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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

Doomsday Book

Copyright 1992 by Connie Willis

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Very good (4/5)

I first read this on the 27th December 2001.

A few decades in the future, the world is much the same as it is now, with the exception that time-travel to the past has been achieved and in fact has become commonplace.

At Oxford University, they routinely drop travelers into the past. Until now the Middle Ages has been considered too dangerous a time to ensure the safety of the traveler. However, through some sly politicking, the Medieval department is to send the first traveler to 1328.

Our brave explorer is the charming Kivrin. She's spent years preparing herself, unfortunately her superiors have been somewhat less diligent, and the trip will go wrong almost from the start, and go worse rapidly.

Meanwhile, problems are developing in the present, and it is looking less likely that they will be able to retrieve her.

It's uncertain whether Kivrin, or indeed the scientists who sent her, will survive.

I was almost totally uninterested in reading this book, assuming it was a medieval romance disguised as SF by dint of a little time-travel. However, I eventually got around to opening it, mainly because I was stuck for a book to read and the paperback was substantially lighter to hold than the alternative "Parable Of The Talents" by Octavia Butler which I had foolishly bought in a large-format version.

However, while reading the first page I realised that the writing was a delight. Even the first line brought a smile to my face. The novel is of course not so cheerful throughout. Some parts of this book, in particular those set in the Middle Ages, are harrowing.

Mr Dunworthy, Mary, Colin and most especially Kivrin, are superb and superbly-drawn characters, I'll treasure the memory of Mrs Gladstone (the "Gallstone" as Colin calls her) and hope that I never meet her like.


Loaded on the 20th January 2002.
Cover of Doomsday Book

Reviews of other works by Connie Willis:
Lincoln's Dreams
All Clear

Reviews of other works by Connie Willis and Cynthia Felice:
Light Raid