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Doomsday Book [Mass Market Paperback]

Connie Willis
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (203 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 1993
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.

Five years in the writing by one of science fiction's most honored authors, Doomsday Book is a storytelling triumph. 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.


Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 578 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam USA; Reprint edition (Dec 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553562738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553562736
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 11 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (203 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 460,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Connie Willis laboured 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novel of plague and time travel by an SFWA Grand Master of Science Ficiton. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The book was touching but often quite tedious to plod through. I usually enjoy Sci-Fi, factual history and historical fiction. Unfortunately the plot required a considerable suspension of disbelief. For example, though part of the novel is set in 2054 people are hard to get hold of, protagonists have to wait for long-distance telephone calls, characters are out of contact with each other, there's no internet, no mobile phones. I like to read speculation of future tech, but in this novel 2054 seems more like an alternate version of 1980. Despite the length of the novel there is virtually no discussion nor description of the societal structures nor of the time-travel technology. Time travel is apparently available only to squabbling history departments of academic institutions. The lives and interactions of the characters in the 14th Century seem less implausible. The unfortunate fates of many of the 14th Century 'natives' were quite harrowing. I did find the book a bit of a chore to read, but ultimately quite moving, despite its flaws.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living history 24 Mar 2006
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is one of the best books I have ever read. Kivrin, a time-travelling historian, is mistakenly sent back to a Medieval village near Oxford as the Black Death is about to strike, and sees all around her succumb to the Plague. At the same time, in her home time, a flu pandemic is laying waste to Oxford, stopping any attempts to find her and bring her home. Unlikely as it may sound, this novel also contains some wonderful comic moments - William, Mrs Gaddson, Finch and the American bellringers, to name but a few. I am absolutely caught up in this story and unable to put it down every time I read it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 8 Oct 2000
Format:Paperback
This is one of my all time favourite books.
The author's evocation of fourteenth century England is brilliant. She has not shied away from the dirt and the stink that undoubtedly existed. This is no lords and ladies rose petal fantasy; she focusses on rats, dirt, lack of washing and the gory details of the Black Death itself. Yet despite this, the book has a lyrical beauty, with solid belivable characters.The story too, is engrossing - will the heroine get back to the present day? will they all die of the Plague? You keep reading becuase you want to know, and because you end up caring about the people.
Even if you don't care for Sci-Fi/Fantasy, you will enjoy this. The emphasis is more on the historical aspects, and you can read it as a historical novel if you like. The book manages to be both romantic and unsentimental and at the same time, ultimately very moving.
Highly recommended
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Once you start, you can't put the book down. 18 Feb 2002
Format:Paperback
The evocation of the sheer nastiness of the 14th Century is brilliant. There is mounting horror as the natives of that century succumb to the Black Death over a Christmas period, witnessed by the appalled time-travelling scholar from our own near future. Some of the scenes are heartrending, as there is plenty of time to get attached to the characters before they start to become ill.
In alternate chapters the contemporary situation in Oxford at Christmas is explored, where an outbreak of highly contagious and fatal flu has broken out, thereby preventing a rescue party from setting up the equipment necessary for retrieving the scholar. The quarantine, medicalisation and bureaucracy of the situation in contemporary Oxford contrasts sharply with the superstition, dubious medicines and appeals to the Almighty that exemplify the 14th Century.
If it sounds unrelentingly grim; it isn't. There is a lot of humour, with fun being poked at characters who are vain and officious in BOTH centuries.
Anyone who has lived in/ studied in/ visited Oxford will find much to recognise in the description of the town, especially the University. Immerse yourself in this book over a summer's day, and you will surface from it as I did: wondering why it isn't freezing cold and surprised to find that you're still healthy!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all-time favourite books!! 26 Nov 2012
By Jan
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am so delighted to see that this book is back in print. I'm not much of an SF fan, but I do love good historical fiction so when a friend recommended this to me way back in the early 1990s I did read it and it has been a firm favourite ever since. In this wonderfully researched story, our heroine Kivrin travels back in time to 14th century England from her (slightly in the future) Oxford College, where she is studying history. What a way to study history!! The plan is that she will return to her studies equipped with a firsthand knowledge of all things medieval, but things don't go to plan. There was a slight error in the programming and Kivrin becomes stranded in an area that is being consumed by the Black Death. She knows she has immunity from this plague, so she tries so hard to help the people around her but gradually they all get sick. Meanwhile back in Oxford another sickness is sweeping through the area, reducing Kivrin's chances of ever getting back to her own time. This is a great read. I am delighted that it is available again. My only complaint is that I loved the original cover and this new one doesn't really work for me.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing but Superb 23 Oct 2000
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
There are books you read and expect to hate, this was one of those. Connie Willis ? Oh one of those "literary" SF writers! A triumph of style over readability, character & plot.
Well what can I say but I was wrong. Willis time travel jaunt maybe scientifically incorrect but she has written a novel about characters I ended up caring about. The book zips along and contains real emotion.
Just buy it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
I bought this book because my friend did the cover art for it, turns out it's also a really good read. The perfect balance of history and characterisation
Published 12 days ago by Tim Auty
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, poor adaptation
Terrific book. I read it many years ago and it's still such a good read. But terrible transcription to Kindle. Mistakes in punctuation, spelling, even whole words. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Dr FR
5.0 out of 5 stars Doomsday Book
One of the best books I have ever read. It really sucks you in and I have rarely empathised so completely with the heroine in a story as she is forced to confront one of the... Read more
Published 26 days ago by william john cooper wright
1.0 out of 5 stars Nice ideas, terribly executed, boring and repetitive.
This book is about academics who are able to use time travel to study history. It's a pretty cool idea. However, there's just not much to the story. Read more
Published 2 months ago by HeecheeRendezvous
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever, beautiful, heart rending.
I have just reread this after more than 20 years. I found it just as riveting. A story, ultimately about the redemptive power of love.
Published 2 months ago by mizzmoll
4.0 out of 5 stars A masterwork but light on the SF
This book could be more appropriately categorized as historical fiction rather than sci-fi (for those who like pidgeon-holing), but either way, it certainly deserves to be in a... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Palito del Monte
5.0 out of 5 stars A Plague on both your Time Zones.
Brilliant time travel yarn. Loads of seat edge tension, bundles of detail from the plague and a spooky parallel between 2060 epidemic and the 1348 Bubonic carry on. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Tony Dillon
5.0 out of 5 stars the descriptions of how tough life was back in the 14th century are...
Not quite what I expected, but nevertheless a very good book. I liked the focus on how difficult it would be to communicate in different times. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ter
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book
This is the best book i have ever read, I have brought this book for several good friends, as gifts
Published 3 months ago by jane o
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant read
Fab great page turner really enjoyed it brought the plague to life
2nd time of reading. With a 20 year gap inbetween
Published 3 months ago by jo place
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