I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
In Connie Willis' Hugo and Nebula winning novel Doomsday Book (1992), the Oxford University historians of 2054 use time travel to observe first hand the eras of their fields of study. Kivrin Engle is an undergraduate student keen to visit 1320 for two weeks around Christmas, despite the repeated warnings of her arthritic mentor, Mr. Dunworthy, who believes that the 14th century, what with its cutthroats, witch burnings, and diseases, is too dangerous. Ah, the reckless and ignorant enthusiasm of curious youth! Ah, the helpless and loving concern of experienced adulthood!
From the start, strange problems plague Kivrin's "drop" into 1320, and she begins to learn that the past is vastly different than all her research prepared her for and that its inhabitants are heart-breakingly human. Meanwhile, in 2054 an apparently new and deadly flu virus strikes the technician who programmed Kivrin's drop and soon leads to a city-wide quarantine. Willis tells her story alternating between the parallel plot strands of Kivrin's point of view in the 14th century and Dunworthy's in the 21st. Intense ironies and suspense grow from the inability of student and teacher to communicate with each other and from their different experiences with contagious diseases.
Willis draws well-rounded human beings we care for: in the past, Kivrin (intelligent, brave, sympathetic), Father Roche (devout, kind, good), and little Agnes (cute, spoiled, open), and in the "present," Mr. Dunworthy (wise, ironic, steadfast), Doctor Mary Ahrens (indefatigable, intelligent, caring), and her young nephew Colin (spunky, resourceful, resiliant). And her novel presents a great amount of apparently accurate historical detail of life in the 14th century. Although she is uninterested in "scientific" explanations of time travel, her depiction of infectious diseases is terrifying, reminding us of how difficult it is to remember that they are after all "only" diseases.
The book could be shorter, for sometimes characters repeat things that have earlier been narrated. And perhaps Willis relies too much on convenient narrative contrivances like the disruptions in the landline telephone system (in 2054?!), or the technician's delirium, or the History Department Head's fishing trip to Scotland. Despite its few flaws, however, its vivid historical setting, parallel contagion plots, great characters, and poignant relationships between them make Doomsday Book interesting, suspenseful, and moving. And the way in which "You are here in place of the friend I love" changes from being a revolting motto in the middle of the novel to a haunting phrase during the harrowing climax is beautiful.
With wit, heart, and restraint, the reader Jenny Sterlin expresses the various emotions and agendas of the characters, from Agnes begging Kivrin to tell her a story and Colin telling Dunworthy that an interfering woman is "necrotic," through Kivrin praying for a miracle and Father Roche urging her to return to Heaven, whence she has been sent by God to help them in their hour of need.
If you're interested in the 14th century, in time travel stories about the human condition more than the physics of time travel, in stories about apocalyptic diseases, or in stories about the fraught relationships between children and parents and between believers (and non-believers) and God in time of disaster, you should listen to Doomsday Book.
Junior high school students maybe, because it sounds like a junior high school student wrote it.
Well, I decided on this book because I've been going through the winners of the Hugo and Nebula awards. After listening to this book I've realised that just because a book has won the two biggest awards in sci-fi that doesn't mean it's any damn good.
The book had so many problems that even the best narrator would have had a hard time not being pulled down by it. Jenny Sterlin was alright but her pace was so slow and she took such long pauses that it made the story terribly ponderous and lumbering. I really couldn't wait for the thing to end but she just kept plodding along. I wished I could have sped her reading up until she sounded like a chipmunk just to get the ordeal over with.
This is probably one of the most irritating books I've ever experienced. So why did I finish it? Because I was expecting some great reveal at the end that was going to bring all of this nonsense together and help me understand why people think it's so great.
And then there's the repetition, the repetition, the repetition... "There's something wrong.", "I have to find the drop." Over and over and over again. I seriously started to think that we were going to find out that everyone had some sort of brain injury or something. Nope. This is just a terrible story.
Connie Willis seemed to just want to put some futuristic people back in the middle ages but she was too lazy to actually build a sensible story to do it. Instead everything that contributes to the conflict of the story is all just coincidence, several of which are never explained. Then the main characters of the book bungle around getting distracted with trivialities allowing things to get worse and never once acting like the intelligent people that Willis has tried to make us believe they are. The only sensible character in the story is a 12 year old kid and really, he's the only reason to listen to this audiobook.
Nothing. The story and characters were horrible.
Time travel but as far away from this book as possible!
She really voiced the different characters with their feelings and emotions well.
1) The reader was excellent!
2) The character "Collin" was the only breath of fresh air.
Truly a depressing story. All the characters, and book universe were so self centered, mean, sterile and unbelievable that I didn't care if everyone died and the book ended in the first 60 minutes. It was like watching a train wreck! I wanted to stop listening but I already had several hours into it so I had to stay for the whole 20+ hours! Kirvren was sent back in time with less preparation than a private in today's Army! She was so unprepared, naive and idiotic that it was laughable. The continued petty political differences and agendas among the History staff were absolutely ludicrous. The supporting characters were worse. I know that I'm probably in the minority with my review if this book but it was very dissapoinpting!
There seems to be this forced insertion of all sorts of procedural detail that lack a connectedness. Its almost as if the writer is attempting to add details that came from a story structure formula. There are things that don't make logical sense in the story. Example and this is no spoiler.. they are discussing that a virus cannot pass through the time travel portal because anything causing a paradox cannot pass through. Now I am willing to by into technical plot mechanisms but this one is totally unconvincing. People can go through and no paradox but viruses fail to because they always cause paradox? huh?
Needs to be shorter. Those extraneous details seem like filler. The story is certainly there and compelling.
There are English accents like John Lee's narration of Peter F. Hamilton that really make the story come alive and are true performance art. Then there is Connie Willis which I do not find appealing. It may this is a regional accent of some part of the UK but I find it grating and almost as if there is a speech impediment to it. Now being an American I am sure to get some grief on that point but I am having a hard time getting through the book because of this reading style.
The narrator, I will avoiding books where she is narrating.
In case I am off base and not giving a fair shake to narrator, I would say try it out and see if the accent is ok for you. It could be my own particular prejudicial opinion of this accent that clouds my point of view.
This audio book was 26 hours of torture. The reviews of the print book apply here, as far as the excruciating delays and obstacles that the characters had to overcome just to get minor pieces of information. At least in the book you can skip over the repeated incidents of Badri saying, "Something's... wrong." And of Kivrin trying and failing to speak to the knight but never quite being able to, despite being in the same room with him on multiple occasions. With the audio book you have to listen to every bloody word. It went on, and on, and on, like a nightmare. After a while I started to hate it quite a lot. I kept waiting for it to GO somewhere, for something to HAPPEN. And it never did.
I like long books. If you do too, for the sake of our sanity read/ listen to something else.
Connie Willis' book was written in early 1990's and that can be clearly noticed. It takes place in what is still our future and it's full of people who try to connect with other people over failing telephone land lines (as if cell phones were not invented in 1992 and the author could not foresee future ways of communication and mankind had to resport to old bakelite phones). Now, this is supposed to be science fiction. A basic ingredient in sf is what is termed as "sense of wonder", meaning that you as the reader should feel removed from this world by the ideas presented in the sf story. Today time travel is a gadet frequently used in sf, so Connie Willis has not invented something new. Even though she presents the idea with a new twist (called "slippage" - the time elasticity caused by time travel itself), it does not reach the sense of wonder threshold. But that is not the worst - this book should have been edited down to less than one third of what it is today. There are so many side plots and alleyways leading nowhere that you wonder if the editor of this book was awake at all. Each conversation and event is dragged out by the author to the point that you as a listener just want to scream: "Get to the point". I just could not complete listening to this book, I gave up after the second part (of three). It was simply just so bo boring and not rewarding to continue. The narrator does a good enough job, but that does not help if the basic structure is so out of joint.
Only from Connie Willis
Chapter 2-34 (Book has 35 chapters)
I think Connie Willis must have been smoking pot when she wrote this. She keeps writing the same things, over and over and over again. The plague was bad, somebody dies, somebody's sad, the plague was bad, somebody dies, somebody's sad....
It is very long. It takes forever to get to a point of interest. There's very little suspense or conflict in the story.
The narration of this book was fine, but the story was both formulaic and boring. I didn't care about anyone in the story and just had to stop listening about 2/3rds of the way in, when it became clear that I wasn't -going- to care about any of them.
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
We're in the middle of the 21st century, and a group of Oxford scholars are now able to travel back in time. Young student Kivrin Engle has a passion for the middle ages, and the object of the next study involves traveling to the 14th century Oxford region in 1320, well before the arrival of the bubonic plague of 1348 which killed off entire villages. Kivrin has spent years preparing for this trip, and even though professor Dunworthy thinks her too young and worries the trip is fraught with too many dangers, she hasn't wasted time learning Middle English and Latin and the various tasks and labours expected of the young noblewoman she is meant to impersonate. But things have gone wrong from the start. When she arrives in the 14th century, she is badly disoriented and falls gravely ill. She is found and brought to the home of a family who do their best to nurse her back to health, but though she has spent many dedicated months to prepare for this journey, she soon discovers all her studies have been for naught, because for one thing, she can't communicate with them. Meanwhile, in the Oxford of the 21st century, things are going very wrong too. Badri Chaudhuri, the young technician responsible for setting up the apparatus for Kivrin's time travel, seeks out Dunworthy to tell him that "something is very wrong", but he can say no more than that, having fallen gravely ill and suffering from high fevers which put his life at risk, so that all he is able to communicate through the better half of this lengthy novel is that "something is wrong" over and over and over again.
The very beginning of the story showed great promise, and I found all the details about 14th century England fascinating, but I felt that for at least the first half of the narrative barely anything happened at all and we were circling round the same details again and again, as if in a bad dream. I quickly lost patience and was ready to give up, but so many fans of this book assured me it was well worth the effort that I stuck to it. The story that finally emerges is a good one, but I would probably have enjoyed it more had there been a serious editing job done, since so much of the book was taken up with what seemed like filler. Had the novel been cut by half, I would probably have thought it was pretty great, but as it is I have a hard time believing that it won prestigious awards (the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards among many others), and had to overcome a lot of frustration to finish it. I think I found a reasonable compromise with my current rating.
You might love it completely, and then again, you may not.