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)
This book was long. And repetitive. And long...
One reviewer said the characters bleated -- almost 30 hours of whining. The characters were all one note, every time they appeared they were reacting the same way they did last time. I am a huge history buff and especially interested in the time of the plague, but after 15 hours, frankly I didn't care. I know how Europe's encounter with the plague came out and just sort of wished they get on with it.
What a great idea and what a horrible execution. Like reviewer Frank, I bought this on the strength of the favorable reviews and impressive awards. I will cast a more skeptical eye on such things in the future. Our heroine goes on an ill-considered mission to the middle ages and we are treated to hours and hours of repetitive bleatings from her and everyone else in the book about how the mistake was made. It is repetitive to the point of exhaustion. The descriptions are hackneyed and the characters cartoons. Everyone involved in the plot seems dimwitted -- and we wait many chapters for them to come to insights that were either obvious from the get-go or inconsequential or, more often, both.
That this book won awards as the best of its year (in two different years for some reason) is astonishing. There are reasons some academies decide NOT to give out awards in years when the quality is not up to the standards of other years -- lest the laureates taint the laurel. Doomsday Book is an argument for such restraint on the part of Hugo and Nebula juries of the future.
There are a lot of TV documentaries nowadays that take a tiny snippet of real information that could easily be covered in five minutes and stretch it out for an hour or more. Connie Willis' writing is like that, but in the reading it stretches to 26 hours.
Sadly, she's actually quite a good writer, with reasonably good ideas, she just has no sense whatsoever of when suspense has reached a point where it needs to be resolved. Instead, she tortures her readers for hours by holding out a carrot of some revelation that never comes, forcing them to slog their way through the molasses of page after page after page of filler material without any real content, that contributes nothing at all to the progress or understanding of the story.
I have always considered abridging to be a crime against literature, but in this case it is a crime that this book was not abridged. At least two thirds of it is wholly extraneous and could be slashed without any loss at all. Many passages could be cut from ten pages to two paragraphs and the result would be much, much better.
The fact that this book was published in this form is probably more the fault of the editors than the author. Many writers produce first drafts as bad as this, it's the job of the editor to tell them as gently as possible that it has the makings of a very good book -- and it does -- but that to be more readable there needs to be less of it.
Or as Mark Twain said, the art of good writing is knowing what to leave in the pen.
This book was over 26 hours long . . . which was one of the reasons I chose it as one of my monthly picks - I like long books. But I'd estimate that about 20 hours of it was information that didn't contribute to the story line at all. Don't waste your credits on this one unless they offer it in an abridged version - you won't be missing anything.
This is probably one of the worst books I have had the unfortunate pleasure of downloading. As one reviewer pointed out, it was a great idea, but dreadfully executed. I also agree with some of the other critiques that this book was poorly written and was in serious need of a better editor. From a science fiction point-of-way, I kept yelling at the characters for their stupidity and the author's lack imagination or depth. Here are some prime examples:
1) The author can imagine time travel in 2050, but when it comes to telecommunications the only advancement is landline videophones. This is extremely irritating since a good part of the story takes place in the future with a pandemic over the Christmas holidays and communication is a central dilemma. Yes, we had cell phones in the 90s when this was published.
2) Who in their right mind would send someone back in time and only have one person on staff that could understand the technical readouts to see if the transfer/event was successful or not? It was so frustrating to keep hearing one of the main characters go on and on about finding out if their time traveler was okay or not because the only person that knew was conveniently ill.
3) The heroine of the story was setup as being extremely intelligent, but why would you go back in time and not bother to find out what year it was? Why would you not practice using your language translator ahead of time? Why would you plant a tape-recorder under your skin to record your observations, but not a tracking device?
My recommendation, don't waste your time
This book proves the case that some reads are far better abridged, than unabridged. This one needs to be SUPER-abridged. Repetitious, boring, tedious, rambling and, did I mention, repetitious and rambling? In the end, too many unanswered questions to situations mentioned over and over in the book, but never explained. Also, time travel can be a tricky thing, but at the very end of the book, the use of a “locator” has to be the icing on the cake. They didn’t have satellites back in 1348 to my knowledge. Two stars would be too generous.
The science fiction elements are few but required as they are the bits that allow the story to be. The people are the bones that walk the story forwards. An interesting presentation (flashing back and forth between times and situations) of memorable characters.
..for me to get into this one - the descriptions of 'modern day' feel so 1950's and a bit shallow! I feel inclined to read more about the Black Death now - the action in that period is great fun. Couldn't wait to get in the car and find out what happened next.
This is the most boring book I ever read. The dark nature of it and the repetitious verbage just drove me crazy. Very poorly written.
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