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.
Say something about yourself!
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'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.
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!
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...
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.
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.
The interplay between the events in future Oxford and 14th century Oxford is beguiling and dizzying. The theme of the ringing of bell changes is a metaphor for this intricate counterpoint of events. The historical details of the past are solid and convincing, and so are the characters of both periods. Agnes, presented with all the exasperating traits that five-year-olds try adults with, is probably the most convincing and lovable portrayal of a young child I have ever encountered in literature. The account of the Black Death and all its horror and grief is not easy reading, but it shouldn't be. It is a real reminder of what life can be like for human beings in any age. The tale is, in the end, consoling and hopeful.
Oh, and in parts, it is very funny.
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.
"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.
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!
"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.
"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.
Report Inappropriate Content