Books for the Reading: Blackout, All Clear, and Time and Again

by Lynn Wienck, The Chisholm Trail Bookstore

Autumn has clearly come to Oklahoma. Much cooler temperatures have arrived, and while it’s not quite frost on pumpkin in the early morning, it is quite close. Red and gold leaves have fallen from trees, although some foliage remains green. Soon winter will be here, the days have that flavor.

Several time travel science fiction novels have been started and completed. The first two, Blackout (2010) and All Clear (2010), are, according to the author, Connie Willis, one book which became two books. The first book, Blackout, opens in the year 2060 to set the stage for all that follows, and then leaps to 1939 war-torn England. World War II history is revealed in detail as time travelers swap between future and past and take on various tasks. Polly works as a shopgirl and quotes Shakespeare – an unlikely combination; Eileen, competent and knowledgeable, manages children who have been evacuated from London; Mike is hauled off to Dunkirk in a derelict boat; Colin, young, impetuous and forbidden time travel, remains underfoot. By the book’s close, situations look rather hopeless.

The second book, All Clear, is a continuation of the tale. If the first book presented complicated plots, characters, and situations, the second book is much more complex. The time travelers miss connections, and time travel drops don’t open. Gradually and over time, situations resolve themselves, but not necessarily as characters envisioned the results. It’s “all clear” with a satisfying, gentle, and complete conclusion.

Published 40 years earlier than Blackout and All Clear is the classic Time and Again (1970) time travel book by Jack Finney. A young man travels back to 1882 New York City as part of a top-secret project. As he works between then and now, time-travel researchers pursue the question: Can the past be changed? Only time and the protagonist, Simon Morley, will tell. Simon Morley balances his own agenda against those of his employers. The plot soon becomes complicated, but all time travel seems to be complicated. The descriptions of the then New York City are vivid, incredibly detailed, and somehow very fresh.

So, complicate your life, and try a little book time travel. Reading is a timeless pursuit, you know. Enjoy autumn, too, with its golden glow, not quite frozen chill, and the hint of winter to be.

Motte & Bailey: Staying on the page in the digital age

IOBA Member Gene Alloway, Motte & Bailey Used and Rare Books, was recently profiled by The Michigan Daily in Ann Arbor. Perhaps this excellent coverage will inspire a student or two to pursue a career in the trade. “I want to be a bookseller,” he told [the reporter] one afternoon last April, with gumption. “I want to sell all the best books, whether they’re new or used or rare.” Read the complete and well-illustrated interview here.