The historical aspect of this book is awesome. The telling of life in a village in England in the 1300's puts you in the time and place. But the plot. My goodness. It took way to long to get to the point. Even with character development, it shouldn't take 16 hours for the character to figure out whats going on.
The historical description of life in a small village in England during the mid 1300's.
Average, adequate, ok.
This book would have been a lot more enjoyable if they cut out about 10 hours. And this is a person who had no problems with the length of "The Company. All in all, I have no idea how this book won any science fiction award. It must have been a slow year. I found this story to be a well of untapped potential.
I really enjoyed to experience of traveling to the past and seeing an example of what life was like several hundred years ago. A fun romp through history.
I absolutely detested the scenes from the future history department / time travel people. They were silly characters, almost all incompetent (or unconscious). You could have cut out half of what was going on and still made the point. It slowed down the plot and tried to inject mystery and suspense in a way that simply bored me.
And many of the characters were clearly there to be funny. But they were so over the top that I found it detracted from the story. Personally, I wasn't in the mood for a serious book with silly characters, just as I've not been in the mood for a silly book with serious characters.
This is my first book by Connie Willis. I might try another one of the authors books. Her style was generally good and subtle humour appreciated. The comic relief characters I found irritating, however.
Jenny Sterlin's job of reading the book was unimpressive. She talked extremely slowly and her pauses between each character, each piece of dialogue, each sentence was to long. I found myself continually annoyed waiting for her to say something, or finish what she was saying.
I decided to listen to this book because of the awards it has won and all the great reviews. I definitely enjoyed it, and I like the premise of a time-travelling history department. The author obviously did a fair amount of research into the middle ages, church rituals, ancient languages and such, which I found interesting. However, I’m a stickler for sci-fi plots and stories set in the future to be believable, and so a few things in this story bugged me. I can definitely forgive the author for not foreseeing a world of mobile phones and the internet, so those things didn't interfere much with the story, for me. However, I think the author could have benefitted from interviewing administrative personnel at a university. The actions of these characters provided some of the least believable content. WARNING: a few SPOILERS follow: A university with no critical incident plan? A history department that no doubt would be the best in the world, considering their technology, and yet seemed to contain only about four staff members? A missing Head of the Department that never appears in the story? OK, forget Head of the Department – where was the President or Vice Chancellor of the University? A complicated, state-of-the-art, potentially life-threatening time-travelling lab, and only one person on location who knows how to operate it? Where is the full-time Lab Manager? Where is the required training, or at least awareness training, for the other personnel and professors? Where is the operation manual for others to consult? The explanation of “it’s Christmas time and everything is shut down” only excused so much of this for me. If a life-threatening situation arose at a real university, there would be all hands on deck! Implement Critical Incident and Media response plan! Emergency staff meetings! Certainly the staff would never send a barely-recovered staff member back… they could phone one of the other dozens of History or admin staff to see who else might want to help, no? I did enjoy this book and did find myself listening frequently, wanting to find out what was going to happen. But the actions and dialogue of the University staff were frustrating. Nevertheless I may listen to more of this author’s work, as I do find the premise interesting… and maybe in book two, the History department gets its wake-up call?
This is one of those stories that I know will stay with me a long time. The plot itself is so good that the book is able to overcome the slower moments where you trudge through the story to get to the next part. When I was finished though, I realized how important all of those slow moments were to the overall effect of the story. Still, because those moments were so slow moving, I can't give maximum stars.
I really wasn't too sure but this book, but by the end I was hooked in. I enjoyed the travel setting and story more than the contemporary portion. Still, not a bad book.
Those who enjoy history as well as human story-telling should enjoy this. The author jumps between the plague and the near-future remarkably well and shows that there are hardships no matter what time period in which you live.
former nuclear scientist
I really wanted to like this book. But it dragged and dragged until it couldn't drag any more; then, surprisingly, it dragged for another 6 hours.
It sounds like an appealing mixture of historical fiction and future sci fi. That's what it could have been. That's what it SHOULD have been. Instead, in a vain attempt to inject urgency and dramatic frisson bore the story, the author draws out the realization of the problems described in the book blurb by endless diversions into the type of academic politics that bore even the people involved in them.
The book switches back and forth between the past and the "present," which suffers from anachronistic visions of the future (video calls, but only landlines, and apparently if you turn off the power you lose all data forever). The author manages to keep the present boring by presenting only fretting and the past boring by making the protagonist sick and therefore unable to report anything except how sick she feels. This goes on for maybe 10 or 15 hours, during which Flaubert would be proud of how little progress is made. The author tries to string out the tension by just not telling the listener what is going on (though we know from Audible's blurb). It would have been better if she had instead increased the tension by taking time to develop the characters enough that we care about them. Instead, Kivrin is delirious with fever and Dunworthy is so fixated on figuring out what happened to her that he ignores the troubles going on in his own present day. His tech drops to the floor, so sick a quarantine is initiated; people start trickling into the hospital near death, yet Dunworthy just keeps going on and on about Kivrin to the point where his fixation, presumably there to mark him as the good guy who cares about his student, is just creepy and annoying.
The narrator can do two voices extremely well: supercilious/haughty, and frightened/whiny. Maybe all the professors at Cambridge really do sound like they consider everyone else to be dog doo, but I don't want to listen to that tone of voice for 28 hours. Unfortunately, the author puts in a number of American characters, partly as comic relief. This is unfortunate because the narrator's "American" accent is ghastly. It reminds me of the mid-Atlantic accents adopted by some actresses in 1940s films.
I'm really not sure how this book won any awards, even back in 1980. There is very little sci-fi - the time travel is barely touched on, and the future looks just like the past except that people can add video to their phone calls, and time travel. The last third of the novel is quite interesting. I'd give that four stars on its own. But it's bogged down by the first 15 or so hours, which deserve no stars for being repetitive and irritating.
I have to agree with most listeners' reviews for this book - it could be edited down to 40% of original length before it would start loosing details. But if you, like me, listening to audiobooks while working it's actually a plus - if you spaced and missed something, the narrative will loop around to revisit missed plot point again. And maybe again sometimes later.
The story is very character driven but i was hoping for more historical details. Both in the future and past plotlines focus on human interactions, which is great, but could use little more backdrop, so to say. Main characters are very endearing - and maybe just a touch too anecdotal - every female from the future plot sounds like Mrs Marple.
Everyone who is complaining about state of technology in the future part of the novel has to realize that the book was written in the 90s', way before smartphones, WiFi, GPS devices and other awesome things we're so used to take for granted. Yes, it sounds a little odd now that someone would have to sit by the landline phone waiting for a call in 2056, but future ain't what it used to be, eh?
elegant writing, developed characters, moving plot. one of my top 10 books now. recommedning it to all my friends.