Doomsday Book Mass Market Paperback – Aug 1 1993
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Connie Willis labored five years on this story of a history student in 2048 who is transported to an English village in the 14th century. The student arrives mistakenly on the eve of the onset of the Black Plague. Her dealings with a family of "contemps" in 1348 and with her historian cohorts lead to complications as the book unfolds into a surprisingly dark, deep conclusion. The book, which won Hugo and Nebula Awards, draws upon Willis' understanding of the universalities of human nature to explore the ageless issues of evil, suffering and the indomitable will of the human spirit.
From Publishers Weekly
This new book by Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning author Willis ( Lincoln's Dreams ) is an intelligent and satisfying blend of classic science fiction and historical reconstruction. Kivrin, a history student at Oxford in 2048, travels back in time to a 14th-century English village, despite a host of misgivings on the part of her unofficial tutor. When the technician responsible for the procedure falls prey to a 21st-century epidemic, he accidentally sends Kivrin back not to 1320 but to 1348--right into the path of the Black Death. Unaware at first of the error, Kivrin becomes deeply involved in the life of the family that takes her in. But before long she learns the truth and comes face to face with the horrible, unending suffering of the plague that would wipe out half the population of Europe. Meanwhile, back in the future, modern science shows itself infinitely superior in its response to epidemics, but human nature evidences no similar evolution, and scapegoating is still alive and well in a campaign against "infected foreigners."p. 204 This book finds villains and heroes in all ages, and love, too, which Kivrin hears in the revealing and quietly touching deathbed confession of a village priest.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Something has gone very wrong. Kivrin is not when she is supposed to be and the man who operated the machine is deathly ill. There appears to be plague in both the 14th and 21st centuries.
Time travel and plague, two of my favourite genres in one novel. Even though the book was published in 1992, it has stood the test of time well. Author Connie Willis imagined the use of video phones for communications, but missed with portable phones. I was amused by some of her characters continually running between buildings and locations to immediately reach each other. Oh for a cell phone.
While Kivrin was the character who time traveled, I was more interested in Professor James Dunworthy, who tutored her about the middle ages and really made her trip a reality. Not only was he book smart, but also world smart when he stepped up at the university and kept it from falling apart as the current time crisis developed. One of my favourite characters, was the 14th century priest. I kept wondering is he truly was a man of god, or was he someone else.
The Doomsday Book finally answered a long stand time travel question. Can you travel back in time, interact substantially with the denizens of that time and not affect the future. This is a well written book that kept me reading late into the night several days in a row. I don't regret the missed sleep one bit.
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.Read more ›
One of the most interesting parts of the book for me was watching the differences in how illness was treated in the different time periods. The “modern” (2050’s) response is very similar to present day, with a couple of better medicines: quarantine, hydration, medicine. In the 1300’s, religious rites seemed to have taken precedent over sanitation, so bodies were handled more than would be advisable, and prayer was considered an appropriate treatment. The book deals with how little they had to work with back then, and Kivrin’s frustration at knowing people could be saved with better technology was heartbreaking. Watching her try to translate modern notions like “don’t touch the corpse’s fluid’s” and “disease transmission” into something that could be understood at the time was a neat mental exercise, as was figuring out how to treat something using the technology available (sterilizing knives using fire, using alcohol because it is the best available antiseptic, trying to figure out the plant that is closest to advil, etc.).
The historical fiction parts of the book were done extremely well (though I would not know how accurate) and felt very realistic.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Fascinating book. I couldn't put it down. But then, am very fond of time travel genre!Published 21 months ago by Kimberly Evans
A really exciting read and as a historian I loved it. I have read many time travel books but never with historians as the main characters. I can't wait to start on the next onePublished on July 21 2014 by goodpepper
This book is by turns powerful, sad and silly. The time travel story taking place in the near future is a little fussy and silly; the time travel story in the medieval past feels... Read morePublished on May 29 2014 by Richard Schwindt
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... Read morePublished on Oct. 18 2011 by lexie2
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... Read morePublished on Feb. 15 2011 by C. Samuelsson
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... Read more
The time is the mid-twenty-first century, and the development of time travel has changed history from a scholarly discipline to one involving direct observation. Read morePublished on June 7 2008 by Greg Slade