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)
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.
retired litigation lawyer; I read history; historical fiction; literary fiction. Narrator ++ important. Story equally so
previous reviews seem to either love this book, or find it to be overwritten. I fall closer to the latter.
There were elements that were very good. The narrator is excellent, superb. The amount of detail that Willis gives for the preparation of time travel was, at first, intriguing and unique. The story does have imagination.BUT, a big but, the length of the book, ( and I mean how long she takes to tell the story, not the length per se) and the unnecessary ( often boring) detail, and meanderings off the main trail, made it very tedious to get to the end. I finished it only because of two reasons. One, well, I'm OCD about these things. Two, the latter portion of the book got considerably more interesting than the former.
I recommended only if you have lots [and lots] of patience with the developing story. Otherwise, a pass.
"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.
"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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