the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Connie Willis’ Category

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

published in 1992

where I got it: purchased used

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I’ve read this book before, and I mean that both figuratively, and literally.  This is my or second or third time reading The Doomsday Book, and it’s a book about time travel that asks the question “what could possibly go wrong?”, which is a story trope I’ve read before.  Not a spoiler, but everything goes wrong. Oh, the name of the book sounds familiar?

 

And since this book was written in 1992, I don’t feel bad about spoiling certain plot points. Click here for my spoiler-free, original book review of this title.   Because this blog post? It rambles. It has mild spoilers. And it gets a little personal.

 

In late January, I found myself in a reading slump. I had a lot going on, and I was struggling to relax and just fall into a book. I needed a book that would grab me on page 1, throw me about, transport me, allow me to escape into someone else’s life for a few hundred pages, and then not break my heart into a million little pieces at the end, because damnit, i wanted something with a happy ending for once.  I did cry at the end of The Doomsday Book, but not from a broken heart.

 

If you’ve never read this book before, it’s got a lot of death. A lot of people die, a lot of people are helpless in the face of death, some people lose hope.  I’m not gonna lie, there is a lot of sadness and a lot of fear of dying in this book. You might cry. But oh, this book is full of so much hope! So many people who are doing everything they can to save their friends, people who refuse to be helpless, people whose compassion knows no bounds, characters who spend every waking moment caring deeply about other people, even if they don’t quite know how to show it.  There are scenes that are sad, but this is not a grim book. What is the opposite of grimdark? Hopebright? The Doomsday Book is hopebright.

 

In the near future, we’ve discovered how to travel into the past. The technology is mostly utilized at universities, and they send historians back in time, with the goal of avoiding the most dangerous times in history.  Kivrin will be the first historian at Oxford who is sent to the Middle Ages. She’s been working towards this moment for the last 2 years. Her advisor James Dunworthy has never been so worried in his entire life.

 

Something I love about this novel is how Willis starts the book when the action starts. There is no preamble, hardly any character introduction, plenty of British banter, and before page twenty you know the characters are anxious about sending a historian back to the thirteen hundreds, you know people are nervous and vulnerable and worried.  By page 30 you know something has gone horribly wrong. And that’s when the character development starts – after you’ve been hooked.

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The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Published in 1992

Where I got it: purchased used

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In the future, historians don’t just study the past, they visit it.  In 2048 the technology that allows time travel is still rather new, so calculations are double checked and triple checked. At Oxford, Kivrin has been studying for years with Dr. Dunworthy to qualify to travel back to the early 1300s.  Armed with inoculations against the plague and other diseases, a translator, and a recorder embedded in her wrist, Kivrin is as prepared as anyone could be. What could possibly go wrong?

Kivrin refers to her ‘corder as the Domesday Book, in reference to the records of life in the middle ages that were created for William the Conquerer, and she starts recording as soon as she arrives in the past.  But something has already gone wrong. If she can only get to the village in the valley, perhaps someone can help her. Maybe they know the name of the town, or of the village. But she is so cold, and so dizzy all of a sudden. . .

Meanwhile, back in merry old modern (comparatively) times England,  other people aren’t feeling well either.  As a dangerous illness spreads across Oxford, quarantines are put into place and medications start to run low.  Dr. Dunworthy needs to be sure that Kivrin arrived in the right place, and even more important, in the right when.  With a narrative that jumps back and forth between Middle Ages England and 2048, Willis keeps keeps the suspense high.

 

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Because I just can’t help myself, you know?  Nature abhors a vacuum like my credit at my favorite local bookstore abhors not being spent. Who cares that I just got a half dozen books from the library?  Bookstores are my kryptonite! Even more so after one of the employees let slip they’d just gotten in a ton of vintage SF.

teh new goodies:

 

from bottom to top, we’ve got:

A Feast for Crows, by George R R Martin. I got this out of the library a few years ago, I wish I’d thought to buy it before they changes the cover art to the “new” style. now my Martin covers don’t match!  😦  I can’t decide if I’m going to buy into the hype and purchase Dance with Dragons in hardback, or just get it from the library and wait to purchase until it’s in paperback.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.  I’ve never read any Willis, but I keep hearing really good things about her.

Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg.  Another one I’d gotten from the library a few years ago, it was my first Silverberg.  After I finished it, I remember my husband asking me what I thought of it as this is one of his favorites too, and I expressly remember saying that not only did I want to learn how to juggle, but if we ever had a son, I wanted to name him Valentine.

Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch.  I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Midnight Riot, and I’ve been hearing this 2nd one is just as fun too.

Stalking the Unicorn, by Mike Resnick – it just looked fun. and the acknowledgement pages makes some reference to a friend of Resnick’s who is the “God emperor” of something, which made me chuckle. and that brings us to . . .

The Heaven Makers, by Frank Herbert.  You wouldn’t know it by skimming the review index, but I am a HUGE Frank Herbert fan.  I think I’ve read maybe a dozen books by him, and I know most of his discography by sight. But this is one I have never even heard of! Anyone know anything about this title?

 

 


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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