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Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
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Doomsday Book (original 1992; edition 1993)

by Connie Willis (Author)

Series: Oxford Time Travel (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,9873761,107 (4.08)1 / 916
"A tour de force."- The New York Times Book Review Connie Willis draws upon her understanding of the universalities of human nature to explore the ageless issues of evil, suffering, and the indomitable will of the human spirit. For Kivrin, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received. But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin-barely of age herself-finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.… (more)
Member:PDelV
Title:Doomsday Book
Authors:Connie Willis (Author)
Info:Spectra (1993), 592 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:to-read

Work Information

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (1992)

  1. 284
    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. 163
    Blackout by Connie Willis (bell7)
    bell7: Some characters return in this story, set in 1944 England, and involving similar themes of how people react in a crisis.
  3. 121
    Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (labfs39)
  4. 112
    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. 70
    The Time Traveller'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. 40
    Replay by Ken Grimwood (Kichererbse)
  8. 30
    Kindred by Octavia E. Butler (Anonymous user)
  9. 41
    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Rubbah)
    Rubbah: Both amazing books featuring dangerous flu like viruses and how people cope in emergency situations
  10. 20
    Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor (Aug3Zimm)
    Aug3Zimm: Time travel to the past as part of educational study
  11. 87
    The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (JGolomb)
  12. 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
  13. 10
    The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson (sturlington)
  14. 00
    The Plague by Albert Camus (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Two books that depict how communities deal with plagues.
  15. 00
    11/22/63 by Stephen King (Othemts)
  16. 34
    Timeline by Michael Crichton (labrick)
  17. 12
    Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: This is another book that really brings a period of history to life around you.
  18. 12
    Company of Liars by Karen Maitland (Othemts)
  19. 02
    The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter (JGolomb)
  20. 49
    World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (cmbohn)

(see all 20 recommendations)

1990s (152)
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» See also 916 mentions

English (367)  Spanish (3)  French (2)  All languages (372)
Showing 1-5 of 367 (next | show all)
For me, this read blazingly fast. I loved every page of it.

"Apocalyptic!" ( )
  Amateria66 | May 24, 2024 |
People have been telling me to read this book for years. I don't know what made me pick it up now. Other than knowing that it was about time travel I did not know a thing about the subject matter so it came as a surprise that it was about two pandemics, one in the 21st century, a heretofore unknown virus quickly brought under control through immunization, and the black death in the middle ages that killed 90% of the people in the places it reached. The book is filled with death, heartbreak, and the consequences of selfishness and vanity. But those things come in second place because the book is even more filled with the best of what makes humans human, ingenuity, a sense of duty, and a capacity for love. It really is a beautiful and engaging story and Kivrin is a dazzling heroine.

And yet. The problem with the book is that it was set somewhere around 2050 and everyone behaved as if they were in Oxford in the 1980's. Fusty old men (some kind and decent, others not) ran everything. Aunts bought tween nephews woolen mufflers for Christmas. Earnest American housewives traveled to the UK to perform in bell-ringing performances. There were no screens (not even TVs that I can recall) . Things sent arrived late and by post. People were screwed if they could not find their NHS cards. The medications available were throwbacks, no broad spectrum anti-biotics or post-infection anti-virals. And the technology was straight out of the 70s. The only advanced technology on the page was designed to allow historians to time travel, which...well, please. No tech for profit just to increase knowledge? There were no substantial computer systems, no portable phones, no security measures more effective than jotting things down in notebooks. I don't expect SF writers to be prescient, but this was published in 1990 when all of these things existed. I am not generally an early adopter, but my firm gave me my first mobile phone 1n 1994 (it was outrageously expensive to use, you paid by the minute and you paid both when you were the caller and the recipient), and when I got that I already had a Palm Pilot. I think it is fair to say that people would have been able to guess these technologies would merge. I don't think people knew smartphones would be in the hands of every person over the age of 10 and that they would have processing power 1000x what a desktop computer had then, but certainly no one thought the future was landlines attached to monitors for video calls. It strikes me as lazy to build suspense on things that were already just a few years from obsolescence when the book was written.

An enjoyable read that could have been brilliant. A 3.5 I think. I will definitely be reading the second in the series and hope some of the wrinkles were ironed out in that book. ( )
  Narshkite | May 1, 2024 |
I miss the characters in this book already. This is an instant favorite. ( )
  Tosta | Mar 31, 2024 |
Time travel is a very hackneyed concept in science fiction. After all it was done first, and arguably best, by H.G.Wells in The Time Machine, more than a century ago. But Connie Willis has managed to grab hold of the idea and make it interesting again.

In Willis’ near-term future (2054 AD), time travel has been invented and is in the hands of academics at Oxford University. Doomsday Book details a research trip to the early 1300s to investigate mediaeval life and settle academic questions about the way the English language was spoken.

But things go horribly wrong and the time-traveller, a young woman called Kivrin, ends up arriving at a time right when the Black Death hits England. Co-incidentally, an epidemic of severe flu afflicts 21st century Britain, throwing all into confusion at both ends of the time travel voyage.

Willis seems to effortlessly combine comedy and tragedy in this book, no mean feat. We certainly feel the tragedy of the Black Death, because Kivrin, and ourselves as readers, come to know the people whom it affects, and feel their suffering. Contrast this with the almost dismissive treatment of the same plague by Ken Follett in World Without End in which the only people to die are characters we don’t much care about.

I really enjoyed this book. ( )
  davidrgrigg | Mar 23, 2024 |
This book is so depressing without a lot of joy or intrigue to carry you through. I cried for most of the last half because the detailed descriptions of death by bubonic plague are agonizing. ( )
  mslibrarynerd | Jan 13, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 367 (next | show all)
Willis’ prose is acceptable, and the characterization effective enough that Kivrin’s situation is gripping. Overall, the book is a bit too long for its plot; blame the rise of word-processors. At least it’s shorter than Black Out/All Clear.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Willis, Connieprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brumm, WalterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carella, MariaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Contemporary StudiosAuthor photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gibbs, ChristopherCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jacobus, TimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kapočiūtė, AnitaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kastel,RogerCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuittinen, TeroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marín Trechera, RafaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martiniere, StephanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ponziot, J.M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pugi, Jean-PierreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
RailleCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Richter, TonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, AdamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sargent, PamelaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sohár, AnikóTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sterlin, JennyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Törnqvist, EvastinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
van Son, TomTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vanderstelt, JerryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll, Jamie S. WarrenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"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, 1349
Dedication
To Laura and Cordelia - my Kivrins
First words
Mr. Dunworthy opened the door to the laboratory and his spectacles promptly steamed up.
Quotations
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

"A tour de force."- The New York Times Book Review Connie Willis draws upon her understanding of the universalities of human nature to explore the ageless issues of evil, suffering, and the indomitable will of the human spirit. For Kivrin, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received. But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin-barely of age herself-finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.

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Haiku summary
Primary sources
Researched by time-travelling
Brave historians
(pickupsticks)
A time traveler’s screwed
because she never just asks,
“Hey, what year is it?”
(Carnophile)

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