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Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Doomsday Book (original 1992; edition 1993)

by Connie Willis

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5,304238831 (4.12)1 / 638
Title:Doomsday Book
Authors:Connie Willis
Info:Spectra (1993), Mass Market Paperback, 592 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (1992)

Recently added byJaskier, andieaaase, AndyMD, Jay-Freeman
  1. 223
    To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (amberwitch, Othemts, Patangel)
    amberwitch: A much lighter story set in the same universe.
    Othemts: To Say Nothing of the Dog is a more light-hearted time travel adventure which is sort of a sequel to Doomsday Book. Both are excellent, enjoyable novels.
  2. 142
    Blackout by Connie Willis (bell7, loriephillips)
    bell7: Some characters return in this story, set in 1944 England, and involving similar themes of how people react in a crisis.
  3. 102
    Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (labfs39)
  4. 92
    Eifelheim by Michael Flynn (Ape)
    Ape: Far from identical stories, but both are sci-fi takes on the black death (Eifelheim: Aliens, Doomsday Book: Time Travel.) There are numerous similarities, and I think if you like one the other might be worth looking into.
  5. 70
    The Door into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein (Kichererbse)
  6. 40
    The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer (Sakerfalcon)
    Sakerfalcon: A non-fiction book about everyday life in C14th England, written as though you the reader are there. Kivrin would have found this essential reading to prepare for her journey into the past.
  7. 30
    Replay by Ken Grimwood (Kichererbse)
  8. 20
    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Rubbah)
    Rubbah: Both amazing books featuring dangerous flu like viruses and how people cope in emergency situations
  9. 76
    The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (JGolomb)
  10. 10
    The Annals of Ireland by Friar John Clyn (the_awesome_opossum)
    the_awesome_opossum: The Annals of Ireland was referenced and quoted a few times in Doomsday Book
  11. 11
    Company of Liars by Karen Maitland (Othemts)
  12. 00
    The Plague by Albert Camus (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Two books that depict how communities deal with plagues.
  13. 02
    Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: This is another book that really brings a period of history to life around you.
  14. 02
    The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter (JGolomb)
  15. 47
    World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (cmbohn)
  16. 15
    Timeline by Michael Crichton (labrick)

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English (234)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  All languages (238)
Showing 1-5 of 234 (next | show all)
I can't give this book 3 stars, since I sorta liked it and it is not THAT bad.
And I also can't give this book 4 stars, since it is not THAT good either.

I guess the main problem with this book is that it is tooo fucking verbose.
It's just like reading server log where every piece of relevant information is mixed with a tons of useless lines, timestamps and other junk.

[Present]: Something happens.
[Present]: Something happens.
[Past]: Something happens.
[Past]: Something happens.
[Past]: Something happens (but not relevant)
[Present]: Something happens.
[Present]: Something happens.
[Past]: Something interesting happens with Kirin (but not much).
[Past]: Something happens.

You got my idea.

Also everyone works with time travel technology like a 3 year old kids hammering the intricate piece of electronics on the rock. I know that is a central concept of the book. Nevertheless it is moronic and too forced.
( )
1 vote bloodrizer | Nov 19, 2015 |
This is a re-read for me. I've lost track of how many times I've read this book. My favorite book in Willis' time traveling Oxford historians series. History student Kivrin is accidentally sent back in time to the year of the Black Death. Meanwhile, a deadly virus is causing havoc in current day (2052) Oxford preventing the staff from rescuing Kivrin. Kivrin watches as everyone in the tiny English village that has taken her in succumbs to the plague despite her best efforts to help.
I love this book and cry, every time, while reading the last 40 pages. I enjoy this entire "series" but this one is by far my favorite. Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote VioletBramble | Nov 1, 2015 |
So let's get a few issues out of the way first. A big chunk of the novel's "up in the future" story concerns academic infighting and people waiting around for phone calls, waiting to use the telephone, or being otherwise unreachable. Obviously, the book pre-dates mobile phones; but given the ability of mobiles to run out of charge at the critical moment, get lost, for the network to be down when there's too much demand on the system (which is likely to happen in an Oxford under lockdown for what might just be a pandemic flu outbreak) or for people to have just switched their mobiles off or to be out of range of a network mast (one off-stage character is on a fishing Holiday in Scotland, so he might be unreachable by mobile, even in 'our' world), the confusion and inability to act consequent on not being able to talk to the right person at the right time is just as likely, with or without mobiles. Having said that, the sheer device of the unavailability of landline phones is a bit intrusive, and even though I kept saying to myself "That would still happen with mobiles", it still meant that I was tripping over the landline phones in my reading of the story. But never mind.

The other thing that Willis gets wrong, as an American, is the nature of the British National Health Service (NHS). In this novel, characters are told to "contact the local office of the NHS" for guidance, official policy on the handling of an epidemic outbreak, or just to secure medical supplies. Without going completely into anoraky nerdishness over the administrative process in Britain, suffice it to say that this would not happen. The NHS is an executive agency of Government and does not make policy. Health matters would be in the hands of the local hospital (who, given the back story of the world having suffered a pandemic in the recent past of the novel, would have contingency plans for dealing with such things); public policy over containment would be a matter for the Department of Health, which sets policy from Whitehall; and supplies would be either in the hands of a Regional Health Authority - the NHS executive arms in the regions, as the name suggests - or just a matter of fending for yourselves. (And all this assumes that readers in twenty years' time won't chuckle over the very existence of nationalised health care whilst wondering how they'll raise the second mortgage required to access privatised health care...)

Now we've got those quibbles out of the way, what do we have? Up in the future, something has gone horribly wrong with an (almost) routine project to send an undergraduate historian back to 1320 to observe Medieval England in all its squalid glory. Meanwhile, the historian herself is having problems because whatever historians think they know about an era, they are almost certainly wrong about the important details that you need to live in a different environment, whether it be a foreign land or the distant past. So in mid-21st century Oxford, dry academics are arguing over who has responsibility and who will carry the blame if everything goes wrong, and how shall they eke out the supplies of toilet paper - and to them, these are the most important things in their life at that very moment. Meanwhile, in 1320, the historian is realising that her clothes are too fine, her cover story has holes in it, and her translation wetware's version of Middle English is nowhere near accurate enough.

And given that we are used to instant communication and knowing in detail about events on the far side of the world, the sudden impact of not knowing what is happening in the next village starts out as a novelty, and slowly builds to a disaster as the terrifying truth breaks in on the historian, and the synthesis of a lot of small clues and circumstantial evidence delivers an answer that is horrifying.

The triviality of everyday life in the 21st Century, all full of first world problems, is contrasted with the impact of the Black Death, and ordinary people's reactions to their situation. And what should the historian do? Once she knows what is happening, how best to act? This in turn is reflected in the struggle of the senior administrators and lecturers, who themselves do not understand the nature of the problem until late on; and how do they tackle the bureaucracy that constrains their actions?

There are also a whole range of issues, both real and allegorical, that the historian, Kivrin, has to work through. I would have liked to see a little more of a coda to the novel, in that we do not see what happened immediately afterwards; those who have read Willis' short story 'Fire Watch' will know how this ends, but there is the implication that there were consequences for all the surviving characters.

In the end, individuals have to work together for the good of all; yet some will not be saved.

I found the scene setting quite vivid, both up in the future Oxford (which I know slightly) and in the medieval village in its mid-winter setting. I had no trouble visualising that setting, and coldness and bleakness of a hard season. And my earlier quibbles apart, this must be a pretty accurate portrayal of how time travel would actually be if run by Oxford academics and administrators. ( )
1 vote RobertDay | Oct 29, 2015 |
This novel, a blend of science fiction and historical reconstruction, gives us Kivrin, a history student at Oxford in 2048, who decides travels back in time to a 14th-century English village, to study the time period. But things don’t go as planned and she's sent to 1348 instead of 1320, and is dropped right in the middle of the Black Plague. Kivrin is now unable to return to her time period and before long she learns the truth and comes face to face with the horrible, unending suffering of the plague that would wipe out half the population of Europe. Meanwhile, back in the future, an epidemic has also risen, and though modern science has made it easier to deal with illness our human nature has not. Scapegoating is still alive and well in a campaign against "infected foreigners." The book goes back and forth between Kivrin's battle to stay alive during the Plague, while those in the present are trying to find a cure for the present epidemic and rescue Kivrin. This book is well researched, very detailed, but also incredibly heartbreaking as you become attached to some of the characters—knowing they will never “make it out.” In some ways this novel makes you wonder what is the point of it all—people live incredibly hard lives and then die. However, one quote from the book has stuck with me—“you have saved me from fear and unbelief.” Maybe that is what the point is, we need to be there for one and other, to love one and other. 4 out of 5 stars. ( )
  marsap | Oct 23, 2015 |
It has been years since I read this book and I have yet to recover. Never was so much taken from so many by so few--actually, by one.

This entire plot is balanced like an upside-down pyramid on a few missed phone calls. Just one pickup and the whole novel vanishes. Would that it had. ( )
  tsgood | Aug 22, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Connie Willisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carella, MariaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jacobus, TimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuittinen, TeroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marín Trechera, RafaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sterlin, JennyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
van Son, TomTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vanderstelt, JerryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll, Jamie S. WarrenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"And lest things which should be remembered perish with time and vanish from the memory of those who are to come after us, I, seeing so many evils and the whole world, as it were, placed within the grasp of the Evil One, being myself as if among the dead, I, waiting for death, have put into writing all the things that I have witnessed.
    And, lest the writing should perish with the writer and the work fail with the laborer, I leave parchment to continue this work, if perchance any man and any of the race of Adam escape this pestilence and carry on the work which I have begun . . . "
                                                                Brother John Clyn,
To Laura and Cordelia - my Kivrins
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Mr. Dunworthy opened the door to the laboratory and his spectacles promptly steamed up.
I'm in a lot of trouble, Mr. Dunworthy. I don't know where I am, and I can't speak the language. Something's gone wrong with the interpreter. I can understand some of what the contemps say, but they can't understand me at all. And that's not the worst of it. I've caught some sort of disease. I don't know what it is.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553562738, Mass Market Paperback)

Connie Willis labored five years on this story of a history student in 2048 who is transported to an English village in the 14th century. The student arrives mistakenly on the eve of the onset of the Black Plague. Her dealings with a family of "contemps" in 1348 and with her historian cohorts lead to complications as the book unfolds into a surprisingly dark, deep conclusion. The book, which won Hugo and Nebula Awards, draws upon Willis' understanding of the universalities of human nature to explore the ageless issues of evil, suffering and the indomitable will of the human spirit.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:05 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A grim story of a 21st century academic marooned in a 14th century English village being ravaged by the Black Death. Willis' story is the greatest post-modern time travel story of them all, a novel that combines a genre work with all the required components and a tour de force piece of storytelling.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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