Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Thoughts - Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
first published 1992
578 pages

Synopsis -

For Kivrin, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received.

But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin--barely of age herself--finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.

My thoughts -

Am I the only person around here who has a list of books somewhere - likely floating around in your head - called, "Books I AM Going To Read Someday Because I've Heard They Are Great", but that you almost never actually get around to reading? It's funny how each time I manage to read one of the books from that list, it winds up being, in fact, GREAT! Why don't I just read them all right now? One of the great mysteries of the universe.

Doomsday Book was on that list. I think it hit my radar when Raych talked about it, and then I saw someone else talking about it, and I filed it away on that Books I AM Going To Read....list, and here i am finally getting around to reading it. And WHOOOOO, boy it was good.

Doomsday Book wasn't the kind of good where each sentence is beautifully constructed, and the words flow together, and you just love the way the author has mastered her craft. Not really at all, in fact. Willis' writing is fine, but that's not why you read this book. You read this book because of the story that grabs you by your neck hairs and doesn't let go. I think what made Kivrin's story so gripping for me is that this stuff actually happened - clearly, not the time travel aspects. But once Kivrin was in the 14th century, all that horror was real. Real people lived through it. Real people were completely helpless in the face of it. It was terrifying, and it wasn't made up. I found this review on Goodreads, and I think it perfectly sums up my feelings (apologies for the language) -

"Connie Willis shows us that we do not need to look to the future for an apocalyptic setting suitable for exorcising whatever demons haunt us, testing whatever faith we may or may not have, revealing the height of humanity's capacity for compassion or the depth of its misery. We had the mid-14th Century for that.

These ain't Jesuits on a distant planet, or a man and a boy wandering down a road.

This shit really happened, people."

The juxtaposition of Kivrin's troubles in the Middle Ages and the Present-Day epidemic was also striking, because it showed a clear picture of the ways in which humanity has not, in fact, changed that much in a couple of thousand years. People were just as ignorant and cruel and apathetic in the present as we like to accuse those who lived in the Middle Ages of being, and frankly we know better and should be doing better. It was a stark, pointed reality check in the midst of an increasingly dark story.

I thought this book was great. I do agree that it dragged a bit toward the end, but I was so terrified for Kivrin that I couldn't stop reading. If sci-fi is your thing, I would definitely recommend this one. I cannot wait to read more by this author!

Finished - 11/15/15

MPAA rating - PG-13 for realistic portrayals of death and some pretty scary stuff
My rating - 4/5


Andi said...

This is on that same list for me, and obviously I need to bump it up in the queue. This sounds amazing, and any book that can grab you by the hairs (usually I refer to the nose hairs), is a winner.

russell1200 said...

The original, I read it when it first came out, had one of the most mismatched covers you could imagine. Looked like softcore romance novel. And thus, in addition to being on best-of lists, also makes worst cover lists.