For Oxford student Kivrin, traveling back to the 14th century is more than the culmination of her studies - it's the chance for a wonderful adventure. For Dunworthy, her mentor, it is cause for intense worry about the thousands of things that could go wrong. When an accident leaves Kivrin trapped in one of the deadliest eras in human history, the two find themselves in equally gripping - and oddly connected - struggles to survive.
Deftly juggling stories from the 14th and 21st centuries, Willis provides thrilling action - as well as an insightful examination of the things that connect human beings to each other.
©1992 Connie Willis; (P)2000 Recorded Books
"Ms. Willis displays impressive control of her material; virtually every detail introduced in the early chapters is made to pay off as the separate threads of the story are brought together." (The New York Times Book Review)
"A stunning novel that encompasses both suffering and hope....The best work yet from one of science fiction's best writers." (The Denver Post)
Love audio books & reading reviews
I mistakenly read this series out of order starting with book 2 first. That book "To Say Nothing of the Dog" was an upbeat, funny, and happy experience. The title of this book should be a warning to future readers--"Doomsday". Don't start this book thinking this will be a happy listen. Very long, repetitive, plodding and detailed. That said, I admit I still couldn't stop listening. Time travel and enthralling stories that alternate between past and future. Characters are developed into people that captivate and make the long hours of listening possible. A thoughtful look at time, perception, life, illness and epidemics. A perfect example that even a grueling book can be worth a listen.
Now more than ever, I am recommending that everyone I know listen to this book. It is an amazing, satisfying, beautiful and terrible story mostly about a time traveler who is trapped in a small medieval village that is stricken by the plague. Meanwhile, current day Oxfordshire is also suffering from an especially virulent flu and attendant quarantine. The book was written in 1992 and much of the action takes place in a squalid, medieval village and yet it is all terribly timely. The characters and setting are beautifully written and this is one of the most moving books I've ever had the pleasure of reading or listening to.
Three more selling points for this great book: 1) I love a good, long book from Audible and "Doomsday" is a wonderful 26 hours and 30 minuets of listening to one of my favorite narrators, Jenny Sterlin. 2) "Doomsday won a Hugo Award in 93 and Nebula Award in 92 and 3) Connie Willis has written another book with some of the same characters that is much lighter in tone yet still very worth reading and a good way to recover from the terrible, searing beauty of "The Doomsday Book". That other book is also available on Audible :"To Say Nothing of the Dog"
Listen to "Doomsday" first, save "To Say Nothing of the Dog" to cheer you up and you can then finish off with Jerome K Jerome's sweetly funny "Three Men in a Boat". There- I've just come up with a great plan for your next 50 or hours of Audible listening. You can thank me later. After you've thoroughly enjoyed all of these amazing books.
I listened to this on vacation and the beach, and it promised to be pure, guilty-pleasure ear candy. I was not disappointed by the writing, the concept, or the reading (the narrator is fanTAStic).
However, I would put a warning label on this that the whole second half of the book is (vague spoiler alert) sort of a sinkhole of depressing events. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone looking for a "pick-me-up" or a happily-ever-after type story.
I guess a book about the plague wouldn't be a typical candidate for that anyway, but for history buffs like me, taking a time machine back to the Middle Ages sounds like such a "fun" idea...and this just isn't a "fun" story.
Still, DEFINITELY worth a read...when you're in the right mood for a downer.
I loved this book! I listened to another Willis book "To Say Nothing of the Dog" (also an award winner) and enjoyed it immensely. Then, I debated downloading this one. The terrible reviews almost stopped me - but I'm so glad I didn't listen to them. I imagine fans of action/adventure-oriented Science Fiction would not appreciate it. However, if you like more character-oriented scifi, historical novels and British literature, you are likely to enjoy this as I did. I agree that the narration isn't especially outstanding, but I found it perfectly adequate. The characters are very well-developed and many are truly lovable. Try it!
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.
Very disappointed in this book. It was no where near as enjoyable as the author's book, "To Say Nothing of the Dog." Save your money and skip this dreary book!
The interplay between the events in future Oxford and 14th century Oxford is beguiling and dizzying. The theme of the ringing of bell changes is a metaphor for this intricate counterpoint of events. The historical details of the past are solid and convincing, and so are the characters of both periods. Agnes, presented with all the exasperating traits that five-year-olds try adults with, is probably the most convincing and lovable portrayal of a young child I have ever encountered in literature. The account of the Black Death and all its horror and grief is not easy reading, but it shouldn't be. It is a real reminder of what life can be like for human beings in any age. The tale is, in the end, consoling and hopeful.
Oh, and in parts, it is very funny.
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.
I'd read this book a couple times on paper already, so I knew it was long and layered...and feared slightly that an audio version might make it more confusing, but it didn't. The narrator did a great job of conveying the story and maintaining clarity.
I understand that some listeners find the beginning a little hard to get into, but those who stick with it will be rewarded. The characters become incredibly, heartbreakingly real, as do the worlds Willis painstakingly creates. I listened to this a year ago, and I still think of it often. Willis is one of our great writers crossing the border between sci-fi and "serious" fiction.
"Grueling in places but worth it"
A book about time travel to the Black Death from a future world suffering a pandemic was never going to be exactly cheery. This one is so well written it gets very bleak without being gratuitous. Its also often funny. And I couldn't stop reading, even when I was crying. I HAD to see it through. There were times I wondered if anyone would make it out of the book alive. Be warned, you'll think you can see what's coming and you will often be wrong. Many twists and turns. Ultimately I found the ending satisfying. Connie Willis makes you like the characters, in spite of their many flaws, so that you are sucked into their experience. Jennie Sterlin is a wonderful narrator for this story and I never got lost about who was speaking.
"History and time travel and grime."
I really enjoyed the premise of this story, the whole idea seemed quite plausible if the science exists, which it doesn't yet, unless the Historians are here observing and I haven't spotted them. There's no science in this sci fi story as it focusses more on personality and the interaction of the characters and here's where the problem lies for me. Connie Willis makes them really stupid at times and they repeat themselves unnecessarily. I felt I wanted to get hold of the editor, if there was one, give them a good shake and have them excise the extraneous, repetitive mental maunderings. Is there an abridged version? Jenny Stirlin did a sterling job (pun intended) and I applaud her narration, she made this very long story come alive. Also on the plus side, the 14th Century in all its archaic, smelly, dirty, winteriness is very well described. There is some lovely medieval language which flavours the whole book, and the medical aspects were obviously researched, except for the rude, unobservant 21st century nursing staff who annoyed me as well and yes, I do know what I'm talking about as I am in the medical field. Oh its the occasional outbreaks of stupidity of the people inhabiting this book that annoyed me so much, possibly needed as a plot device to move the story along? If so it didn't work for me. I had heard Connie Willis's sequel to this book; "All Clear" first and although there was annoying repetition in that shorter book, it was an easier listen and I enjoyed it, which is why I chose "Doomsday Book". Maybe there was better editing in "All Clear" or Connie had whittled her writing style, anyway be forewarned and forearmed, this is a good book if what bothered me doesn't bother you.
"Wonderfully swept along with the story"
I love the mixture of time travel, history, university politics, science and health in a great story that moves between the middle ages to now in and near Oxford UK. Good main characters and terrific narration too. Very sad to reach the end of it.
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