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Doomsday Book | [Connie Willis]

Doomsday Book

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.
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Publisher's Summary

One of the most respected and awarded of all contemporary science-fiction writers, Connie Willis repeatedly amazes her many admiring fans with her ability to create vivid characters in unusual situations. With Doomsday Book, she takes listeners on a thrilling trip through time to discover the things that make us most human.

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

What the Critics Say

  • Hugo Award, Best Novel, 1993
  • Nebula Award, Best Novel, 1992

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (2638 )
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3.9 (1920 )
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4.1 (1899 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Rita Lake Charles, LA, USA 07-16-08
    Rita Lake Charles, LA, USA 07-16-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    25
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    "fantastic novel"

    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.

    25 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew FAIR OAKS, CA, United States 03-22-15
    Andrew FAIR OAKS, CA, United States 03-22-15 Member Since 2009

    I'm a web developer based out of Sacramento, I listen to books while I work, and love audible.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    97
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    301
    188
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    12
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Don't Know How People Like this"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tamara heyfieldAustralia 05-01-08
    Tamara heyfieldAustralia 05-01-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    18
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    "A great story"

    I really enjoyed this book. Although it started a little slowly, I became totally absorbed in the two worlds, staying in my car once I reached home after work, not wanting to stop listening. The characters -especially Colin, Kivrin, Dunworthy, Agnes and Father Roche were well thought out, and the relationship between Kivrin and Agnes was very special. Christmas Eve, with the beautiful night, and the feasting: the suspense kept on building. The book ended almost too suddenly, and I was left wanting to know more. A good sign perhaps. I enjoyed the narration - Jenny Sterlin. Well worth listening to.

    18 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan APO, AP, USA 04-20-09
    Susan APO, AP, USA 04-20-09 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
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    "Amazing book"

    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.

    13 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel 02-05-12
    Daniel 02-05-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    79
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    248
    17
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    3
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    Story
    "save your credit"

    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.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Prsilla 06-09-10
    Prsilla 06-09-10 Member Since 2014

    Retired to mountains of California. Sell on eBay as Prsilla. No TV. Volunteer in wildlife rehab. Knit, sew or embroider while listening.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    394
    ratings
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    148
    112
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    5
    Overall
    "Sobering Trip Back in Time"

    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.

    17 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Coventry, CT, USA 12-01-08
    Robert Coventry, CT, USA 12-01-08 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    604
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    "A Great Story with Wonderful Characters"

    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.

    17 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Heather Durham, Ontario, Canada 03-22-10
    Heather Durham, Ontario, Canada 03-22-10 Member Since 2010

    knitting and listening to Audible = perfect way to spend time!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
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    "intriguing blend of history and science fiction"

    I downloaded this book after hearing an interview on Audible. I was very pleased with my selection and found it hard to stop listening! Both the writer and the reader made the characters and place come alive.
    If you like history, even if the Middle Ages isn't your area of expertise, you will like this story.

    16 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Victoria 02-25-15
    Victoria 02-25-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    Story
    "Coincidence, repetition and ignorant characters."
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Junior high school students maybe, because it sounds like a junior high school student wrote it.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    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.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    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.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. J. Lopez 02-02-15
    R. J. Lopez 02-02-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    35
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    Story
    "Like nails on a chalkboard!"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Nothing. The story and characters were horrible.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Time travel but as far away from this book as possible!


    What about Jenny Sterlin’s performance did you like?

    She really voiced the different characters with their feelings and emotions well.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    1) The reader was excellent!
    2) The character "Collin" was the only breath of fresh air.


    Any additional comments?

    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!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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  • J. L. Cronshaw
    Leeds, UK
    2/4/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Apocalyptic!"

    Excellent story, very good narration. Bridge between well-researched historical fiction and English scifi. highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Eva
    1/14/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Michelle
    Hawthorn, Australia
    10/1/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rosemary
    Wentworthville, Australia
    5/19/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    4/10/13
    Overall
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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