Sep 13, 2007

Doomsday Book

By Connie Willis

The year is 2054. Kivrin is a history student who travels back to the 14th century. She's supposed to arrive a decade before the black plague breaks out in Europe, but there's a mistake and she shows up in 1348, right when plague starts appearing. Only she can't figure it out because she's ill herself- and so is everyone else back in the future. The story is told in two parallels: one of Kivrin struggling to understand medieval Europe, which is not at all what she expected. The other is a confusion of woefully inept technicians and students in the future trying to figure out what went wrong so they can bring her back, while dealing with an outbreak of influenza.

Doomsday Book was pretty fascinating. The medieval setting was the most interesting part. Connie Willis spent five years researching and writing it. It won Hugo and Nebula Awards for science fiction, but I'm not quite sure why, because the futuristic part of the book has some obvious flaws. The most glaring is the lack of even adequate communication systems, which made no sense when they have advanced enough technology for a time machine. There are a few other problems with the story, like the early revelation of what's going on while the characters still are clueless for a few hundred more pages. But overall I found it a very good read.

Rating: 4/5                445 pages, 1992

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