All Clear #1. Author: Connie Willis.
Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-traveling historians being sent into the past. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser into letting her go to VE-Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz. But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, and dive-bombing Stukas–to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past.
Don’t go into Blackout thinking science fiction. Even though that’s technically the genre, since the time-travel short circuits out in the beginning, and the actual execution is historical novel. And as a historical novel, I loved Blackout. It’s one of the most engaging, compelling snapshots of history that I’ve read in a long time. The medium allows for all sorts of extra facts and details about London during the Blitz without seeming crowded or over-stuffed, creating a vivid picture. Just be prepared for the ending, or rather, the non-ending; Blackout doesn’t end, it just stops, and you’ll find yourself needing All Clear immediately.
Sexual Content: “I told her she should take lesson’s from Talbot. She’s been engaged four times since I’ve been here.”/ Girl finds out the man she’s been lightly dating is married. / “Nice girls don’t meet soldiers in the woods.”/ One of the female nurses is nick-named ‘man-mad’. / The nurses call one of the soldiers ‘NST’, meaning ‘Not Safe in Taxis’.
Language: 22 hell, 10 d***, 17 bloody
Violence: Much of the book is set during the Blitz in England, and the characters directly experience bombs falling (one is very nearly caught in the blast), acquaintances disappearing in the night, making their way through ravaged streets past crushed buildings, and waiting in bomb shelters. One character has their foot injured at an unknown point (shock or adrenaline keeps them from noticing it directly). Characters dig a woman out of house wreckage, but she’s dead by the time they reach her. One character helps rescue soldiers from a bombed harbor and notices that the water is full of bodies.