Customer Reviews


348 Reviews
5 star:
 (193)
4 star:
 (66)
3 star:
 (29)
2 star:
 (35)
1 star:
 (25)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection
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...
Published on July 6 2004 by Trixie

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun and interesting read
Willis' book---which deals with time travel and the recurring theme of plagues in societies---is well-written and a generally interesting read.
Kirvin is an historian specializing in the Middle Ages. Living as she does in a period when historians can and do travel to the periods which they study, Kirvin requests permission to travel to the Middle Ages---a period...
Published on Nov. 14 2002 by A. Lord


‹ Previous | 1 235 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection, July 6 2004
Ce commentaire est de: 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."
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


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
Ce commentaire est de: 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
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Wherever you go, there you are, Oct. 22 2006
Ce commentaire est de: 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
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book - Great Premise, March 20 2005
Ce commentaire est de: 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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Wish I could put SIX stars..., July 10 2004
By A Customer
Ce commentaire est de: 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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Full past and thin future, July 7 2004
By 
Ce commentaire est de: 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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, If Not Brilliant, July 4 2004
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
Time-travel fiction is its own subgenre of science fiction, and pretty much anyone who reads sci-fi has their own take on it. Willis adopts an unusual and refreshingly simple approach to time-travel in her lengthy award-winner. Instead of the usual questions about paradoxes or nefarious schemes to profit from time-travel, she sets it up as a smart system that protects itself from any paradox and abuse. Simply put, nothing that will cause a paradox or severely influence events can travel through "the net", as the system simply doesn't allow it in either direction. And since one can only go back in time, and one can't bring stuff back from the past, there's not much utility to it other than for scholarly research. Some reviewers have complained that "the net" would never be put to such a routine purpose as observing daily life in the Dark Ages, but they forget that the system basically doesn't allow one to travel back to critical events or to meet major historical figures. Fortunately, Willis doesn't waste much time trying to cobble together a technical or philosophical basis for any of this, it's just the way it works, and that's all one needs to get along with the story. Of course, readers who prefer more science in their science-fiction are likely to be a bit disappointed.
The story is set in Oxford around Christmastime in 2054, and it's a future that's awfullyóindeed implausiblyósimilar to our present. Even though mobile phones were in existence at the time of the book's writing, they don't exist in Willis' 2054 (much less pagers, PDAs, or any other wireless communication), which is either strangely short-sighted, or a very weak contrivance. A great deal of the story is propelled and/or prolonged by the inability of characters to communicate in a timely manner, and had the protagonist had a simple cell phone at hand, many problems would have been averted. Indeed, much of the plot has a kind of "comedy of errors" aspect to it that the reader will either go along with or be driven crazy by. It more or less works in the context of Willis' whole approach, which is a kind of affectionate mimicry of an old-fashioned British formalism.
The gist of the story is pretty simple, since time travel is basically so useless, it's become a sort of historical archeological tool. The acting head of history at Oxford has decided to use the absence of the dean to launch a female graduate student back to pre-plague 14th-century England. Her advisor is all against this, but she proceeds, and lo and behold, something goes awry and she is stuck there. Not only is she stuck in the past, she's stuck in the wrong past! A technician error has dropped her into the middle of the Black Death! But it's even worse than that, 'cause the technician falls ill with a mysterious virus before he can tell anyone what has happened! The book is a compendium of missed connections, misinformation, and general confusion, which can get a bit tiresome.
The book then unfolds over several hundred pages to tell parallel stories. One is about the grad student stuck in the midst of the plague, and how she handles life in the 14th-century amongst a small village of "contemps". Meanwhile, in Oxford, the mysterious virus is striking down people left and right, impeding the advisor's attempt to figure out what went wrong and how to get the student back. The 14th-century story is clearly more compelling, as Willis uses it to dispense five years of her research into life during Medieval times. The social life, customs, costumes, and details are remarkable, as we see the plague devastate a small community. It's not a pretty sight, and gets rather grim at times. The story at the other end of time is quite different in tone, attempting to even the tone with a more comic approach. I use the word "comic" very loosely here, since much of Willis' attempt to lighten the proceedings are lame. For example, the nagging Mrs. Gadson, or the nasty Mr. Gilchrist, or the sly stud William.
The book is strong is showing the effects of an epidemic, both historical, and in a semi-contemporary setting. Willis is clearly trying to say a little something about human nature, and how we act in such crises and breakdowns of social order, but it's nothing particularly striking (This topic has been perhaps most ably handled by Nobel-winner JosÈ Saramago in his brilliant work Blindness). Similarly, there is a none-to-subtle critique of organized religion at work, again, both in the past and the present. The book isn't helped by occasionally placid pacing, and a whimper of an ending which leaves at least two major plot points unresolved and fails to provide the satisfying denouement such a lengthy work deserves. And yet despite these various weaknesses, the book is a mostly enjoyable page-turner as long as one isn't searching for epic quests or adventuresome escapades.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Top-Notch Research...And A Great Story Too!, May 15 2004
By 
themarsman (Georgetown, TX) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
In the mid-21st century time travel has been perfected and is used by historians as a method of exposing oneself to one's research. Kivrin, a British history student, uses time travel as a means of exploring the Middle Ages. Kivrin goes back to a small village of the period. There, with the aid of a device that allows her to understand the locals (they speak Middle English ya know!), she becomes a part of the village...and faces, along with them, their darkest hours.
The research Willis must have performed to put this book together had to have been enormous. Indeed, I heard that she spent no less than five years putting all the research together. Whatever the time spent in library for this book, Willis made it more than payoff. Her detail of an English village in the Middle Ages is EXQUISITE. Very few authors can truly put one into the setting of the story...Willis accomplishes this feat with grace. One word of warning: Parts of this book are quite depressing...so one should not undertake this book if one expects to walk away from it (whether one has completed it or is just breaking for tea) with a jovial spirit. This being said, Willis has sculpted a true work of art that should certainly be shared with as many people as possible.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars History revisited whilst being revisited by history, Dec 9 2003
By 
A. H. M. Creemers "Lex" (Brisbane, Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Ce commentaire est de: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
Kivrin is a history student in Oxford in the not-too-distant future. She has spent a year getting ready for a field trip to Oxfordshire in 1320 to study the Middle Ages before the Black Death. She has her inoculations, she has an implanted language decoder, she has trained herself in various aspects of medieval life such as spinning, etc. What could possibly go wrong?
In a word, lots. Oxford in this not-too-distant future is in a world where epidemics are feared like - well - the plague. And an epidemic starts to raise its ugly head just when Kivrin is being transported to 1320. The technician setting the time machine knows something has gone wrong, but unfortunately he is one of the first victims of this epidemic, and collapses before he can inform the history faculty members of what exactly is wrong. Kivrin herself arrives in the Middle Ages with a seriously bad case of ... something that she doesn't know what it is.
She is rescued and stays with a family of "contemps", where she can closely study medieval life and in particular, the festive season around Christmas. But this is no ordinary Christmas, because it is NOT 1320. It is 1348, the year that the Black Death came to Oxfordshire at Christmas time.
Oxford in the 21st century, meanwhile, has been cordoned off and with all the cases of an unknown and deadly virus, nobody is available to check the time machine and find out what went wrong with Kivrin's "drop" until very, very late.
This is one of the finest books that I have read for a while. Descriptions of people, motivations and events are little short of stunning, and the narrative is utterly believable - even allowing for time machines and implanted decoders. The simultaneous epidemics in Oxford in the 21st century and Oxfordshire in 1348 are very well played out, and the sense of anxiety once the reader has been informed that "something" is wrong with the drop doesn't diminish with the several hundred pages it takes to find out what the "something" is - to the contrary.
It is a gem of a book, finely crafted. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars I just finished re-reading this book for the 3rd or 4th time, Dec 8 2003
By 
A. J. Luxton (Portland, OR) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Ce commentaire est de: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
. . . and it is every bit as good as when I first picked it up -- or rather, when my older brother picked it up to read to me, then 11 and perfectly capable of reading for myself, as a part of a family read-aloud tradition.
I was raised Jewish and as an adult have found myself drawn to Earth religions, but whenever I read The Doomsday Book, I find within myself a certain appreciation for Christianity. This book gives a context which restores this religion to a powerful sense of meaning.
Connie Willis's medieval characters speak medieval, feel medieval, and act like people. I picked up another book shortly after this, a book by Ann Benson which portrayed characters in the 1300's -- and it didn't commit any outright errors, it's just that the style had such a modern perspective -- it didn't feel real in comparison, and I threw it down in irritation. In The Doomsday Book, the past comes through with an eminently believable clarity of voice and detail.
Her future is as believable as her past -- as fabulous "set design" and complexity as I've ever seen in a book, yet the plot threads are so coherent that I never get lost in the details. The explanations of the various technologies are fairly minimal but always internally consistent. The characters are likeable and three-dimensional.
The book reads so effortlessly, she must have had an outline twice the size to pull it off.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 235 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Doomsday Book
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Mass Market Paperback - Aug. 1 1993)
CDN$ 11.99 CDN$ 10.82
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews