Doomsday Book

Doomsday Book

Book - 1994
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Five years in the writing by one of science fiction's most honored authors, Doomsday Book is a storytelling triumph. Connie Willis draws upon her understanding of the universalities of human nature to explore the ageless issues of evil, suffering and the indomitable will of the human spirit.

For Kivrin, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received.

But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin--barely of age herself--finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.

Praise for Doomsday Book

"A stunning novel that encompasses both suffering and hope. . . . The best work yet from one of science fiction's best writers." -- The Denver Post

"Splendid work--brutal, gripping and genuinely harrowing, the product of diligent research, fine writing and well-honed instincts, that should appeal far beyond the normal science-fiction constituency." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"The world of 1348 burns in the mind's eye, and every character alive that year is a fully recognized being. . . . It becomes possible to feel . . . that Connie Willis did, in fact, over the five years Doomsday Book took her to write, open a window to another world, and that she saw something there." -- The Washington Post Book World
Publisher: New York ;, Toronto :, Bantam Books,, 1994.
Copyright Date: ©1992
ISBN: 9780553562736
Characteristics: 578 pages ;,18 cm.

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v
vpl_user1
Feb 09, 2019

It took a bit of forbearance to make it through the initial stage-setting and to overcome my mild dislike for the device of time travel, but once I got further in I was really impressed by Willis' ability to build the world of the middle ages with such detail. She used the time travel device to draw parallels and contrasts between modern day perspectives and a time when religion/superstition occupied the place that science does today. Her insights into human fear and hope and the drive for salvation (whether physical or psychological) gave me confidence in her ability as a story teller and so I stuck with it. I'm really happy I did; I feel I've gained some insight into the lives and perspectives of people from that time as well as our own, and I feel the richer for it.

l
loritaatcharaws
Oct 06, 2018

I've shied away from Science Fiction as a genre. However Doomsday Book was on a library list and I decided to read it. If all SF books were this engaging I'd be really happy. This book had a wonderful plot, great characters, was well written and researched, other than the length which I thought was needed, it was well worth the time it took me to read at almost 600 pages. I'll be looking at more of Connie Willis' books.

r
ryner
Aug 15, 2018

It is 2054, and the history program at Oxford is sending Kivrin back to the year 1320 to experience two weeks in the Middle Ages. Immediately following the event, however, it's clear something has gone wrong -- they're unable to confirm a successful transmission, and a previously-unknown epidemic suddenly breaks out in the present-day, making it impossible to recall her.

A charming and well-done time travel novel, and one I wish I'd read years ago. It's admittedly a bit unfair to hold it against the author for being unable to foresee the future, but it was amusing to note that the technologies of 2054 did not include even mobile telephones.

s
SRZ37
Dec 14, 2017

Loved this book. I agree that it could have been shorter and and with fewer characters (I never quite "got" the bell-ringers) who made the plot very busy. But I'm a sucker for both time travel and medieval history and this book delivered on both counts.

w
WhidbeyIslander
Aug 09, 2017

The book tells two stories -- one following the adventures of a time-traveling historian who goes back to the 1300's and one following the university staff who run the equipment used to send her back. I found both stories sort of interesting, maybe a little more so in the future part. However, I cannot recommend this to casual readers. it's way too long, with loads of paragraphs and pages telling us tedious details about the family of the medieval characters, and I especially found the child Agnes trying and a lot of ink is wasted on her "exploits." Plus, the author wasn't very clever in foreseeing the future. Lots of frustrating time is spent in the 2048 part trying to find a video-phone that isn't overloaded or in use. Seems cell 'phones must die out in that world since no one has one. And they still rely on books to research stuff, so the Internet has also disappeared. A disappointing read considering all the praise it's gotten.

t
tjdickey
Mar 04, 2017

A highly engrossing mixture of historical fiction, science fiction, a bit of romance, even academic politics...! Once time travel has been invented, the best way to study history is to go back and live it, though some places are more difficult to live of course.
Probably the best work by this author.

r
Russ_A
May 28, 2015

This is a time travel science fiction book where the main character, a young female historian, goes back to medieval times. The author’s main purpose in writing this book, so far as I could tell, was to show off her knowledge of that era. It was lush with detail, but unless you are into history you’re likely to be overwhelmed by the tedious display.

It was a strain to give this as much as two stars. Perhaps I was expecting too much because this was a Hugo and Nebula Award winner and Willis is supposedly an iconic figure in science fiction, but I must agree with all those who say it was boring. The almost six hundred pages could have been easily trimmed to two hundred. The author tries to keep the reader in suspense by constantly keeping the characters from contacting each other with the necessary information due to sickness, quarantine, travel with no phone, etc. It was simply irritating. The plot really doesn’t hold together and most of the characters aren’t very likeable. The whole bell-ringing thing was another irritant. Maybe Outlander fans would enjoy it, but I can’t recommend it.

i
IV27HUjg
Nov 01, 2014

This was a major struggle to even keep skimming the pages - a huge disappointment for such a promising premise. I was to the point I didn't care about the people at all. What a waste of my challenged vision.

rebalski Aug 06, 2014

This was a fun, unique read. It's definitely a little dated -- but I personally think that adds to the fun of it. Time traveling to the 1300's? It's good stuff!

j
jpward
Apr 04, 2014

According to the New York Times Book Review this is a "Tour De Force". If this is correct, it speaks poorly to the state of American Literature. From a historical point of view this book is well done. However, it is a slow, boring read unless you are an Anglophile and love reading about rain and umbrellas. The bureaucratic conflicts are badly overdrawn and most of the characters are stereotypes of the most basic "British" kind. From a plot perspective, I found it annoying and obtrusive that the characters, who were working with time travel kept having to look for a "call box", (Brit for telephone booth) or a telephone to make calls. You've got time travel but no cell phones. Where were the editors on this one? Took me two weeks to read it, usually takes me 3-5 hours to read a book of this length.
Overall, it's at best a beach book or something to read while storm stayed.

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