Learn more Shop now Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Learn More Shop now Fitbit
Customer Review

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but flawed, 5 Sept. 2008
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 (***½) 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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
  [Cancel]


Review Details

Item

Reviewer

A. Whitehead
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: Colchester, Essex United Kingdom

Top Reviewer Ranking: 505