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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living history
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...
Published on 24 Mar 2006 by R. Plachcinski

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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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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)   
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not perfect, 3 Mar 1999
By A Customer
This book really isn't sci-fi - it uses time travel as a way of introducing the middle ages. Anyone expecting technical marvels will be disappointed. Instead this is a very solid, emotional story. I'm a 29-yo male computer engineer and I almost cried at the end. The lack of technical detail didn't bother me. In fact, it was refreshing because so many sci-fi authors try to describe tech in great detail and just end up showing how little they really understand. This book is about the plague, carries a great many details of the 1300's and is a story that educates and involves the reader. The characters are most certainly not cardboard - people who say that just read this book for the wrong reasons. My only nitpick is that the very end (the rescue) was too predictable, and I skimmed most of it because I knew what was going to happen. Perhaps the part I liked the most wa sthe brutal reality of things not going the way of the main characters in either time periods. I've had days like that myself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time-travel is not always what it's cracked up to be!, 13 July 1997
By A Customer
The heroine of Connie Willis's award-winning Doomsday Book is a grad student in history at an English university in the near future. She's gotten approval to go back in time to the 14th century to do on-site research. Armed with her implanted language decoders and her anti-plague shots, she's sent back by an operator who is coming down with a contemporary plague and makes a mistake, putting her smack-dab in the middle of an area soon to be over-run by disease. As she struggles to get back to her own time, her mentor struggles to get her back as well, but bodies are piling up---all over time. A gripping, emotional read that transcends the barriers of genre fiction. Science-fiction is the category that's been assigned to this title, but it is so much more...mystery, romance, historical fiction... A terrific read that will stay with you. You know the cliche, "I couldn't put this book down!" Here, it's true---I hated coming to the end, I loved all the characters so. Jo Manning (drmwk@juno.com)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but could've been more, 18 April 1999
By A Customer
In all, a good read. The medieval parts, especially, seemed pretty realistic. I enjoyed Kivrin's struggles with Middle English before the translating device finally kicked in. The characters in the 2ist Century were mostly meant to be droll, I know, but I didn't find them all that amusing. Yeah, the ending was sad. Too bad Kivrin's rescuers couldm't have gotten there in time to save one or two of her friends. Actually, for a while I thought Father Roche was going to turn out to be a time traveler, too. The way he prayed was similar to the way Kivrin talked into her 'corder. Moreover, we have to suppose that the art of time travel was pursued and refined way past the 21st Century--in fact, into the indefinite future. So why could Roche not have been a traveller from, say, the 25th Century? It would have made for a more interesting book....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book of the decade, 2 Mar 1997
By A Customer
I read Doomsday Book shortly after if came out in paperback and throughly enjoyed it. It is a book I have recommended to friends without reservation. One friend came back to me in hysterics complaining that I hadn't warned her how funny it was. This may seem like an odd comment about a book dealing with parallel plagues, but the humor of the 21st century nicely balances the horror of 1348. I know I'll never hear bells again without thinking of this book. Recently, I picked it up again to refresh my memory on a scene, and was hooked all over again. I started reading from the middle to the end, and then back to the beginning. This book has become my touchstone for the 90's the way Gene Wolfe's Shadow of the Torturer series defined the 80's.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing, 2 May 1997
By A Customer
I read two recent customer reviews in amazement. How could any reader of fantasy and/or science fiction not love this book???
The premise of this novel is something new and Ms. Willis makes it absolutely believable. The characters, especially Mr. Dunworthy and Kirvin, are so real that reading the book put a crystal-clear "movie" in my mind. The fact that the author took the time to research a very murky period of history to write the book with detail any history buff will savour is even more impressive. I strongly recommend this book to anyone.

(Another great book by Connie Willis-and a winner of the Newbery Medal- is "Lincoln's Dreams." As a Southerner and a lover of science fiction/fantasy, I found it a must-read.)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time-travel is not always what it's cracked up to be!, 13 July 1997
By A Customer
The heroine of Connie Willis's award-winning Doomsday Book is a grad student in history at an English university in the near future. She's gotten approval to go back in time to the 12th century to do on-site research. Armed with her implanted language decoders and her anti-plague shots, she's sent back by an operator who is coming down with a contemporary plague and makes a mistake, putting her smack-dab in the middle of an area soon to be over-run by disease. As she struggles to get back to her own time, her mentor struggles to get her back as well, but bodies are piling up---all over time. A gripping, emotional read that transcends the barriers of genre fiction. Science-fiction is the category that's been assigned to this title, but it is so much more...mystery, romance, historical fiction... A terrific read that will stay with you. You know the cliche, "I couldn't put this book down!" Here, it's true---I hated coming to the end, I loved all the characters so. Jo Manning (drmwk@juno.com)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doomsday Book, 4 Aug 2012
By 
Clare O'Beara - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Kivrin, a time travelling scholar, has got permission to visit Oxford in the fourteenth century. She's been inoculated against diseases including the plague just in case, but she is so keen to go she doesn't tell anyone that she had a bad reaction to the plague shot so it may not have conferred immunity. She's accidentally sent to a village just as the first people fleeing the town reach it and one of them is sick... the plague starts to spread.
We've met and got to like several local townspeople by now, through Kivrin's language memory tapes which imperfectly translate for her. What can she do to help?
Back in her own time there is a spreading flu which prevents anyone getting Kivrin back and winter makes travel difficult both in advanced Britain and in 1320. The Oxford bellringers turn out regardless and bells are a constant theme throughout the book.
There are funny moments with pompous officious people being mocked in both eras and there are sad moments aplenty. There is plenty of squalor and hardship in 1320 and Kivrin can't believe how the poor people live, in wattle huts that barely keep wind off and don't keep heat in.
Read this, a wonderful achievement.
Then to cheer yourself up read To Say Nothing of The Dog, a lighter romp through Victorian England by more time travellers, which is equally good.
Both have won SF awards.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, 6 Mar 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Doomsday Book (Paperback)
This books is amazing. It's a witty often ironic cliffhanger with startling but not amazing when you think about it, insights into the risks involved in switching times. Connie Willis anticipated Michael Crichton, and her book holds up well in comparison with 'Timeline'.
Morvoren
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A BRITISH VIEW, 5 Jun 2006
By 
K. Brazier (Canterbury, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Doomsday Book (Paperback)
I picked this book up in the States a few years ago, read it several times, and have now ploughed through nearly as many reviews as pages! From an English point of view, Connie Willis's view of bureaucracy is spot-on, weather perfect (it's always raining here, and the characters' obsession with minutiae of life - Finch and the lavatory paper - well observed. The Americanisms add to the joy of her writing (Colin's muffler - isn't that a scarf?) I lived near Oxford as a girl, and still wonder where the actual village was...

The story is a gem, and has me weeping every time I re-read it. Kivrin is as real as can be imagined, as is Dunworthy, Colin and Fr Roche. Don't be put off by the bad reviews!
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Doomsday Book (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
Doomsday Book (S.F. MASTERWORKS) by Connie Willis (Paperback - 8 Nov 2012)
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