- Series: Oxford Time Travel
- Mass Market Paperback: 592 pages
- Publisher: Spectra (August 1, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0553562738
- ISBN-13: 978-0553562736
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.3 x 6.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Customer Reviews:
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Doomsday Book Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 1993
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Connie Willis labored 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.
“A stunning novel that encompasses both suffering and hope. . . . The best work yet from one of science fiction’s best writers.”—The Denver Post
“Splendid work—brutal, gripping and genuinely harrowing, the product of diligent research, fine writing and well-honed instincts, that should appeal far beyond the normal science-fiction constituency.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The world of 1348 burns in the mind’s eye, and every character alive that year is a fully recognized being. . . . It becomes possible to feel . . . that Connie Willis did, in fact, over the five years Doomsday Book took her to write, open a window to another world, and that she saw something there.”—The Washington Post Book World
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Kivrin stays in the manor of Guillaume D’Iverie with his mother, wife, and daughters who have fled the plague. D’Iverie betrothed his eldest daughter, Rosemund, to a local knight, Sir Bloet. When Kivrin discovers the details of Rosemund’s engagement, she reflects on her research, “Girls in the 1300s had frequently been betrothed before they were of age, sometimes even at birth” and these betrothals “had been a business arrangement, a way to join lands and enhance social standing,” though “girls weren’t usually married till they were fourteen or fifteen, certainly not before they started exhibiting signs of maturation” (pg. 254). Rosemund’s betrothal to Sir Bloet benefits D’Iverie’s family due to Bloet’s extreme wealth, as evidenced by his bride gifts of a golden brooch inset with rubies and various brass and silver trinkets. In this system, “the carrying on of the line was the all-important concern” and “the younger the woman, the better her chance of producing enough heirs that one at least would survive to adulthood, even if its mother didn’t” (pg. 309). After the plague kills Bloet and his entourage, Kivrin remarks on Rosemund’s fate, “Rosemund would be sold off to some nobleman the king owed a debt to or whose alliegance he was trying to buy, one of the troublesome supporters of the Black Prince, perhaps, and taken God knew where to God knew what situation. There were worse things than a leering old man and a shrewish sister-in-law. Baron Garnier had kept his wife in chains for twenty years. The Count of Anjou had burned his alive” (pg. 500). Kivrin’s observations recall Boccaccio’s contemporary portrayal of marriage in “The Decameron” as a business transaction in which the wife became the property of the husband. Furthermore, Kivrin witnesses what happens when a wife fails to conform to the expectations of her when Kivrin discovers that D’Iverie’s servant Gawyn is “obviously in love with his lord’s wife,” Eliwys (pg. 204). D’Iverie’s mother knows of Eliwys and Gawyn’s feelings and, when plague strikes, she accuses them of bringing it, saying, “The Lord punishes adulterers and all their house…as he now punishes you. It is your sin that has brought the plague here” (pg. 426). While husbands philandered with impunity, wives were expected to remain chaste and faithful and, when they failed, they easily became scapegoats for social misfortunes.
These domestic elements are what make Willis’s writing particularly compelling. If one is willing to suspend disbelief about time travel, Willis recreates the day-to-day lives of people from the past in a manner that feels authentic without being too analytical or too vague. Further, Kivrin’s initial disorientation helps the reader as Willis reveals the world to us in pieces, allowing the reader to adapt just as Kivrin does. This is a fun, clever time-travel story that will encourage readers to do some research into the history after they finish the fiction.
Characters run around doing the same thing over and over, and one character repeating "something went wrong" over and over when he could just replace those words with 4 or 5 words of the actual problem....characters speak like they are in the movie "Mary Poppins". 2050 technology is similar to the technology we had in the 70s except of course they have video phones and time travel. The book reader knows what is going on very very early in the book (like the first 30 pages) and we have to wait until the characters catch up (not because we were privy to info that the characters didn't have...it just that they are actually that freaking stupid.... I wanted to throw my "reader" out the window. I don't understand these 4 and 5 star ratings or the awards that this book has. It truly doesnt make any sense. Any time i find myself 1, not caring about any of the characters, 2, not liking any of the characters, and 3, skipping paragraphs and then skimming over pages, its time to find another book.
Thank you to all the commenters out there that truly gave honest reviews and let us know that the characters don't really figure out anything until after 400 pages or so and also let me know that nothing ever really happens...thank you thank you!
Top international reviews
The central character is a young historian who uses time travel to visit 14th century England in order to research the period. The book then divides into two, alternating, chronologies. One is the historian's tale of life in a small English village with encroaching disease, the other her colleagues left behind arguing over and struggling to deal with an apparent problem with her time travel visit. The two chronologies come together again near the end, but for most of the book it is really two stories - one set in the near future about squabbling researchers and one set in the 14th century about day to day life.
The near future is already, for a book written in 1993, rather dated. Despite time travel being invented, people still struggle to get hold of each other via landline phones - not only do mobile phone apparently not exist in this future, nor does email. A 2.5 Gig storage device is also one of enormous capacity.
The historical tale has much to commend it - as long as you are not looking for fast-paced action or science fiction. Instead it has a very gentle tension, as frequently you get to moments in the plot where in a more conventional action story the rhythm of the scene would lead up to something dramatic, but instead you get something low key - or nothing. That can make for frustrating slowness, but also makes the moments of drama that much more striking.
The characters in both the 14th century and near future are a rather mixed literary bunch: both full of clichés (the narrow-minded academic rival, the charming womaniser, the snobbish lady, the unfairly criticised poor man and so on) but still drawn with enough skill to make the reader feel concerned over their fate and moved by the deaths which occur.
The book won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, indicating its appeal to many but it is not a traditional action-packed tale of time travel by any means.
This is an outwardly promising caper about academics sending students back in time to make historical observations. Things go drastically wrong when a gung-ho and fatuous professor sends a pushy but dedicated student back to the 14th century, using the Christmas holidays to circumvent the usual checks and balances. The project is disrupted by the college town of Oxford becoming quarantined in response to an outbreak of killer flu and the heroine Kivrin is trapped in the Middle Ages, with only The Doomsday Book, her audio diary, for company.
This is an engaging premise and the principal cast are likable, but: the action is vastly repetitive for the first half? two-thirds? of the book; the plot is easy to predict; the portrayal of future Oxford is both thin and more twee than charming; the theme of bell-ringing that runs through the book is distracting and carries no message; the characters are all single-minded to a fault; the dialogue, fashions and preoccupations of the English don't ring true... In short, Willis has taken on a series of very difficult challenges and stumbled over many of them.
This book isn't terrible; it's an imaginative engaging premise, plus the Middle Ages family is well-drawn and their two-horse village is believable. There are SOME engaging characters, even if the antics of the supporting cast soon wear thin. It's not great literature, but it's an entertaining read. Don't take the Hugo award it received as a mark of genius.
It is set in 2 different time periods 2054 and the1300s, Kivrin a feisty history student is keen to go back to the 1300s to study more closely the period and as time travel has been discovered this can be done but not without a lot of research. Something goes dreadfully wrong and Kivrin is stranded in the middle ages, sick herself and bang smack in the middle of the Black Death!
The storytelling is gripping and it was hard to put the book down, I had to find out what was going to happen! It was packed full of history and if you are interested in the middle ages you will love it.
A very well earned 5 stars from me.
I first read a library copy about 10 years ago and it lived in my memory for years! I was delighted when I rediscovered it! Kivrin I love and Mr Dunworthy aswell!
Most of the critical reviews concentrate on a slow plot and I guess I can see what they mean. It's not a slow plot however, its a long build up. Each time I reread it the ending always has me so involved that I can't think of anything else. DB however is much more engrosing and vibrant.
The quality of writing always surprises me and this book is never dull.
Connie Willis thank you for a fabulous book I hope you will write some more as good as this one.
Im "Doomsday Book" geht es sehr gemächlich voran. Allzu viel geschieht nicht in dem winterlichen Dorf, in dem Kivrin gelandet ist, aber das wenige, was passiert, wird von Connie Willis sehr ausführlich beschrieben. Das schafft einerseits eine dichte Atmosphäre und sehr lebendige, durch und durch menschlich wirkende Charaktere, endet andererseits aber in stellenweise nervtötenden Wiederholungen. Anders gesagt, als die Autorin mir zum gefühlt hundertsten Mal per Kivrins Gedankengang mitteilte, daß die Pest in den Jahren 1348/49 ein Drittel bis die Hälfte der englischen Bevölkerung ausgelöscht hat, habe ich "FÜR WIE BESCHRÄNKT HÄLTST DU MICH EIGENTLICH???" gebrüllt. - Genauso allgegenwärtig sind der "Drop", die unauffindbare Stelle im verschneiten Wald, von der Kivrin in ihre Zeit zurückkehren könnte, und der "Fix", jene Daten, die Dunworthy im Jahr 2054 erkennen lassen würden, daß seine Muster-Studentin in der falschen Zeit gelandet ist, die aber aufgrund diverser Verwicklungen erst nach vierhundert Seiten auslesbar sind. Zu diesen Verwicklungen gehört ein dramatisches Telekommunikations-Problem, das heute (2010) kaum noch nachvollziehbar ist: Würde es 2054 in Oxford Handys und Internet geben, wäre Kivrin vieles erspart geblieben. So wirkt die Zukunft, die Connie Willis anfang der Neunziger Jahre entworfen hat, aus heutiger Sicht etwas verstaubt. Daraus ist ihr natürlich kein Vorwurf zu machen, dennoch fragt man sich, wie sie ihre Gesellschaft Zeitmaschinen, aber keine funktionierenden Telefone bauen lassen kann.
Nichtsdestotrotz haben mich Kivrin und das Mittelalter wirklich gefangen genommen. Action-geladene Dramatik inklusive Mittelalter-Klischees darf man nicht erwarten, dafür lebensnahe, weil fehlerhafte Protagonisten und einige sehr, sehr intensive Szenen aus einer wirklich dunklen Zeit. Dafür meinerseits dreieinhalb Sterne.
In den anderen Rezis wird bereits geschrieben, wie gut das Buch recherchiert ist - bis ins kleinste Detail. Was mir aber besonders gefällt, ist dass Willis mit kleinen Dingen Spannung erzeugt: Ist sie jetzt an der richtigen Stelle? Wie kann sie den Ort wiederfinden, an dem sie durch die Zeit gereist ist (und wo sie wieder zurück will)? Im Mittelalter kann sie ja nicht einfach im Winter irgendwo im Wald suchen. Das sind alles kleine, ganz praktische und damit realistische Probleme. Große Abenteuer und Actionsequenzen fehlen hier völlig (ebenso wie eine Liebesgeschichte übrigens) - es wird ohne Brimborium eine realistische Geschichte erzählt (vermutlich empfinden viele Rezensenten das Buch daher als langweilig). Was das Buch auch nicht ist, ist eine Vision der Zukunft. Unter SF läuft dieses Buch nur, wegen der Zeitreisenkomponente, die zudem eher ein Plot Device ist.
Wer sich an diesen zwei Punkten nicht stört, findet hier einen echten Schmöker - eines der spannendsten Bücher, die ich dieses Jahr gelesen habe!
Das Buch wurde 1993 geschrieben. Da gab es natürlich noch keine Smartphones. Dementsprechend war auch die Aussicht auf die Zukunft eine ganz andere als heute, und deshalb ist es ein wenig befremdlich, dass es im Oxford der Zukunft keine Handys gibt. Da musste ich schmunzeln.
Die Geschichte ist cool, aber ich hätte wohl lieber nicht die kurze Inhaltsangabe gelesen, denn dass Kivrin im Jahr 1348 gelandet ist, erfährt man erst nach 2/3 des Buches. Ohne dieses Wissen wäre es wohl ein wenig schockierender bzw. zumindest überraschender gewesen. So hat man aber schon draufhingewartet.
Hat mir aber größtenteils gefallen. Auch wegen des realistischen Zugangs der komplett anderen Sprache von damals.
P.S.: oh neeein, die Kuh...
A mí me ha parecido que durante los dos primeros tercios es lento e incluso repetitivo, a veces te daban ganas de coger por las solapas de la chaqueta a los personajes y zarandearlos a ver si se daban cuenta de lo que era obvio que debían hacer para avanzar. La última parte parte, sin embargo, es soberbia. Salvo el final, que no me gustó mucho.
Es cierto que para cuando llegas al último tercio y viene lo bueno te conoces perfectamente a todo el mundo, por lo que probablemente esta última parte funciona tan bien en parte gracias a todo eso lo que la precede, pero aún así pienso que con 150 páginas menos el libro ganaría bastante.
Es buen libro y no me arrepiento del tiempo dedicado a leerlo, pero yo no lo valoraría tanto como se dice por ahí.
If you love Sci-Fi, this is in the top 100 listing. However, I recommend this to readers who want to experience a "believable" tale of the English Middle Ages.