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)
lover of dogs, fantasy, celts, mysteries & kitsch
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 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.
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!
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.
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
A pessimist might say, well that's 26 and a half hours of my life I'll never get back. An optimist might respond, well at least it saves us from having to listen to the other 63 and a half hours of this series. Seriously: you've been warned.
Neil Young once introduced his song, Don't Let It Bring You Down, by saying, here's a song guaranteed to bring you right down -- it starts off slowly and then peters out altogether. If only that were true of Doomsday Book, which starts of slowly, 18 hours worth of slow, and then turns downright awful for the final eight hours. Unless you've been hankering for graphic descriptions of death by plague (eight hours worth!), consider yourself warned.
At the 18 hour mark, there was a moment where I thought this might all be worth it. I could see exactly how Willis could bring together her story of time travel from the mid-21st century to the 14th century, with its bookend epidemics and attempts to bring the time traveller back from the deep dark past. But instead of tying together the scant plot strands, she gives us eight hours of the plague.
I listened to Willis's Bellwether and absolutely loved it. A neat, satisfying six and a half hour bundle of genius. I thought Doomsday Book might be Bellwether times four, the entire Oxford series Bellwether times fourteen. If only Willis had distilled this down to a manageable 8-12 hours, maybe it would have lived up to its hype and awards (by cutting out the endless repetition, for example, or cutting down the graphic description of the plague -- half an hour of plague would have sufficed).
This is beyond disappointment. This was simply awful -- 18 hours of boring followed by eight hours of awful. Thanks to Jenny Sterlin for narration that at least makes the listening easy on the ears. Too bad the writing was not at the same level.
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!
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.
It's like watching a history channel documentary, she keeps repeating the same information over and over. This was a very long and gruesome tale with no point to it. There is some description of life circa 1350 and a lot of descriptions of how awful being sick can be. The science fiction part, time travel, is weak. I get the impression she didn't want to be repetitive on this part of the story. As for the story, it is very predictable and I found no one interesting outside the damsel in distress and by the end just wished they'd all hurry up and die.
The narrator is very good, but, in keeping with the story, goes very slowly.
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
I hated the Doomsday Book and I totally hated that I could have been spared this 26 hour agony had I only done what I almost always do - READ THE REVIEWS. I usually read many of a book's reviews before buying and I look especially for the more critical reviews since they tend to tell me more of what I want to know. In the case of Doomsday Book there are MANY negative reviews so even though Audible doesn't make critical reviews easy to find, it would not have been hard with this book. But no - I stupidly assumed a book that won both Nebula and Hugo awards had to be good if not great. I mean really - this book is in the rarefied company of truly stellar sci-fi like Ender's Game, Left Hand of Darkness, and Dune. I read the reviews on this book AFTER slogging through this bloated pig of a book and found they were much more interesting and better written than the book itself. To those of you who might have spared me, thanks for taking the time, sorry I was too stupid to take advantage of your efforts.
I am adding my voice to the chorus just to work out some aggravation over this one. The flaws in Doomsday Book are numerous:
* NO Editing
* Poor Writing - repetitive, cliched, terrible dialog, flat out boring sequences of characters' agonizing internally, cardboard characters, stupid and repeated plot devices, no suspense because the author takes 17 hours to get to the big reveal which is actually on the book's cover and you'd figure out anyway after about the first chapter, etc.
* Unrealistic Settings - you have a time machine and there is no advanced security for the system, the head of the HISTORY dept. is making decisions about the use of the machine, there is only one tech on duty and when he falls ill there seems to be no backup whatsoever. On and on ridiculous beyond anyone's ability to suspend disbelief.
* Terrible Narration - character voices are awful especially the children and Jenny Sterlin can't do an American accent at all. Sterlin is so slow and deliberate in delivery with a book that is already horribly slow.
But in my mind, the cardinal sin of this book is that Connie Willis has NO excuse whatsoever for the total miss on the sci-fi side of this book. She may have researched the 14th century, but she didn't seem to have even noticed technology in her own time! Published in 1992 with futuristic part of the novel set in the 2050's:
* There are no cell phones or any type of portable communication device except something called a "bleeper" which seems to be nothing but a 2050 version of a beeper (oooh - that's creative). C'mon, mobile communications technology has been around since the 40's and the first cell phones hit the scene in 1973! (I had a car phone in 1988.) But our doofus "hero" waits around for a "trunk" call - PUHLEAZE! Willis makes a point to mention that phone calls have video like that's a big advancement - I was installing teleconferencing units in 1984.
* No GPS - GPS was invented in 1974
* No Internet/email - First commercial email service was available in 1976. First host-to-host connection which launched the internet was in 1969 and this connectivity came to be called the Internet by the early 70's.
* Little advancement in medicine or transportation between 1992 and 2050.
Connie Willis must have been living under a rock. None of the technologies like cellular communications, the Internet/email, GPS were top secret in 1992 and a quick skim of any science/technology journal would have told her all about it. I can't understand how she or the Hugo/Nebula voters thought that a society that would have time travel technology would have lost communications technology that was invented in the 1940's!
I don't recommend this book to anyone. I have no idea how it won awards, but it has proven to me that no awards or acclaim guarantees a good book. Live and learn...
"enthralling tale of time travel"
do not be put off by the old fashioned start to this book as it improves as it goes on and the plot unfolds. I will be searching out another book by this author. Agreat listen
"You have to listen to this"
This book is excellant. So many superb twists and turns it makes you want to keep listening. It'll make you laugh cry and smile like the village idiot whilst sat on the bus. The interaction of the characters is so fatastic would definately recommend. A must listen to.
"Disappointing comedy of manners"
This listener found Jenny Sterlin's voice flat and uninteresting, which was a drawback for such a long book. There's also a passage of a few paragraphs which gets repeated in the first section of the download, an indication of a lower standard of audio production than most recent Audible recordings.
As for the story itself, I was very disappointed. The pace is extremely leisurely and while the depiction of the pettiness of academic life is mildly amusing, the story failed to grip. Every time I was getting into it, I found myself shaken out by jarring inaccuracies of language or geographical detail. Clearly, these haven't bothered other listeners, but this one found that they severely impeded his ability to suspend disbelief.
A British character who refers to cars as "automobiles"? Cases that are called "valises"? A hospital accident and emergency department called "Casualties" rather than "Casualty"? A pub in the centre of Oxford which is nearly empty a few days before Christmas?
The geography is particularly bad. The heroine, who has travelled back to the fourteenth century to a location 10 miles west of Oxford, imagines that she might be able to see the sky glow of London "50 miles away". From that location, mediaeval London would be 70 miles away. I can't imagine much of a sky glow at that period but, besides, the Chiltern Hills would have blocked any such view even had it been available.
In her cover story, she is supposedly travelling from Yorkshire to Evesham via Oxford, which is a strange and indirect route to take, and is travelling on the road from Oxford to Bath, which runs in entirely the wrong direction.
Such details are individually trivial but cumulatively produce an impression of an author who really doesn't know Oxford and has a poor grasp of British idiom.
I was hoping for history and adventure, but while these are present, they are mostly subordinated to a mild and uninvolving comedy of manners. Disappointing.
I am certainly no historian and do not know much about the medieval ways of life but this book is very well written, well read, entertaining, impossible to put down. It certainly made me go to the library and start reading about that period in the history books!
"A Smashing Book"
I am not going to comment on how this book is written because I am not qualified to do so, but as an avid reader I do know what I enjoy. This book was one of the best books I have ever read, and as my eyesight is deteriorating now, I shall be purchasing this book so that I can listen to it as much as I wish. Thanks Audible for making it available.
"One of the best simply!"
This is something unusual, a well written really engaging historically true story that simply is almost perfect!
I'm slowly working my way through award winning science fiction and I was really excited about this book. I have a degree in Medieval History and this seemed to combine my two favorite reading genres. The book however was very disappointing. I can't flaw the history, but the story was so dire. No humor, no passion, no excitement. It was mundane banality. I closed the book with a profound feeling of depression and anti climax. I found it difficult to relate to any of the characters, and often found my self wishing that the book would get to the point. I won't give a one star review. That is reserved for tripe such as Jordan's numerous biographies, but I would not recommend reading this book.
"Imagine getting stuck in the 14th century!"
This book has two story threads running through it, both set in and around Oxford.
It is set in 2054 and time travel is possible, but done only by historical researchers - but no-one has gone back as far as the 14th century.
The story is based in and around Oxford University and a young student called Kivrin who is determined to get back to the 14th century.
Kivrin does get back to the 14th century against Mr Dunworthy's advice but the trip is not as straight-forward as she had expected.
Kevrin has recorders embedded in her wrists and she records her life in a medieval village - this is what she calls her 'Doomsday Book' and what gives the book its title. There are extracts at the end of many of the chapters.
Together with her troubles in the past there is a parallel story being played out in 2054 Oxford and the story chops and changes between the two.
An archaeologist is excavating an old abandoned church in 2054 Oxford ares and it is to this village that Kivrin is supposedly being sent back to - so the story plays out supposedly in the same place but different centuries.
It does look a long book but it is one I have thoroughly enjoyed each time I have read it.
It is quite hard to review the story without giving plot spoilers away but I shall try.
This book combined two of my interests - time travel and history.
I had not read any of Connie's books before this one so came to it fresh.
Since though I have read a few more of her books and enjoyed them all, but this is my all time favourite.
I enjoyed the element of twin stories unravelling together. Though the story set in the 14th century is more compelling for me.
I especially enjoyed the details of life and clothing in the 14th century. Plus there was a lot of discussion to begin with as to how words were pronouced and how Kivrin had been taught the wrong pronouceations - though she did have an embedded translator that helped her understand others and also be understood.
It was a large book of 650 pages but I read it over a few days and felt sorry when it was finished - though I couldn't wait to get to the end to see what happened. It is a pity that Connie Willis never wrote a sequel to this story.
I enjoyed this on two levels - first as a good science fiction read but also as it gave me an added insight into what medieval life was like and I will use that information when I imagine how life was like in and around our little village.
Although science fiction in the sense that Kivrin got to the 14th century via time travel, a lot of the book is about her life in the past, how the people there lived, their hopes and dreams and how they persevered through adversity.
The research seemed very thorough into living conditions back in the 14th century - from the type of dye used on their clothing to the way women had to behave and how young girls were betrothed at an early age.
Some have commented that her geography relating to the Oxford area is not as accurate as it could be but personally I cannot comment and it is a fictional story after all so I do not fault it on that.
Being written by an American there are one or two odd turns of phrase - such as 'muffler' instead of 'scarf' and terrorist' clothes instead of 'camouflage'. But these are very small and do not detract from the reading of the story.
The future part of the story set in 2054 does rather oddly not feature mobile phones at all - though whether by error or design I am not sure. However it does help with some of the twists of the story which relies on certain people not be able to be contacted.
This book is written in such a way that it really brings the people from the past alive - they are there talking with different forms of speech, but they still have their needs and worries as we do today. Some are mean and spiteful while others are generous to a fault.
There are one or two bits that could have been edited out to shorten the book but personally I thoroughly enjoyed the easy place of the story.
Kivrin was a young girl when she travelled back into the past - but her experience was mind-blowing.
I am glad in a way that this has never been turned into a movie. I have such a vivid image of the people and places in the story that I think any film would ruin the illusion of the images I have made.
Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1993).
5 stars. An excellent read.
Would I Recommend?
Yes. Even after such a long book I still wanted more.
Connie has written other time travel books in the same vein which I have enjoyed - 'Blackout' and 'All Clear'. She has also written other books and many short stories.
"Detailed Enjoyable Read"
Not for the faint-hearted and much better than the books even. The narrator brought the characters alive. I liked the accuracy and personal experience of the Black Plague. As a Time Travel author myself, I was impressed with the plot and how it was tied to the current day storyline to make it more interesting. Young Colin was my favourite character.
I'll be listening to Blackout next. I can't wait!
"A slow starter, but worth the patience"
Yes, it was a nice combination of future society/attitudes and historical perspective
Kivrin finally forgets the need to get to the drop in her wish to help the contemps
No, and she does have a couple of irritating verbal mannerisms, but after a while I managed to forget these
I found myself wanting to scream at some of the characters who seem incapable of answering a question! There was a lot of frustration, but I suppose the plot would not have continued without them.
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