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)
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...
After reading a whole slew of exited, glowing reviews, I optimistically downloaded this book. Sadly, as I slogged through the narrators bland reading, I came to realize this was not nearly the book I had hoped it would be. The time spent in the 'present' is a particular snooze, with me wishing for a switch back to the middle ages, where I at least felt I could learn something new. Indeed, this was the book's only redeeming feature--Connie Willis must have either quite an imagination or is a very thorough researcher. I was very interested in her descriptions of middle age life and customs, and the statistics of the plague she cited were also very interesting, humbling, and downright scary. For this reason alone I gave the book 2 stars and not one. As another reviewer stated, this book is also rather a downer...I'm not the fluffy feathers and floating hearts type but man...I was a little depressed at the end of this story. If you really want a wonderful time travel book, download Stephen King's "11/22/63". The reader is LIGHT YEARS better and so is the story. Don't waste your time on this downer/snoozer.
I can truly say this is one of the slowest books I have ever read. I can only imaging that the editor was afraid of the author or perhaps on vacation.
The same exact points are made over and over and over until I wanted to scream. What in the world was the author trying to accomplish? Was it intended as an endurance test?
One of the characters announces that something has gone wrong and then faints before he can say what. Improbable. But ok. I accepted that the first time. But he does it again. And again.
One of the characters has gone fishing. No one knows where he is. We know that because we are told that over and over and over.
Another character is an insufferable snot who makes the same threat again and again and again until I wanted to reach through the speaker and strangle him.
Now... If you think I've made this point too many times, just wait until you listen to this recording.
I cannot imagine how this could have gotten an award. It doesn't deserve an award. It deserves an abridgment.
The sad thing is that there really is a good story in here. The premise is great. The characters are engaging. I was drawn in by them. I felt compelled to carry on to the end. But it was a near thing. Twice I quit. If I'd had a well paced alternative waiting unread in my library, I wouldn't have made it.
There is an excellent 7 hour story in this 26-1/2 hour recording. If you get it I recommend playing it at 2x speed (or 3x if you can tolerate it). And don't expect anything much to happen for the first say 2/3 of the story.
I'm a web developer based out of Sacramento, I listen to books while I work, and love audible.
To be honest I've only gotten 6 hours into the audiobook, but those 6 hours where pure torture.
I when thinking of reviews to write for this book, I was hard put to come up with something that didn't insult those that liked it. At first I was going to write, "Author embarks on project to write story for idiots and succeeds." But then I realized that there are many people that like this book, and I know they are all not idiots so I will just explain what happened in those first tortuous 6 hours and other can form their own opinions of this book.
First off I can't fathom how this book was nominated for any Sci-Fi awards. As this book has very little to do with science. Sure there is time travel, but it's never explored in a scientific manner at all, in fact that author sends a lot more time writing about railway time tables than time travel.
This book winning a Sci-Fi award would be like 50 Shades of Gray winning a literary award.
So this book starts out on an utterly idiotic premiss and only gets worse from there. A woman is to be sent back to the middle ages alone to study the middle ages. Now just think about that for a second, they are going to send a person alone to the most brutal time in human history, an this person happens to be a woman, in a time when women where considered to be property.
Now first off to send anyone back to the middle ages alone would require that everyone in an organization had gone full retard, yet the author portrays these people as being intelligent professors. Second to accept going back in time alone would to the middle ages of a female historian, that knows more about the middle ages that 90% of the world population put together requites that an author go full retard.
So the woman goes back in time, then she immediately gets sick and so does one of the technician.
In between all the action of 2 people getting sick, I know action packed right? People miss trains and catch trains, then call each other about the trains the people missed or caught. And just to make the story seem more intelligent, all the women blush when a someone mentions the name of the man they like, because that just makes the book seem so much more real right?
And that is literally all that happened in 6 hours of audiobook. And honestly I'm not willing to suffer through another 20 hours of this drivel about railway time tables and women blushing at the mention of the man they love, while two people slowly get sick.
Retired to mountains of California. Sell on eBay as Prsilla. No TV. Volunteer in wildlife rehab. Knit, sew or embroider while listening.
This book is a Medieval cliff-hanger. It rings true to an English major and history buff. It switches between centuries very well. It is full of maddeningly slow procedures, difficulties, barriers, enforcers of rules, people (and cows) who only get in the way, who don't know or won't say. I loved all the different characters of all ages in both centuries and an appreciation of each person's life fitting into the whole story. Do not listen on a rainy day, especially if you are depressed already; and try to have some knitting to do or you might bite your fingernails. While the book has descriptions of rare beauty and magnificent fine character and noble acts, it is also not really a pleasant journey. With less than hour to go, there are still miles to cover in the snow and people to find. A beautifully crafted story, but unlike many really good reads, you're quite relieved when it's over. And I am sure I will listen again. P.S. Nobody milked the cow.
This story takes a while to get going, but stick with it, as it is the best audible book I have listened to with only one exception (The Company). But this story has better characters and is recommended for both Science Fiction fans as well as those who enjoy history. Indeed, this story has the same historical depth and feeling as Ken Follett's The Pillars of Earth. The reader is great and adds much to the quality of the experience. This is Connie Willis' best book. After the first third, you will not be able to put it down, and skipping work to listen to it is compulsory.
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.
I had read Connie Willis' book, To Say Nothing of the Dog. It was lighthearted, historically interesting, fun. This was dark, dismal, historically interesting and so depressing. A good read if you don't mind death, pestulence, putrification. I couldn't wait for it to end.
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 story was good,but come on! you hear what happens in excruciating detail, then the character tells someone what happened in almost as much detail, then guess what? it happens again. And all the gruesome details. . . . ick! I really wanted to like this book; but won't be back for any more! The narrator was good, tho.
This book is so wonderful. I don't even know what to say about it. So wonderful but so devastating. It brings two periods (the unknown future and the unknowable Middle Ages) that I love together.
Jenny Sterlin's narration is very good. The way she pronounces the Latin and some of the other foreign words and names is at times cringe-worthy, but it's minimal.
"Very good story"
The story is amazing a very enjoyable
The narration is excellent but when the narrator takes a break she said the word break which was not edited out
"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.
"Drop the Telephone spoils a good story"
I got a great feel for what it may have been like to live through the Black Death.
Sadly Connie Willis chose to pad the story out with superfluous repetition, no hint of mobile phones in the mid 21st century leading to silly repetitive story lines about not being able to contact people. In a similar vein if we can invent a sub dermal recording device surly a micro beacon to enable "Historians" to find "the Drop" would not have been beyond the ability of engineers that can send people back to 1348. Again this created irritating repetitive fluff that spoiled what was a great story.
I enjoyed the historical parts of the story but then again I'm a real fan of Historical fiction.
She portrayed the emotions of the numerous characters extremely well.
Yes, it ends rather abruptly having raised loads of questions during the plot building about errors and who was at fault for this disastrous "Drop." Additionally more linking the archaeological evidence to the experiences of Kivrin and what other trips do the University staff embark on.
This was a gripping story on several levels with parallels between the past and the story's present. Unexpectedly moving and not easily forgotten.
The transformation on the naive student of the present day into a tough and resilient charactor.
Pretty much, a little slow in places, particularly the unnecessary dragging out of the Latin quotations at the start of some chapters.
A plague on you all?
Despite some minor irritations with the narration this was a cracking read which kept me up many a long hour
"Detail Detail - Far too much detail"
The authors attempts at making us imagine what it was like in England during the Black Death fall flat. The details (far too many of them for my liking) destroy the momentum. Constantly had a "let's just get on with it" feeling. The narration is so slow that I listened to the back in higher speed. The narration is also tediously monotone and bored. The story, the characters, the events are pretty banal - despite the very promising main idea.
Get it if you are very-very patient.
Excellent story, very good narration. Bridge between well-researched historical fiction and English scifi. highly recommended.
Gripping story accurately depicting peoples anxieties and worries interacting with each other. Some reviewers have commented that writing is repetitive but this is how the human mind works. Going over things in your head over and over again.
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