I am very concerned I read The Doomsday Book time travel saga, eagerly anticipating it based on the many Goodreads reviews that highly praise this story Many reviewers whom I trust rave about this book I just didn t see it at all, not a bit Not only was it supremely boring, but annoying The first 120 pages can be summarized something is wrong During the next 180 pages, the rest of the characters realize there is something wrong Yawn I felt like slapping virtually every character in the book at one point or three to stop whinging and get on with a rescue I didn t care for any except the village priest and, just barely, the main character, Kivrin Willis made Britain and the British so depressing, not the Britain I have visited This is a multiple award winner, including the Nebula Award and I can t imagine why There is nothing amazing in this story The science is minimal and never explained The technology of 2054 was not impressive at all I at least expected some interesting adventure in medieval times but nada So I come back to questioning, what am I missing here Christmas 2010 I realised that I had got stuck in a rut I was re reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works Something had to be done.On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci Fi award That s 35 books, 6 of which I d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became a father As such these stories became imprinted on my memory as the soundtrack to the happiest period in my life so farDoomsday Bookwon the Locus Sci Fi award in 1993 It won the Nebula the same year and had to share the Hugo as joint winner withA Fire Upon the Deep .It was the third book I d read by Connie Willis afterPassageand thenTo Say Nothing of the Dogand it shares many of the Willis trademarks but the tone and emotional response is completely unlike either of them.Generally, this is a well loved book, as you would expect from a multi award winner The GR votes look something like 41% 5 star36% 4 star17% 3 star04% 2 star02% 1 starAnd yet the most popular individual reviews I can spot on here fall into that bottom six percent of one or two star reviews, which suggests to me that those who dislike this book feel strongly about their position So what s their position bored to the point I almost wish I had the plague Ala 7 likes it supremely boring Mike P 12 likes a monument to the gods of boredom Conrad 13 likes a monotonous road Tracey 14 liked 250 pages of tiresome running about with no real purpose Joel 68 likes While I wouldn t go as far as to say I agree with this sentiment, I can at least see where they are coming from The opening half ofDoomsday Booktakes its own sweet time getting to the point and contains numerous repetitive elements This could have been done better, and that knocked the top star off my rating.So yes it s not perfect but it s not a million miles away, either I love the fact that this isn t a heroic questDoomsday Bookstarts out as quiet academic investigation mission which gets fubar from both ends It becomes a story about endurance, survival and the nature of hope Kivrin is a good person The kind of person who you d like to call a friend, a real friend not like saying I wish I was friends with Tony Stark but I could imagine having Kivrin over for coffee and a game of scrabble while my cats nuzzled her legs for fuss Because she felt real, because I loved her just a little bit, watching her heart get shredded by the tragedy of unstoppable plague inflicted a tiny echo of that pain on me I couldn t block it I couldn t distance myself It felt raw.This is a powerful book, which pretends to be whimsical It chatters and banters then hits you with a sucker punch, right in the gut.Following on fromTo Say Nothing of the Dog , which is an upbeat and rather delightful little treasureDoomsday Bookis profoundly sad The ending salvages what it can from the mess but it s like inflating the airbag as the car goes off a bridge too little, too late.For those who find the constantly missed messages infuriating this is a regular theme of Willis which I ve been pondering I believe it s meant to impart the feeling that drama is caused just as much by the things that don t happen, as the things that do That tragedy and salvation are only ever two sides of the same coin, being buffeted in the winds of a chaotic system it only needs a strong gust to collapse the precarious situation Willis greatest skill is perhaps in generating a sense of genuine uncertainty that this will resolve with a positive outcome she s already shown she s not afraid to kill her characters why should Kivrin be any different With the axe looming prominent, I found myself sharing Dunworthy s parental instincts, wanting to protect poor, brilliant, innocent Kivrin I felt like my daughter had been missing for a day, and the policeman enters the room looking grim oh god, oh god, don t let it be true Time stops Am I even still breathing Like that.I can t say with all of my heart that I enjoyed readingDoomsday Bookit s not that kind of story but writing this review has definitely made me want to read it again If you can brace yourself for a slow start and aching heart highly recommend. 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 ReceivedBut 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 HoursConnie 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 and what exactly was the point of this nearly 600 page novel that people can be incredibly annoying and repetitious that the Black Death kills i can t believe i wasted so many hours reading this flabby, irritating nonsense i could have been spending time with friends or exercising or taking naps or reading another book the entire thing is a monument to wasted time my time and the characters time and the 5 years of time it took to write this extravagantly dreary ode to pointlessness.real review to come, maybe, if i can summon up the energy but for now, one word can describe my thoughts on this travesty OMG I am finally finished What a travel down a monotonous road I will not attempt to say once again what has been so eloquently said many times before But one thing that I had to mention was a phrase that has stuck in my mind for days I found myself last week picking up the book so that I might be able to put closure on it So there I am reading ok skimming this book as some say Best time travel novel I ve ever read or a study of people s behavior what behavior, all the characters did the same things repeatedly over again throughout the novel Ah but I digress so there I am reading this when suddenly out of nowhere comes the words I brought a locator ok on I read What What the fuck a locator, so I went back and re read it again , no that really can t be Kivrin the young historian who travels back in time and seems to have only one concern and that is to find theDROPwhich turns out to be a very tedious endeavor for her and I Why wouldn t she have taken a locator with her in the first place Please if she can have a recorder chip corder and an interpreter then why wouldn t she also be able to have a locator Just think I would have been spared about 200 pages At this point I was going to toss the book over the balcony, but then I realized this was an autographed book, just my luck Yeah, that about sums it up A quote from courageous young Kivrin, the medievalist who travels back in time where she lives among villagers in 14th century English I wanted to come, and if I hadn t, they would have been all alone, and nobody would have ever known how frightened and brave and irreplaceable they were Connie Willis, Doomsday Book Doomsday Book, republished as part of the SF Masterworks series by the American author Connie Willis is an amazing, unique, captivating 600 page novel taking place in two times concurrently near future Oxford, England and a 14th Century medieval English village Historian and Great Courses lecturer Teofilo Ruiz recommended this work to me and I m glad he did Doomsday Book is a terrific read.The novel is science fiction in the sense that those 21st century Brits have the technology to place historians back in time via a sophisticated version of Mr Peabody s WAYBAC machine recall the 1960s cartoon where Mr Peabody, a bespectacled intellectual dog, and his adopted human son Sherman travel back through time and meet such historical figures as Cleopatra and Nero Take my word for it here, Doomsday Book time travel and parallel dramas will keep you turning the pages And there are a lot of pages to turn, which prompts me to offer a couple of observations about reading longer novels Really make the commitment by taking notes, creating outlines and sketching maps a longer novel is a world unto itself and usually requires years for the author to complete You will be honoring the integrity of the art form by devoting the needed energy to keep up with the details The payoff is great you ll have the enjoyment of living for many hours in a vivid, fictional reality Also, try listening to the audiobook as listening will open an additional dimension on the world created by the author, especially the various voices of the characters Anyway, back on Doomsday Book I wouldn t want to say too much about the storylines and thus spoil for readers because this novel is simply too good and has too many unexpected surprises Briefly, the time traveler is an medieval historian, a young woman by the name of Kivrin, who has a thirst for first hand experience of the 14th century Her wish is granted and we join Kivrin as she travels to a small medieval village and develops a deep emotional connection with a number of the villagers, including 12 year old Rosemond, 6 year old Agnes, and Father Roche, the village priest Kivrin is given a very real and direct experience as the villagers face challenges and live the cycle of their days and nights in a harsh, hostile, rustic world By the time I finished the book, I had the feeling I also spent time living with these medieval men, women and children The novel is that powerful Meanwhile, back in 21th century Oxford, Kivrin s mentor, a scholar by the name of Mr Dunworthy, has his own problems with the time travel technology and unfolding events at his school and in his town He has to deal with an entire range of people, such as Mrs Gaddson, an overbearing mother of one of the students, Mr Gilchrist, a power hungry academic, Colin, a precocious 12 year obsessed with the extremes of medieval history, Badri, a key technician for the time travel machine, Montoya, an American Archeologist, not to mention a chorus of bell ringers from America, including their headstrong leader Again, I really got to know these people via the magic of Ms Willis s fiction Like all first rate literature, Doomsday Book provides insight into what makes us all human, our dealing with love and hate, with hope and despair, with the beauty of life and those ugly and disgusting parts of life However, there is an added component in this novel Kivrin, our main character and heroine, lives in a medieval world with the knowledge and historical vision of the 21st century, which adds a real spice What a fictional world what a reading and listening experience I also listened to the audiobook My modest understanding of what it must have been like to live in the 14th century has been much enriched American author Connie Willis, a lady with one powerful imagination I finished Doomsday Book this morning and immediately moved on to the next book on my to read list, which happens to be Hyperion by Dan Simmons Doomsday Book left me a little messed up in the head and I wanted to replace the imagery and train of thought with something new I figured I d have to let Doomsday Book mull around in my head for a while before I could write an effective review I figured the same about Iain Banks Transition, another book I recently finished So my plan was to read Hyperion then come back and write thoughtful reviews of all three.But I can t stop thinking about Doomsday Book I can t get the images out of my head I can t get the train of thought out of my head I can t stop my throat from tightening or my jaw from clenching In other words, a little messed up hardly describes how Connie Willis has left me A better description would be pretty fucked up I don t know what Doomsday Book was about to all of you I can see how different people would take different lessons, themes, or morals from this book I just know what it was about for me a crisis of faith Some authors have an uncanny ability to meet us where we re at to take longstanding human themes and make them once again relevant to what the reader is going through in his or her life Connie Willis certainly did so for me.I have been going through my own crisis of faith over the last year or so I have been a believer in, and follower of, Jesus Christ for as long as I can remember, and although my faith has been challenged and wavered at various points in my life, I have been spiritually pretty steady But never have I experienced so much doubt as I have over the last year.2009 began with such hope in my life I seemed on the road to recovering from a chronic nervous system disorder that causes constant pain my wife and I seemed poised to renew and repair our relationship and get back to a loving marriage and we seemed finally to be obtaining long worked for financial stability But I now look back on 2009 as the most difficult year I have endured My physical condition deteriorated substantially I ve written some of my frustration on this subject in another review my marriage hit rock bottom fortunately we are getting back on track following a new year s resolution to forgive one another for the past and start loving one another for the future my wife got laid off and I took a 15% pay cut there is still no light at the end of that tunnel But that was nothing and here s the most obvious parallel to Doomsday Book my family witnessed death and suffering seemingly everywhere we looked People we care about, God fearing people, genuine Good People are going through some really Bad Shit It began with my wife s close friend dying in childbirth Kelly was 28 years old, healthy, happily married, and full of joy to be pregnant with her first child Her doctor fucked up, and mother and child died Then came 10 year old Destiny, a student in my wife s 5th grade classroom She was a delightful and intelligent girl Conscientious, caring, hard working, and kind to everyone she knew Destiny was kind and helpful to my kids She was smart and ambitious and had a wonderful life ahead of her She was one of the kids that made all the crap worth it for my wife Then Destiny got in a car driven by her mother s drunk boyfriend Destiny had been talking about how the next week she was going to demand that she be allowed to live with her father so she could get away from the jackass who beat her mother If only she had gotten out a week sooner The drunk woman beating piece of shit was driving twice the speed limit on a country road near our house, slammed into a ditch and flipped the car several times Destiny died at the scene Next it was my co worker, Diane, who sits a few offices down the hall from me The air was thick with her palpable desperation and grief when she got the phone call no parent should ever have to take her son had committed suicide As if that weren t enough, another student died from cancer but that seemed somehow like just a cruel afterthought, since he had been sick for months and nobody expected him to survive.Where was God in my life last year Where was God when I prayed for physical and relational healing Where was God when Kelly was about to give birth to a beautiful baby girl Where was God when Destiny needed deliverance from an abusive household Where was God when Diane s son needed His love and comfort It will be several years before I fully recover from the pain, both experienced and witnessed, that cut a swath through my life in 2009 Spiritually, I don t know that I will or can My cries for help went unheeded and my prayers for healing unanswered God abandoned Good People who needed Him He stood by and watched.And it hit home for the first time in my life that what I experienced and witnessed in 2009 was nothing unique, or even rare I was forced to confront the reality that I had lived a cushy life while people suffered and grieved all around me, even right here in the good ol U S of A, and that 2009 was simply my turn at the table So I started to question, where was God during all the years when I was living easy while Good People experienced Bad Shit down the street and in the next town and across the border How could I have sat and so smugly thanked God for the blessings in my life without at least wondering why God was allowing such suffering in other peoples lives Doomsday Book made the Black Plague real for me Willis took me there and made me love the people of that little village in Oxfordshire Then she made me watch them die, one by one, in the most horrifying way possible She made that shit real And the thing is, it was real The village and characters in Doomsday Book might have been fictional, but there were thousands of real villages, and millions of real people, who weren t all that different and who died those deaths for real seven hundred years ago Of course they wondered where God was Of course they thought God had abandoned them I am having a crisis of faith because of 2009 I can t imagine the crisis of faith people must have felt in 1349.And, now that I think about it, shouldn t the reality of 1349 cause a crisis of faith in all of us We weren t there, but real people were It s pure, blind, dumb luck that you and I were born in the 20th century instead of the 14th century Those people were just as frightened and brave and irreplaceable in Kivrin s words as we are And many of the people in 1349 had a faith that those of us in 21st century America can t shake a stick at Those people believed the spiritual world was real and tangible and affected their daily lives They had no doubt that God was real and that He intervened in the physical world Yet God abandoned them God set a new mark for ditching the Faithful in time of greatest need.If God couldn t be bothered to spare good, faithful people from the Black Death, how can he be bothered to intervene in our cushy little insignificant lives And so my crisis of faith is quickly becoming a Crisis of Faith In case you re wondering, no, I don t blame Connie Willis Doomsday Book simply catalyzed my thought processes along their already natural progressions If anything I m glad I read Doomsday Book when I did, because I think I got the most that I can get out of it But I am left wondering where I go from here I think I just need time Time for things to sink in Time to put 2009 in context and perspective Time to do therapeutic things like writing this review I don t know where I ll end up, but I know I must walk down this path Will Mr Dunworthy be waiting at the drop Will Badri be well enough to open the net Will Colin have any energy left to make it all happen We ll see. 1.99 Kindle sale, Jan 21, 2019 Maybe my favorite time travel book ever and I do like me a good time travel tale , Doomsday Book won both the Hugo and Nebula as well as several other awards in the early 1990s when it was published Kivrin is a history major at Oxford in a near future world where time travel machines are controlled by universities and used for research purposes Kivrin is traveling back in time to live in a medieval English village for a few weeks, but things go just a bit extremely wrong She arrives and despite all the inoculations she received immediately falls very ill She can t understand the language of 1300 s England Her clothing and appearance aren t right, and the villagers are rather suspicious Apparently the university s research into medieval England wasn t as accurate as they thought Because she was so ill, she s not sure where her drop off pick up point is, so she can get back to modern times.And then it turns out that she s not even in the time period she was supposed to arrive in, and a major disaster view spoiler the Black Death bubonic plague pandemic hide spoiler The Middle Ages are a shady back alley of history They are a juvenile delinquent to which all the proper historical eras give the proverbial side eyeLife expectancy in 1300 was thirty eight years, he had told her when she first said she wanted to go to the Middle Ages, and you only lived that long if you survived cholera and smallpox and blood poisoning, and if you didn t eat rotten meat or drink polluted water or get trampled by a horse Or get burned at the stake for witchcraftAnd yet, despite the filth, the ignorance, the ever present dangers, the rats and the Plague the dreaded Black Death that wiped out a third to a half of Europe a young Oxford history student Kivrin Engle gets her way to be sent to the Middle Ages for a few weeks of full immersion research armed with nothing else but a voice recorder to create her own version of the Domesday Book, an account of what it was to live in those timesShe s seven hundred years from home, Dunworthy thought, in a century that didn t value women enough to even list their names when they diedNothing could go wrong on this carefully planned time travel, of course well, except for nothing going as expected the sudden severe illness, the incomprehensible language that apparently was very different from what we thought Middle English was supposed to be like, the inability to find the place from which she is supposed to be transported back into the present Oh, and a slight mistake that happened during her time travel the mistake Kivrin is unaware of, the one that resulted in her arriving not in the relatively boring 1320, but in a slightlyeventful 1348, the year the Black Death made in appearance in EnglandPeople who have the plague don t wonder if they have it They re too busy dying Nothing, she thought There s nothing you can do It swept through village after village, killing whole families, whole towns One third to one half of EuropeDespite what textbooks have you believe, history is not only about the columns of dates, the battles, the pivotal events, and the decisions made by those in power History is about people, and even though everything around them may change over hundreds of years, people remain the same in their essential humanityThey ve all died, she thought, and couldn t make herself believe it They ve all been dead over seven hundred yearsAnd that s how Doomsday Book packs such a powerful emotional punch with the sci fi time travel story turned historical observation turned historical tragedy Because Connie Willis makes you, the reader, slowly inhabit the world she imagines and come to care about the people she creates To me, the bunch of characters in the story of the Middle Ages slowly became people, with realistic flaws and strengths, with motivations and desires that are colored by the gap of seven hundred years and yet so relatable in their humanity, and with lives unfolding along their own trajectories until an unstoppable force of nature rolls over them, leading to a tragedy grief stricken Kivrin can best compare toThe slaughter of the innocentsThrough the strength of Willis writing, they come to life, reflecting history the way it unfolds through the stories of people who live that history, strands blending together to create a broad tapestryKneeling on St Mary s stone floor she had envisioned the candles and the cold, but not Lady Imeyne, waiting for Roche to make a mistake in the mass, not Eliwys or Gawyn or Rosemund Not Father Roche, with his cutthroat s face and worn out hose.She could never in a hundred years, in seven hundred and thirty four years, have imagined Agnes, with her puppy and her naughty tantrums, and her infected knee I m glad I came, she thought In spite of everythingThe trivial concerns, the petty squabbles, the bloated righteous selfishness all of this disappears once the horror strikes, and it s the last third of the book that becomes so powerful as we through the eyes of Kivrin see the tragedy that cannot be stopped, see the people who rise above the everyday pettiness and become heroes when necessity calls And as Kivrin first almost mantra like hopefully and the with the tired and angry resentment recalls the percentages that perished in the Black Death onslaught, the realization hits it does not matter whether everyone died or some survived because they all, every single one, the brave and the weak and the innocent and the scheming and the petty and the evil and the stupid and the saint like they all mattered, all of them, every single one,frightened and brave and irreplaceable.I wanted to come, and if I hadn t, they would have been all alone, and nobody would have ever known how frightened and brave and irreplaceable they wereThis bell, as we all know, tolls for you tolls for all of us. And yet I know this book was not nearly perfect, despite my sincere love for it I see where those who found this book unpalatable come from There is a reason why, after devouring this book twice in a month, I reread it again but only half this time, skipping all the modern day chapters and instead choosing to remain in the Middle Ages with Kivrin Because yes, the present day parts have flaws that stand out like a sore thumb The endless scrambling around to get a hold of someone just to figure out that the landlines are not working properly The characters inserted for little but comic relief The seriously stretched parallels to the things Kivrin experiences in the Middle Ages The most annoying child character since that kid in the second Indiana Jones filmColin, you make me go into a near murderous rage every time your necrotic whine appears on page Most of it was terrible, she said softly, but there were some wonderful thingsBut all this at least for me is so easily overshadowed by the magic the Middle Ages sections hold And all this, as I discovered, is so easy to just flip through and ignore while searching for the next Kivrin section And so to me the flaws are there, but not quite there, and I choose to skim them without hesitation.Because falling in love with a book is no different than falling in love with a person You don t stop seeing the flaws it s just that the connection you feel is stronger than any flaws can ever beI got it all on the corder, she said Everything that happened Like John Clyn, he thought, looking at her ragged hair, her dirty face A true historian, writing in the empty church, surrounded by graves I, seeing so many evils, have put into writing all the things that I have witnessed Lest things which should be remembered perish with time.Kivrin turned her palms up and looked at her wrists in the twilight Father Roche and Agnes and Rosemund and all of them, she said I got it all down What I find most objectionable about this book is its apparent lack of editing Half the novel consists of people panicking over the phone about other phone conversations other people have had about people getting on and off trains who are the children of WHO CARES Willis has no sense of perspective, no skill for inventing the suggestive detail consequently, this novel is a monument to the gods of boredom This on top of the implausible premise that if time travel were available as a technology, historians would have a monopoly on its use I have found in my travels that most historians are much better at infighting than they are at obtaining control of proprietary technologies More red herring than a Norwegian fishing boat, it s like a Clan McGuffin family reunion Totally useless.
Constance Elaine Trimmer Willis is an American science fiction writer She is one of the most honored science fiction writers of the 1980s and 1990s.She has won, among other awards, ten Hugo Awards and six Nebula Awards Willis most recently won a Hugo Award for All Seated on the Ground August 2008 She was the 2011 recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the Science Ficti
- Mass Market Paperback
- 578 pages
- Doomsday Book
- Connie Willis
- 23 November 2017 Connie Willis