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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greats, never mind SF
Those expecting a predictable SF story may be puzzled by this novel. While ostensibly using a SF framework, this book captures the human condition as well as any work in the English lit canon. The sadness and pathos of life, the many kinds of human love, and the transcendent human spirit are all here. This is SF in the same way as The Road is SF.

In The Bleak...
Published on Oct. 18 2011 by lexie2

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Concept, Uninteresting Book
I probably would not have finished this book if it did not win the Hugo and Nebula award. I kept on saying to myself that there must have been a reason this book won. Must have been a weak field that year. The beginning is slow, the middle is slightly interesting, the end comes abruptly.
The time travel concept was unremarkable except for the fact that if I had...
Published on Nov. 4 1997


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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greats, never mind SF, Oct. 18 2011
By 
lexie2 (Ottawa, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
Those expecting a predictable SF story may be puzzled by this novel. While ostensibly using a SF framework, this book captures the human condition as well as any work in the English lit canon. The sadness and pathos of life, the many kinds of human love, and the transcendent human spirit are all here. This is SF in the same way as The Road is SF.

In The Bleak Midwinter, Kivrin meets people of another era who are being plunged into a disaster they cannot escape, nor even begin to understand. Yet they are heart-breaking in their just being-ness. I will love (and hate them) them always, as though I'd met them myself. I believe in them completely. This is because Connie Willis somehow broke through the bounds of fiction and touched the real, hard though that is to describe.

If you read this book, you will time travel too, and find yourself in the world that is true in all times.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Concept, Uninteresting Book, Nov. 4 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
I probably would not have finished this book if it did not win the Hugo and Nebula award. I kept on saying to myself that there must have been a reason this book won. Must have been a weak field that year. The beginning is slow, the middle is slightly interesting, the end comes abruptly.
The time travel concept was unremarkable except for the fact that if I had invented time travel, I would have required much smarter people to run the system. Most of the characters are 1 dimensional. A lot of what happens does not have the ring of plausibility. Suspense is made by having one character blatantly withholding information from the reader not once, but several times. He has very important information, but somehow he just never gets around to telling everyone about it.

Normally, I don't care if characters are 1 dimensional , just as long as it is a good read and characters behave somewhat plausibly. However, the plot moves too slow and you just don't care about the characters towards the end.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bland and boring, Feb. 15 2011
By 
C. Samuelsson "caitfoom" (Victoria, BC) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
It's an interesting concept, but there's not really anything there. The characters are uninteresting placeholders, the plot *incredibly* slow, and several key story components are never explained, in a way that doesn't seem intentionally mysterious, just lazy. I would say the majority of the book was quite tedious. It wasn't completely terrible, and if you're in the mood for some light historical fiction with a small scope it's not a bad choice. However, all the action that takes place in the novel's "present day" is extremely bland and felt like work to read.

I was really disappointed, because I have enjoyed pretty much every Hugo-winning book I have read up to today. I finished A Fire Upon the Deep (which tied for the 1993 Hugo with The Domesday Book) recently and while it wasn't incredible, it was a far sight more interesting and suspenseful.
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5.0 out of 5 stars BEST TIME TRAVEL TO THE PAST -ABOSORBING, FASCINATING, A BOOK I COULD READ AGAIN AND AGAIN!~, May 4 2010
This review is from: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
BEST TIME TRAVEL TO THE PAST -ABOSORBING, FASCINATING, A BOOK I COULD READ AGAIN AND AGAIN!~

The book starts in Oxford, England in 2048 during an attack of an unknown virus...At the same time a History Student is sent back into time to complete her doctorate. (Note: Only Historian's are able to time travel in 2048). Due to effects of the virus on the transporter, the historian is accidently, transported to 14th Century England during the Black Plague. Not only is there a struggle to get the historian returned to 2048 but she must struggle to stay alive in a villiage that is ranpant with the horrors of the plague. Death and suffering is all around her. This is a very gripping, horrific and emotional story with some of the most memorable characters. I had the feeling I was living through the black death too, it felt that real! I read this book many, many years ago and have never forgotten it. Now that Connie Willis has come out with 'BLACKOUT', the same wonderful time travelling team from Oxford, I felt I must let other reader know how wonderful this book was and believe me "Blackout" is just as fab.! If you love Time Travel you will love this book!

Connie Willis has written some of the most enjoyable books I have read such as: To Say Nothing of the Dog; Bellwether; Lincoln's Dreams; Passages; Blackout; Fire watch, and many more
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4.0 out of 5 stars Wherever you go, there you are, Oct. 22 2006
This review is from: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
It's impossible to speak about this book without mentioning THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE. Don't get me wrong---the only similarities happen to be time travel---otherwise totally different stories. BUT, for me, DOOMSDAY BOOK has a bit more going for it. The plot is this: Take one history student, say, in the year 2048, and transplant/transport THEM to England in the 14th century. Sounds simple, almost contrived---a sort of "Back to the Future," type of scenario, but again, it's not the idea but what the author does with it. In this capable writer's hands, the story comes to life as no other. I was really outright "shocked" at how well the tale was handled. No cliches here, folks. Just good writing and pacing that makes sense and keeps things moving.

Just to kick things up a notch, our time traveler arrives just as the Black Plague is getting underway. And why not? Now, all this is good and well for a nice story that will keep yo flipping the pages, but something else is happening here. There's an underlying metaphorical touch that I couldn't quite put my finger on---a veritable "this is really about something else" feeling that leads me to believe Willis is a much "deeper" writer than one might expect. No, I don't think I'm reading too much into this great tale, but you pick up a copy and decide for yourself. So many books disappoint---this isn't one of them.

Also highly recommended: TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book - Great Premise, March 20 2005
By 
NorthVan Dave (BC, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The premise, in which students travel in time to learn about history, is unique and extremely well handled by Willis. The descriptions she uses to describe the time travel mechanism, and the 'rules' in place to prevent the alteration of the time line, are also well done. In the past I've always felt that time travel was poorly handled by authors. They either left too many gaps, or made the system so overly complex that I found myself spending more time thinking about how impossible the time travel was and less time on the 'meat' of the story. Thankfully, this story has none of these inadequacies.
I especially liked the characters. Each one was well written, and presented in a believable manner. I think an author does a good job of writing a book when they make you, the reader, want to meet the individual they have written about in person. Willis, in my opinion, achieves this.
And finally, the descriptions Willis manages to convey with regards to the 14th century make one think that she was actually there herself! For anyone interested in historical fiction, or has a passing interest in time travel (with a bit of humor thrown in) I'd say this book's for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wish I could put SIX stars..., July 11 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
After finishing this book all I could say was "WOW"!!!! I was at a loss for words. I haven't read anything quite like it before or since.
If you ever wanted to travel back in time to see what it was really and truly like back then, here's your chance. Willis has not only thoroughly researched that time period, she has created three-dimensional, live, fleshed-out people within it. She recreates not only the culture and speech, but also the smell, the feel, the temperature, the sound of that place and time. YOU ARE THERE!!
This book is not perfect, but it's a flawed emerald rather than a perfect rhinestone. The modern-day goings-on ("back at the ranch" in 2048) are often dull and tedious. But they're worth skimming through in order to immerse yourself in history (without actually catching the plague).
I've read a few of Willis's books - some were disappointing, some good, and one ("The Dog") extremely funny. In my opinion, Doomsday Book is her best. It would make an awesome movie.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well written, interesting, but VERY sad, July 7 2004
By 
Christopher P. Ware (Colchester, CT United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
This book was very engaging emotionally, without insulting your intelligence about time travel (you know who you are, Michael Crichton!). Interesting characters, well-researched history, solid plot. You may not feel good when you finish reading it, but you'll still appreciate the book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Full past and thin future, July 7 2004
By 
This review is from: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
With 300+ reviews, maybe it has all been said. But just in case....
The parts of this book that deal with the middle ages are wonderful. The author really brings to life a small but fascinating English time and place. If one is interested in learning about life in the middle ages, the plague, and religious issues then this book will have much to offer.
The future the author describes, however, is another story. Her 2048 feels more like 1958. The book shares that odd quality that one gets from certain viewing certain British films, like Day of the Trifids or even the Avengers series, i.e. the total population of England is about 500 persons, and 50% of them are eccentrics in a shawl or odd hat. One can picture the hospital ward right out of a black and white movie, bare iron beds, shiny tile floors, women nurses with pointy white hats and starched uniforms jotting things down in the chart.
OK, this is supposed to be science fiction, so foreseeing that mobile phones might be in our future should not have been such a huge stretch even for a book written in 1993. This is especially vexing since the plot leans heavily on main characters running off to find a phone, or just missing a key phone call, etc. And, in 2048 will one comely and kindly local doctor and a few nurses be expected to handle an epidemic of SARS proportions on their own? It seems so at odds with the bureaucratic and journalistic frenzy that such things cause. The future in this book just seems very thin on people and new technology (not even new by 2004 standards). Oh, but a time machine? Well in 2048 THAT you can find in the basement of just about any ivy covered history dept. building. Just no cell phones.
I did, however, like the way that the author handled the time paradox issues (e.g. you prevent your grandfathers birth, etc.) Basically she just assumes there cannot be one - and that's that! Physics problem solved! Probably that is the most unassailable approach I have seen to this always pesky problem in any time travel story.
My advice - read the parts of this book that take place in 2048 quickly, but save time to relish the more carefully wrought and well researched sections on the middle ages.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection, July 6 2004
This review is from: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
Connie Willis is simply one of the finest contemporary SF writers and here is the proof. I bought this book on a whim after reading the cover blurb. It's become one of my favorites.
The idea of time travel is a real warhorse in SF and often yields interesting results. I liked the premise of making the travellers history students; the added attraction was making the period under surveillance the Plague Years of medieval Europe. This may ring your deja-vu bell by now but Willis tackled this issue before and far better than Michael Crichton (Timeline, for those who aren't Crichton fans, covered similiar territory.)
The story involves the journey of Kivrin, an Oxford student of British history in the mid 21st century. Due to some complicated coincidences between past and present, her time travel goes off course and she lands in England 100 or so years earlier than planned at the height of the plague. Meanwhile, a mysterious illness is wreaking havoc on modern-day England which complicates rescue efforts. Kivrin is cut off from the present and attempts to save her host family and village with what modern medical knowledge she possesses and the aide of the village priest.
I expected an adventure tale and I got it but the real gift of Willis' writing is the incredible pathos she inspires toward her subjects. The story moves quickly and expertly between the present and the past and never loses steam. What I most enjoyed was the transition in Kivrin's mind from her subjects being abstracts ("contemps") to real people who love and strive and suffer. The realization is one the best historians must of necessity arrive at but most of us rarely contemplate when sitting in the comfort of a classroom or armchair. I can't look at the study of history quite the same after reading this book and any work of art that permanently alters your perception of life is worth pointing out to others.
All of Willis' work is excellent and should be sought out. For her lighter side, check out her short story collection "Impossible Things."
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Doomsday Book
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Mass Market Paperback - Aug. 1 1993)
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