Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Doomsday Book



I've never been much of a fantasy reader, but a friend recommended Connie Willis as someone I might like and I thought to take a peek. She's won the Hugo and Nebula awards more times than almost anyone else, so she must be doing something right. I started with the Doomsday Book from 1992, which won the Hugo and kicks off a long series. And I have to say, the Doomsday Book is nothing if not different. It's an odd cross between a cozy mystery - it has that feel to it - and a historical adventure, all tied together by the fantastical rules that govern time travel within the story. 
It’s a long book and I have to confess I thought the middle sagged, as I had trouble pushing through it. Also I didn’t care for the harried way all the characters in Oxford – in the year 2050 – rushed around in a constant panic. Sure they had problems, but some of them were life-threatening and others were about sweaters and bell concerts (hence the cozy mystery feel) and they seemed to induce equivalent frenzy. I began to feel harried myself!
 But then, in that way that some books do and I really admired in this one, the ending pulled together all the pieces and uplifted the story to something moving. The protagonist Kivrin is quite a trooper and Ms. Willis pulls off a real sense of connection between her and the Oxford professor who sends her back to the Middle Ages via time travel. Which, as you might imagine, doesn't go so well.
What I liked best in the ending was the refreshing nature of the bond between a professor and a student, not a romance or even a typical friendship. It was a good read and I went on to read the first in her two-book series about time travel back to the Blitz. I’ll post more when I’ve read the second one!