxford are also trying to get them out.

The main thing about All Clear (and Blackout) isn’t the plot. It’s not fast paced and concentrating only on exciting things happening. In fact, most of the plot is rather repetitive; characters trying to do something are the contemporaries stopping them, near misses of people they are looking for. I was also a bit confused about Polly’s and Michael’s other assignments which seemed separate from the rest of the plot.

It’s about the people and their lives during the war. About how the historians are going to live alongside them and adjust (or not) to that hard life. It’s about being scared and not knowing what will happen and still doing your best and continuing with your life. About every day heroes and heroines. The book is far more a history than SF.

Most of the characters are very good. However, I thought that the main time travelers Polly, Michael, and Aileen weren’t as convincing as the contemporaries. The trio was constantly worried that they had done something to alter the events and change the history. Yet, even after they realized that they can’t get back, none of them missed home: parents, siblings, friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, conveniences from their time. They were more worried about the contemporary people they have only just met. Granted, the contemporary people were in grave and immediate danger. But even after they started to think that nobody came to get them because history was changed and Oxford was destroyed, it seemed that the Oxford they thought about was more an idea or abstract place rather than a real place where they lived and had families. The only exception to this is Polly thinking about Colin who had promised to rescue her if she was in trouble but that only highlighted to me that even she didn’t miss her parents or pets or anything else.

I was also frustrated that the trio concentrated on keep things from each other. Polly had been in the VE day during a previous assignment and so that meant that she had to get out before VE day or she would die. However, instead of coming clean and then focusing on finding a way out, she did her best to keep it a secret as long as she could. Also, when she found out things that she thought were discrepancies in history, she again tried to keep them a secret. Because she didn’t want to worry the others! Similarly, she and Michael tried to keep things from Aileen because it’s her first assignment and they didn’t want to worry her! Argh! They are all supposed to be professionals and grown-ups, and so shouldn’t mollycoddle each other. Keeping secrets actively prevented them from finding out the answers they needed. Didn’t they have any training for emergency like this? Also, they don’t write any notes or interview people or do anything else you’d expect a historian to do.

The contemporary characters were wonderful! I enjoyed almost all of them. They had their own lives, worries, agendas, and goals, and did their own things without thinking about how they might inconvenienced a time traveler who was just trying to get away for a while and check if her drop is working. The atmosphere is probably also near authentic. The people gathering to underground shelters during bombing and still making plans for Saturday night.

I don’t know much about WWII so I was interested to read about it. I have no idea if this book would interest someone who knows a lot about it.

By the way, the theory that the historians supposedly can’t affect history never convinced me. After all, they rent apartments and have jobs that the contemporaries then can’t have. Most of all, they interact with people around them and that can be a huge influence.