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Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.

Currently reading

The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent
Kathryn Morrow, James K. Morrow
All Clear - Connie Willis I put this down in the middle of a sentence. Someone interrupted me to ask why I was still reading it when I was obviously not enjoying it and he was right. The place where I stopped is for sure a spoiler. It was in the middle of the eulogy for Mike at his funeral, where I am probably a couple of pages away from Eileen finally concluding that the kids' mother is dead even though that has been obvious for what feels like a million pages.

Speaking of obvious, is Willis intentionally being coy about the other male POV character actually being Mike? I can't tell if that is something I am supposed to know or not. Is that a reveal I am also a chapter away from? It didn't actually occur to me that this was being obfuscated until afterMike "died". Because we'd already seen him die in the future-past with Polly the previous. Obviously one of these is faked, and there's no real reason to play up the mourning so much unless there's supposed to a surprise reveal later. Regardless of the possible, unnecessary reveal, in practice, the loss of both of Mike's POVs just resulted in an increased density of Polly chapters, and I hate Polly. It's like she thinks the entire universe should bend over backwards to solve her problems.

This review is probably going to have more spoilers, but I don't actually know since I am speculating on what happens in the last half (quarter?) of the story. I'm just not going to bother with the tags any more. The ones above seem confusing enough already.

I gave the first half 4 stars and I think that was optimistic. The first not quite 3/4 of it was quite interesting and rewarding if you are paying attention. However, what I had to get half way through the second half to figure out is that somewhere around the time where our three stranded time travelers get together, I started to feel like careful attention was punished as possible outcomes were narrowed down to inevitability, repetitive antics, and an increasing portion of the narrative dedicated to the POV of a particularly loathsome damsel in distress.

Let's start with the two rules of time travel which are constantly repeated and what I've decided about them.

1. Historians can't alter the past.
2. Historians cannot live through the same temporal location more than once.

Number one is repeated so often that I can only conclude that historians are changing things all the fucking time. And that the changes they make are actually part of some kind of control scheme for someone or something to organize history towards a desired outcome.

Number two is supposed to provide some sense of tension for our heroes as Polly has a deadline. I can only conclude that as the only person with a deadline in the near future, she is also the only person guaranteed to be returned, intact to her original time.

Also, wtf, this is time travel, why is everyone in such a hurry? It might make sense for the three trapped people and even for young, inexperienced Colin to rush around, but for . . . shit, I forgot the name of the guy who runs the program. It starts with a D, I think, so I'm going to refer to him as Dumbass. Why the fuck does Dumbass think the best course of action is to plunge into the past as quickly as possible in spite of a high risk of mortality from his own deadlines without doing any fucking research? Him doing that pretty much convinced me that this isn't going to reach a conclusion I find satisfying. That is, this whole damned thing only makes sense if there is some sort of universal force for good in play that manipulates drops and divergence points to achieve specific outcome. Because nobody with access to the technology appears to have the strategic mindset required to be the great puppet master. And a universe that is anything other than disinterested? Fuck that, not interested.

So, anyway, stopping where I did, I think I've missed out on more slapstick antics that go something along the lines of: Eileen stays and raises the orphaned kids (I haven't figured out how this will contribute to Polly's rescue, but it will), Mike dies trying (possibly returning to his original time since his dying body vanished) after having faked dying so that he could try harder, Polly and Dumbass both make it back to their original time and Colin is old enough to be a serious prospect - actually, he's probably the one that rescues them both. Which basically means the entire universe bends over backwards to solve Polly's problems. Fuck that, not interested.