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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
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...
Published on 8 Oct 2000 by loiskstock@aol.com

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit of a Chore to Read, but Ultimately Quite Moving
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...
Published on 10 Dec 2011 by W Steedman


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 8 Oct 2000
This review is from: Doomsday Book (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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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living history, 24 Mar 2006
By 
R. Plachcinski "stroppy_brunette" (West Yorkshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doomsday Book (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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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
This review is from: Doomsday Book (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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all-time favourite books!!, 26 Nov 2012
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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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit of a Chore to Read, but Ultimately Quite Moving, 10 Dec 2011
By 
W Steedman "Alexei" (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Doomsday Book (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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but flawed, 5 Sep 2008
By 
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
Christmas, 2054. The 'net' is a technological breakthrough, a device which allows people to travel back in time to observe the events of the past. Historians use the net to go back and observe history in progress, but anachronisms and those intending to change the past are not permitted through. Whilst the net has mostly been used to travel to relatively recent periods of history, the Mediaeval department of Oxford University is preparing to send a young student named Kivrin through to the year 1320. No sooner has she gone through, than chaos erupts: a virulent disease sweeps through Oxford, striking down most of the populace and a quarantine is enforced that prevents the faculty from retrieving Kivrin. Back in the 14th Century Kivrin becomes used to living in the Middle Ages, which none of her training has really prepared her for, but it soon becomes clear that something has gone horribly wrong, and she is not when she is supposed to be...

Doomsday Book was originally published in 1992 and won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novel. It mixes elements of traditional time travel stories with elements from a disaster movie: Kivrin is trapped in the past and her friends in the present are unable to help her as they themselves are dealing with a pandemic. This is a nice spin on the cliche, with the present-day storyline given just as much attention (if not more) than Kivrin's misadventures in the past. The notion of disease and illness lies at the heart of the book, and seeing how futuristic medicine can barely stop the pandemic from killing people makes the sections set during the Black Death even more horrific in comparison. The novel also acts as a curious comedy of manners, or even a farce, with characters' own blinkered viewpoints and opinions mean that they are unable to effectively deal with the unfolding crises. At times this makes the book a frustrating experience, as some characters are obtuse to the point of total ludicrousness and gives an oddly tonally inappropriate dose of humour to the novel.

What keeps you reading is the depth of research that has been done here: 14th Century England is brought to life vividly, with the characters painted richly and convincingly. Unlike a lot of writers (such as say Ken Follett, whose Pillars of the Earth is an utterly unconvincing depiction of medieval life), Willis makes the point successfully that the medieval period was one where people's beliefs and thoughts were totally alien to our own, and understanding how they thought and acted on a day-to-day level is extremely difficult. She succeeds at this admirably.

The 21st Century sections are less successful, mainly due to the stupidity of certain characters meaning that you lose any belief that these people would actually attain the roles or positions they have. There are also a number of plot strands in this sequence which are completely left unresolved: it's never made clear if it was user error or a deliberate act by Gilchrist that resulted in Kivrin being sent to the wrong year, and the mystery of what happened to Mr. Basingame, who vanishes before the book even starts and whose fate is much debated by the other characters, is never answered. The lack of communication between major characters is also completely unbelievable and adds to the frustration levels of the novel.

Doomsday Book (***) features some stunning and deeply affecting sequences set in the 14th Century. Those set in the future are less compelling, and there are some moments of reader frustration to be had, but overall the book remains a vivid and memorable reading experience.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very powerful book mixing history, humor and sci-fi., 3 Jun 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
I've been reading Connie Willis for a few years, mostly her wonderful, humorous short stories. When I finally read Doomsday Book, I was very impressed with her ability to develop her characters so that I cared. The book mixes some great middle-ages plague history, not normally a very interesting time, with some modern English time travel. The result is a most powerful novel. When I finished the book I was exhausted. I would definitely recommend it and list it on the top ten books I have read. It still haunts 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
This review is from: Doomsday Book (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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a history buff's dream, 29 Sep 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Doomsday Book (Mass Market Paperback)
OK, OK, so there's really no suspense regarding just WHEN Kivrin wound up, but you KNOW you've got a great book in your hands when you can glare right back at errors like that and say, "I don't care." And you don't, you really don't, because Willis handles the material so well. Leave the suspense for Dunworthy and Ahrens and all the rest from the future--YOU'RE too busy following Kivrin through an ice-encrusted, haunting medieval landscape, falling in love with characters (like Roche and the two little girls, Rosamund and Agnes), learning to dislike quite strongly such meanies as Lady Imeyne, and discovering (surprise, surprise!) that the Middle Ages was hardly the deeply chivalrous, romantic era it has often been made out to be. The ultimate tragedy is that you really find yourself CARING for the characters in the story. You can read in a text book that one third of the population died of this plague, but it is infinitely more moving to watch one or two characters you love become stricken and die. Willis does an excellent job of making 1348 and the people therein and the trials they faced accessible to a modern audience. And to those who found the book too depressing...I found it to be, ultimately, a message of hope for the faith and survival of the human spirit. The scene in which Kivrin tends the dying Father Roche at the end is incredibly moving and illustrates this point perfectly. To any Medieval buff, to anyone who's just plain interested in an excellently-crafted story, READ THIS BOOK.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nice ideas, terribly executed, boring and repetitive., 15 Feb 2014
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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. Some of the characters, particularly those in the past are really interesting, and the way the past is described is also really good - it's clear the author knows their stuff.

Unfortunately the book is ruined by the plot developments which take place in the present which have implications for the protagonist who has travelled back in time. A major issue is that the limits/capabilities of the time-travel technology used in the book haven't really been thought through at all, so you find yourself asking "why can't they just do this?" throughout.

In addition, there is some terrible writing, mainly concerning the characters in the present. Their responses to, and inability to deal with, the situations around them are just too unbelievable. The author seems to have tried to present a world of bumbling, self-obsessed researchers, but has gone way overboard - you wonder how any of these characters have achieved anything in life at all. The problems they face are repeated again and again throughout the book, often with no resolution - there are some attempts at humour, but again they are so forced (and repeated so many times) that they just become frustrating and annoying.

I'm very surprised that this made it into the SF Masterworks list.
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Doomsday Book
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Mass Market Paperback - Dec 1993)
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