Doomsday Book, Connie Willis

Recommended by: Between the Covers

Ah, time travel books.  You are so numerous, and yet you so often do not want me to love you.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  The Time Traveler’s Wife and me are buddies.  Time at the Top makes my life happy by its very existence.  It can be done.  Apparently with Time in the title.

(Just so I don’t feel like a big meanie when I complain about Doomsday Book, I’ll say that Diana Wynne Jones, whom I love more than my luggage, wrote a time travel book that I didn’t much care for either.  It’s one of my least favorites of hers, not quite down there with The Time of the Ghost, but still very not my favorite, maybe even less favorite than Hexwood which I also don’t like as much as her others.)

I don’t know.  I read this over a long period of time, much longer than is normal for me, and at no point did I feel the slightest interest in what was going to happen to anyone.  For this book to have worked, the characters would have had to be really vivid –

Er, P.S., this is a book about a girl from Oxford in the future, called Kivrin, who goes back in time to 1320 in order to study the Middle Ages and she gets there and lives with a family there and meanwhile back in future-Oxford a bunch of stuff goes wrong and everyone gets sick with a weird virus that came from they don’t know where.

– as I was saying, the characters would have had to be really vivid, because Kivrin doesn’t ultimately have much to do in the past.  In fact, no one does.  I’m so glad I didn’t live back in the day because I would have caught plague and furthermore it was obviously AMAZINGLY BORING, because nobody in the past did anything until they all caught the plague and died.  These things kept coming up, and I’d be all, Aha, a plot! and get set for that to be the important thing, like Kivrin crushing on the Manly Priest, or the lady’s husband’s vassal having a big crush on the lady, or the daughter’s engagement to the big old creepy guy.  These were not the important things.  They weren’t anything.  God, it was boring.  And then it would cut to chapters set in future-Oxford where everyone there was bitching about futurey things and asking each other where, oh where, could this mysterious deadly virus have come from?

(The past, as it goes.)

And I’m not saying it couldn’t have worked, this nothing happening thing, because there are books in which the characters are just so vivid and interesting that there doesn’t have to be a lot of action. You’re just content to lie back and watch these interesting characters go about their daily lives doing regular interactions and nothing out of the ordinary.  Doomsday Book does not achieve this effect, and blah, I just couldn’t be bothered with it.

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5 thoughts on “Doomsday Book, Connie Willis

  1. Pingback: Review: Blackout, Connie Willis « Jenny's Books

  2. Okay, the reason I didn’t remember you not liking this book was because you reviewed it before I found your blog!

    I couldn’t finish it. Stalled out completely with two of her books–very rare for me, when I’m determined, and I was: stubbornly determined to see what this lady was going to do with this good idea she had appropriated and *used up* the originality of. You have more discipline.

  3. Oh, I love this book! I’m so sad you didn’t. I think maybe it works a little better if you’ve read “To Say Nothing of the Dog” first – same basic Oxford-in-the-future, with a few of the same characters, but further in the future than Doomsday book is set. But TSNotD was written first and I think is a better introduction to Willis’s world.

    Btw. Just found your blog and have been avidly reading reviews. My library list just got a mile long and I’m beginning to be really sorry that the local library is much stronger on bodice-rippers than on anything decent.

    • I am worried about reading To Say Nothing of the Dog because Jerome K Jerome is slightly my enemy. I am afraid it will just make me cross because of how Jerome K Jerome is my life enemy. Is he a big part of the book?

      Does your library do interlibrary loans? My old one did, it took me ages and ages to find out, and it was really easy and fast.

      • Jerome is really not a big part of the book at all. He (and the rest of his crew from Three Men in a Boat) show up for about half a page, and Ned, the main character, references the book a few times because it’s basically all he knows about certain aspects of life in Victorian times. I think even if you really dislike poor Jerome, you should have no trouble enjoying this one! (Why is he your life enemy, may I ask?)

        This library doesn’t have a good ILL system, no. Our one back home (before I moved for grad school) was fabulous and I am now spoiled, probably for life!

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