Friday, November 24, 2006

Doomsday Book

Doomsday Book

Connie Willis

Date: 01 August, 1993   —   $7.99   —   Book

product page


Fiction, Science Fiction

Connie Willis' one true gift is coming up with characters so egregiously annoying that you want to climb into the book to throttle them. In this case, the character is Gilchrist, head of the Medieval faculty at Oxford, and temporary Head of the History Department. Which, at first glance, doesn't seem like a position that is too dangerous.

But this is the middle of the 21st century, and History is not just about books any more. They have time travel, with limitations— you can't bring anything back from the past aside from the dirt on your clothes and the air in your lungs, and in going back there's "slippage", a jump forward in time of minutes or hours that takes the historian past critical junctures where she might affect history. And Kivrin Engle, dedicated history student, is going back to the Middle Ages. To 1320, in fact.

Mr. Dunworthy, a professor at Balliol (20th Century), has been informally tutoring Kivrin. He has been against her trip from the start because she will be a woman alone and the Medieval faculty has been displaying extreme incompetence in running the drop, so much so that he loaned them the best technician Balliol has. Things start to fall apart shortly after the drop is made— the tech says "Something's wrong," and then collapses. Soon Oxford is locked down for an epidemic, and no one knows where Kivrin is.

This is another of my traditional Christmas books; it is set over term break at Oxford and Kivrin is set to observe holiday practices in the fourteenth century. It is, in many ways, fairly grim as disease takes its toll, but it still has a sense of strength for all that.

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