Personal Narrative: My On-Site Mentor

Friday, December 31, 2021 2:50:15 AM

Personal Narrative: My On-Site Mentor

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I just know what it was about for me: a crisis of faith. Some authors have an uncanny ability to meet us where we're at--to take longstanding human themes and make them once again relevant to what the reader is going through in his or her life. Connie Willis certainly did so for me. I have been going through my own crisis of faith over the last year or so. I have been a believer in, and follower of, Jesus Christ for as long as I can remember, and although my faith has been challenged and wavered at various points in my life, I have been spiritually pretty steady.

But never have I experienced so much doubt as I have over the last year. I seemed on the road to recovering from a chronic nervous system disorder that causes constant pain; my wife and I seemed poised to renew and repair our relationship and get back to a loving marriage; and we seemed finally to be obtaining long-worked-for financial stability. But I now look back on as the most difficult year I have endured. But that was nothing People we care about, God-fearing people, genuine Good People It began with my wife's close friend dying in childbirth. Kelly was 28 years old, healthy, happily married, and full of joy to be pregnant with her first child.

Her doctor fucked up, and mother and child died. Then came year-old Destiny, a student in my wife's 5th grade classroom. She was a delightful and intelligent girl. Conscientious, caring, hard-working, and kind to everyone she knew. Destiny was kind and helpful to my kids. She was smart and ambitious and had a wonderful life ahead of her. She was one of the kids that made all the crap worth it for my wife. Then Destiny got in a car driven by her mother's drunk boyfriend.

Destiny had been talking about how the next week she was going to demand that she be allowed to live with her father so she could get away from the jackass who beat her mother. If only she had gotten out a week sooner. The drunk woman-beating piece of shit was driving twice the speed limit on a country road near our house, slammed into a ditch and flipped the car several times. Destiny died at the scene. Next it was my co-worker, Diane, who sits a few offices down the hall from me. The air was thick with her palpable desperation and grief when she got the phone call no parent should ever have to take As if that weren't enough, another student died from cancer Where was God in my life last year?

Where was God when I prayed for physical and relational healing? Where was God when Kelly was about to give birth to a beautiful baby girl? Where was God when Destiny needed deliverance from an abusive household? Where was God when Diane's son needed His love and comfort? It will be several years before I fully recover from the pain, both experienced and witnessed, that cut a swath through my life in Spiritually, I don't know that I will My cries for help went unheeded and my prayers for healing unanswered. God abandoned Good People who needed Him. He stood by and watched.

And it hit home for the first time in my life that what I experienced and witnessed in was nothing unique, or even rare. I was forced to confront the reality that I had lived a cushy life while people suffered and grieved all around me, even right here in the good 'ol U S of A, and that was simply my turn at the table. So I started to question, where was God during all the years when I was living easy while Good People experienced Bad Shit down the street and in the next town and across the border? How could I have sat and so smugly thanked God for the blessings in my life without at least wondering why God was allowing such suffering in other peoples lives? Doomsday Book made the Black Plague real for me. Willis took me there and made me love the people of that little village in Oxfordshire.

Then she made me watch them die, one by one, in the most horrifying way possible. She made that shit real. And the thing is, it was real! The village and characters in Doomsday Book might have been fictional, but there were thousands of real villages, and millions of real people, who weren't all that different and who died those deaths for real seven hundred years ago. Of course they wondered where God was. Of course they thought God had abandoned them. I am having a crisis of faith because of I can't imagine the crisis of faith people must have felt in And, now that I think about it, shouldn't the reality of cause a crisis of faith in all of us?

We weren't there, but real people were. It's pure, blind, dumb luck that you and I were born in the 20th century instead of the 14th century. Those people were just as "frightened and brave and irreplaceable " in Kivrin's words as we are. And many of the people in had a faith that those of us in 21st century America can't shake a stick at! Those people believed the spiritual world was real and tangible and affected their daily lives.

They had no doubt that God was real and that He intervened in the physical world. Yet God abandoned them. God set a new mark for ditching the Faithful in time of greatest need. If God couldn't be bothered to spare good, faithful people from the Black Death, how can he be bothered to intervene in our cushy little insignificant lives? And so my crisis of faith is quickly becoming a Crisis of Faith. In case you're wondering, no, I don't blame Connie Willis. Doomsday Book simply catalyzed my thought processes along their already natural progressions.

But I am left wondering where I go from here. I think I just need time. Time for things to sink in. Time to put in context and perspective. Time to do therapeutic things like writing this review. I don't know where I'll end up, but I know I must walk down this path. Will Mr. Dunworthy be waiting at the drop? Will Badri be well enough to open the net? Will Colin have any energy left to make it all happen? We'll see. View all 39 comments.

Maybe my favorite time travel book ever and I do like me a good time travel tale , Doomsday Book won both the Hugo and Nebula as well as several other awards in the early s when it was published. Kivrin is a history major at Oxford in a near-future world where time travel machines are controlled by universities and used for research purposes. Kivrin is traveling back in time to live in a medieval English village for a few weeks, but things go just a bit extremely wrong.

She arrives and despite all the inoculations she received immediately falls very ill. She can't understand the language of 's England. Her clothing and appearance aren't right, and the villagers are rather suspicious. Apparently the university's research into medieval England wasn't as accurate as they thought. And then it turns out that she's not even in the time period she was supposed to arrive in, and a major disaster view spoiler [the Black Death bubonic plague pandemic hide spoiler ] is already on its way. A lovely and heart-wrenching story, highly recommended. It's much more about the characters than the hard science. Kivrin's - and the villagers' - bravery in the face of death and tragedy hit me right in the heart.

View all 4 comments. Mar 26, Bradley rated it it was amazing Shelves: sci-fi , shelf , fanboy-goes-squee , history , top-one-hundred. This is my second read. The first time I read it, I was fascinated by CW's take on time travel and the mirroring of the plague in the future with the past's Black Death, but moreover, the characters snuck up on me and tore my soul apart.

It was, perhaps, the best time-travel novel I'd ever read. That was then. But now? Even when I knew it was coming, when I tried to keep from loving all these characters in the past and in the future, I was unable to help myself. They're flawed, annoying, lovable, This is my second read. They're flawed, annoying, lovable, hurt, and intense. I feel their reality. And I still tried to hold myself apart from the tragedy to come.

But I failed. I failed hard. I cried the first time I read this and it may have hit even harder this time. I held off for so long, just enjoying the everyday lives in the past and the growing unease in the future, not just Mr. Dunworthy's frantic efforts, but the epidemic that spreads there. When the past's Black Plague finally hit, however, I was undone. This is the difference between good books and truly fantastic ones. Classic ones. Bowl me over and kill me ones. It's a hard book to read because it affects me so much. But it's also one of the most memorable SF books I've ever read, too.

I can easily place this in my top books of all time. View all 14 comments. I am very concerned. Many reviewers whom I trust rave about this book. Not only was it supremely boring, but annoying. I felt like slapping virtually every character i I am very concerned. I felt like slapping virtually every character in the book at one point or three to stop whinging and get on with a rescue. Willis made Britain and the British so depressing, not the Britain I have visited. The science is minimal and never explained.

The technology of was not impressive at all. I at least expected some interesting adventure in medieval times but nada. So I come back to questioning, what am I missing here? View all 9 comments. Mar 09, Helene rated it did not like it. Make sure this one is simply on hand in case you run out of toilet paper. If you think that's being crude, let me remind you a lack of toilet paper is one of her side plots she uses to move things along. This book won a Nebula and Hugo award. Oh swoon, right? OMG this must be awesome, right??? Well, no And I just don't know if I have it in me to fully express how bad this book was.

Let me start by setting the scene: the only vaguely science-fictiony thing is attempting to take place, where some guy mans a console and a history student, in "authentic clothes" sits among already damaged items so that when she's sent back in time to a bit before the black plague, she'll appear to be a high born woman attacked on the road, deserted by her help with a nasty bonk to her noggin from her contrived robbers.

In what can only be described as the "Crying Room" found in any church, soundproof with glass wall a bunch of hen pecking, annoying scientists all talk over each other and do a terrible Acting soliloquy in which they listen to no one and repeat themselves like some contemporary art performance that would only have been improved if they re-inacted Carole Schneemann's famous performance. The scientists that were squabbling about nothing interesting and not actually talking to each other anyway go get a beer next door to wait for the "fix," when console-man shows up discombobulated to the pub, says "something went wrong I got the fix The console man got very sick Eh, why make it interesting, though?

I'd like to say that's what happened, but it didn't, not really. I mean, it is, if you cut pages out of the book. My electronic version was pages In the first pages, all that happens is they send the girl back, the guy collapses without telling them what was off about the send. That's it. So far, nothing. What DID happen 46 times in those pages is they got him to say "something's wrong Actually, he continued to say this and not explain up through page out of , when he finally spat out more of that sentence. And what of the girl that was sent back? Let's just say it takes you oh, about It took her half the page book to realize oooOOOOoooh Yes, she's sick and delirious Or that we're witnessing the Black Plague all around her.

The girl is fitted with a recording device on her hands that activates when she presses her hands together like she's praying So she records "I hear a rat gnawing under my bed. What, where your cute little Tupperware tubs are filled with sweaters from last season? Under her bed? Poor people had mattresses on the floor. What, are you going to tell me that she magically had a future bed in something? How is this a historical novel? I think the writer did her research for this book on a cereal box.

Probably the person who sold the cereal box. Back to my point, while I get it that student girl is delirious, we're told over and over how she was to learn old English, French, german, latin, her cover story, etc Where is your training? Omg I hope she dies of the plague. She doesn't, by the way. She effing doesn't. It's unjust. The author finds this amazing device to set a scene She'll take one character, and make them crawl into their own mind, spinning out of control, thinking "OMG what if something went wrong? What if the send didn't go well? What if there's a problem??? You don't respect me as a professor! Any mistake here is your fault!

One paragraph, inner soliloquy. Next, berating jerk complaining without listening. If at any one point in times this occurred, the person being barked at said "HEY. Because that person that barked unanswered? They're going to keep repeating that sentence hundreds of pages in, just you wait. You ever read a word in a book, and it's such a unique word, that you totally notice when the author uses it again? Maybe "discombobulate" like I used above! I don't know if it's a British thing, but he never "dials" a phone, he punches it. He punched numbers 31 times in the book. OOoh, and my personal favorite, Rummage.

In the beginning of the book, one of the scientists waiting in the crying room has a "shopping bag," which is mentioned no less than 20 times in the first pages I never realized how describing something so irritating can be so irritating to read! It's like the only way the author builds tension into a scene. She literally has someone talk at this character, then in response she rummages. But that's not all. This book, set in the future, spends much of it's time with busy signals.

Yes, that's right, pull that memory out of the back of your mind, the most annoying sound in the world, brought back to life. The book was written in , so, unfortunately the science fiction part wasn't her strong suit, apparently only masters like Gibson can get this one right The toilet paper and the grumpy guests. They are simply used as a device so that every time he calls this guy for info, these 2 problems will keep him from answering what he was supposed to answer, and then the call will end, with no one getting anywhere.

If you think I'm exaggerating, the guests are brought up 45 times, the toilet paper 17 times. I had more fun using the search feature than reading this, by the way. I feel some of the fight drifting out of me. My sister recommended this book, and I so wanted to like it so we could chat about it It aggravates me! From the beginning of the book, we know something went wrong about sending her back, but the guy who wants to tell you what happened gets sick By page , student girl finally figures out she must have been sent to the wrong time, and that's why her translator won't work.

By the end of the book you realize none of it matters, and the "6th Sense" twist of this book is They both just randomly got sick. Yeah, spoiler. Nothing in the past came to the future or vice versa. It's just dumb luck, lots of people dead, a pedophilia type love hinted at, and no reason to have ever bothered writing this book. The "touching love story" or whatever people are calling it? While people in future-present are dying off all around him, the professor is still totally focused on the student that got sent back. I think people think it's a love story that he's concerned about her welfare, despite everyone he know or loves being dead around him and that not seeming to sink in.

There's no defined love story View all 36 comments. Shelves: the-missionary-position , plague-and-pestilence. We had the midth 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. For me, this line is similar to the one I draw between literary fiction and science fiction, the latter genre which typically gets assigned an automatic Tier 2.

But Vonnegut and Atwood are definitely Tier 1, aren't they? Neither would self-select to the SF category and, I suspect, SF aficionados would not necessarily classify them there either. I'm not sure any of these authors would fit neatly within the confines of SF either, but they sure are more "science fiction-y" than my usual reading. And perhaps just because of the origins or order of their appearance on my to-read list, they are lumped into a triad in my head. Yes, I confess, I'd probably classify each of them as Tier 2 writers: there is something perhaps a little too 'easy' about the writing; a little too straightforward. Nothing that makes you stop and need or even want to re-read to tease out the layers of meaning, the clever subtleties of language or the nuances of how style marries to substance.

These books are not about the writing, which really means they are not about the author. They are about the story. And I'm a sucker for a great story. This one pulled me in from page one and had me in its grip throughout all of the remaining pages. I sacrificed sleep to read it, staying up late into the night. And, it made me cry. I was, in a word, engrossed.

Like Russell's The Sparrow and Children of God , Willis uses science fiction devices space travel to first contact with alien species in Russell's series; time travel to Black Death-ridden England in in Willis's , but these are merely ways to get the main characters to a situation that forces them and their readers to examine the nature of humanity in the face of extreme crisis.

Russell focuses specifically on what it means to believe in a God that allows unimaginable suffering. Willis is concerned with this too, and includes a medieval priest to be sure the issue is raised, but she is a little more story-focused, and less about beating you over the head to make sure you get that point. Her characters feel more like characters, and less like symbols or vehicles conveying a theme. It helps, too, that Willis's characters are people anchored in a real past with whom we can connect not just intellectually and spiritually but also emotionally and some of us, genetically. I think her central concern--the heart of this book--is not about questioning faith but about our capacity for compassion.

Like her main character, time-travelling historian Kivrin, Willis seeks to link with a specific past and humanize it; like Kivrin, she wants to rescue the people of the Middle Ages from the negative reputation they've acquired, the modern disparaging judgement we've made against them for their filth, their narrow-minded worldview blinded by religion, their poor behaviour towards one another she weaves in the apocryphal stories historians of the modern age tell, of cutthroats and villains; witch-burners and pitchfork-armed gangs seeking someone to blame; parents abandoning their plague-sick children and cold-hearted priests fleeing, leaving their parishioners to suffer in agony.

Willis is making a judgement here about historians, too. She creates a character in her modern timeline, Gilchrist--as rigid and narrow-minded as any of the past and the closest this novel has to a villain--who claims the Black Death's mortality rate is much lower than commonly accepted. This is a real dispute, as I have read, among medieval scholars: the death rate in England during the first plague ranges anywhere between Gilchrist is a mortality denier: the numbers weren't that high, therefore the horrors weren't that great. Kivrin, and Willis, seek to debunk this dangerous bit of historical myth-making. She brings the dispute over the numbers front and centre by repeating, at key intervals: a third to one-half of people died.

Is it a third? Is it half? It doesn't really matter, says Willis. What matters is that they were real people: "frightened and brave and irreplaceable" p. Only in retrospect, do I see how clever a writer she is that page sums it up, but you'll need to read all that goes before it : how well-developed and 'real' her characters became to me; and how she connected the present more or less, it's in the novel's present to the past with character, symbols and motifs. The mirroring is beautifully subtle: a nagging mother in ; a nagging mother-in-law in A gaggle of bell-ringers practising Christmas carols; medieval church bells tolling for the dead.

A pandemic in the 21st century echoing the Black Death of the fourteenth. What she focuses on is the connections we have with one another, personally and societally, in the present; as well as the ones that link us to the past. The epidemiology of love as well as disease. People are people in all ages, Kirvin and Willis believe. Narrow-minded, ignorant and cruel in the present as in the past; kind, compassionate and self-sacrificing, too. But all of that is my retrospective analysis, and none of it was on the surface as I was reading.

I didn't have half an eye on how she was telling it, or what I was going to say in my Goodreads review. She trumped all that by telling a great story, well-researched, well-written, with believable and convincing characters, a plot line that had real tension and a considerable amount of farce black humour amidst the Black Death. Sure, she telegraphs some of her plot twists, sometimes as a way of cushioning the blow. There's some unnecessary repetition--a kind of backtracking from chapter to chapter that seemed redundant, and a tendency to switch from first-person to third-person that is sometimes disorienting, like time travel itself.

Absolutely none of that got in the way of the incredible impact the story had on me. Let's hear it for Tier 2 writers. View all 58 comments. That's a quote from the only character I truly liked in this book. My first Connie Willis book. And I must admit that there is no denying the quality. At all. But more of that later. Since this book was written some time ago, there are no cell phones or laptops, but the telephones are some form of FaceTime the way they were described. A Apocalyptic! One undergraduate student is to go back to the Middle Ages to study the people there for about a week.

She has been preparing for this for the past 2 or 3 years. The day finally comes and, of course, something goes wrong. Without giving too much away, people start getting sick here, too, and nobody is putting one and one together; or they do, but only slowly. There are many parallels between the two timelines, which I took for the author's way of demonstrating that we have not come as far as we think. Some of the people are too rigid when it comes to unnecessary rules while others endanger other people by not taking anything seriously. Not to mention that sickness can strike us down no matter how much penicillin we have.

In the same vein, the book also makes a very interesting point about academia vs being in the field - theoretical knowledge like statistics on how many people have died from the plague vs actually living through an epidemic. It also nicely illustrated that modern people don't know suffering on such a scale. Theory-vs-reality was something that really irked me about Kivrin. She was just too naive. A bit can be explained away by her youth and inexperience but not that much. Well, she learned her lesson. So many times I actually screamed in frustration because nothing ever got done or "experts" were very slow to catch on to something and it felt like we were treading water despite only a week having passed within the story.

In either timeline. On the contrary, I felt a very dark satisfaction about a number of the people dying horribly like Lady Imeyne or those clergy men. However, what I very much appreciate is the amount of research the author must have done for this book and the details she added into the story to make it more realistic. Be it about the procedures in case of an epidemic nowadays or back in the 90s when this book was written, a few things have changed by now or the fact that a plague meant animals not getting fed, cows being in pain because there was nobody to milk them etc.

It shows us a richly drawn up world and rewards readers with a fully fleshed-out world to step into. And this is what made reading the book interesting despite me not connecting to the people. I was there for the history, the research so to speak, and there were a lot of details to marvel at. View all 28 comments. Dec 06, Matthew rated it liked it Shelves: own , sci-fi , , historical-fiction , completist-book-club , buddy-read. In hindsight, maybe this wasn't the best book content-wise to get over pandemic caused anxiety! A few thoughts. Why did this take me so long to read?

I believe my fellow readers finished it months ago. I tried to get myself to read at least a chapter a day, but something about the book made it feel 2. I tried to get myself to read at least a chapter a day, but something about the book made it feel like a chore that I had to do and no one was gonna pay me an allowance for finishing this chore! I thought the story was interesting, creative, and somewhat predictive of the current state of affairs with the COVID pandemic.

But, I was rarely excited to get back to it or riveted while reading it. Repetition : Before I started reading this book I saw that one of the biggest complaints several people had was that the writing tended to be repetitive. I thought,"how bad could the repetition really be? This book could still have had all the exposition, build up, character building, suspense, etc. There were times that a point would be driven home ad nauseum several times in the same chapter. I wanted so bad for the story to reveal it and move on - or, at least stop bringing it up and come up with some new cliffhangers. If I had a dime for every time I said,"Ugh. Would I recommend this? In many circles this is considered a sci-fi classic and a must read. For speculative sci-fi content, it is pretty good and worth it.

But, as an enjoyable and pleasant reading experience, I cannot give my endorsement. Apr 05, Emma rated it liked it Shelves: science-fiction , time-travel. Just about 3 stars. It's a shame really because I LOVED the actual account of Kivrin and the details of life in the s community she was brought in to was fascinating. If all or the majority of this had been the main chunk of the story, this would easily have been 4 stars. But I found the modern day story really boring. Sep 10, Cori rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: everyone.

From my blog: If you haven't read anything by Connie Willis, I highly suggest that you stop whatever you're doing and go out and get one of her books. Willis is sort of a giant in the science fiction world -- she's won Hugo and Nebula awards, among many others. Her plots are engaging and funny and heartbreaking and her books are nearly impossible to put down. Spoi From my blog: If you haven't read anything by Connie Willis, I highly suggest that you stop whatever you're doing and go out and get one of her books. The books of hers I've read are not science fiction in the Star Trek sense. Bellwether was much about science itself, and To Say Nothing of the Dog and Doomsday Book are both set in the near future, the only difference being that her world has time travel.

There's a problem, however, and she's sent to instead of , and is dropped right smack down in the middle of the Plague. Meanwhile, an influenza strikes the present, and the people trying to get her back are struck down with a plague of their own. The book goes back and forth between Kivrin's battle to stay alive during one of history's darkest times, and the present, where they are trying to find a cure and rescue Kivrin. There are some pretty gruesome parts when Willis goes into detail about how people are suffering during the plague -- those with sensitive constitutions be warned. Willis has a knack for creating worlds. She populates both the past and the present with very interesting characters, and her take on the people of the Middle Ages is really fantastic.

She doesn't spend a lot of time explaining the future world she's created. Things are the way they are. I like this a lot better than authors who spend a lot of time explaining how the future came to be the way it is. View 2 comments. Give or take give a star or two ten. Along with To Say Nothing of the Dog , which was apparently written by a woman called Connie Willis, whose name sounds vaguely familiar for some very weird reason. Why is this the mostest bestest time travel novel ever written, you ask? I am aware that you , being the Clueless Barnacles that you are, probably have trouble grasping the undeniable logic of this point. Such a lovely time to be alive this was: wonderful social system, varied diet, central heating, great hygiene…the works!

Not to mention the most glorious luxury of them all…the Black Death of Doom! They suffered horribly! They vomited blood and stuff! Ooooh, sexey! Because the woman is so bloody shrimping gifted, and depicts delicious viruses and exquisite plagues so incredibly well, that you start wondering whether you should wear protective gear while reading the book I recommend this outfit , by the way. It comes with a super handy, vital accessory and stuff. Ergo, you decide to give up, give in, and stop resisting, cough your lungs away in grand medieval style, and finish the book even it means you are going to die a slow, horrible, moderately excruciating death. View all 25 comments. Sep 25, Apatt rated it it was amazing Shelves: sci-fi , favorites. This is one of the elite novels that won both Hugo and Nebula awards, there are not many of those and they are generally very good books though you and I can always find some titles to be undeserving, c'est la vie.

Before starting on reading this novel I looked around Goodreads and Amazon for some consensus of opinion among other readers. I found the prevailing opinion to be on the positive side but it is always interesting to note the negatives also, in case the reviewers hate the same things I This is one of the elite novels that won both Hugo and Nebula awards, there are not many of those and they are generally very good books though you and I can always find some titles to be undeserving, c'est la vie.

I found the prevailing opinion to be on the positive side but it is always interesting to note the negatives also, in case the reviewers hate the same things I do. Among the unfavorable reviews a common criticism seems to be that this book is boring. While I don't quite agree with this sentiment I understand it. We are bored by different things and have different levels of tolerance for certain kinds of plot or pacing. While I enjoy time traveling stories I tend to prefer those with a lots of paradoxes, going back and forth, becoming your own granddad, causing a massive rift in the space time continuum, that sort of thing.

Any way, just going to one time period and getting yourself in trouble because you are just too damn modern doesn't really do it for me. Having rambled on thus far I have to confess that I like this book a lot and I can't italicize it enough! Connie Willis' prose is nice and smooth, it reminds me of Lois McMaster Bujold's prose style, with just the right amount of elegance and witticism without sacrificing clarity. The novel is immediately accessible from page one, which is always a bonus. This book is clearly character driven, though there are a few clever scifi concepts like the non-mechanical translating device recorder implant etc.

Also, as this is generally a dark novel, the occasional interjections of humor is very welcome. The main character Kivrin is a wonderful creation, by the end of the novel I feel like this is a real person I have come to know very well. She is courageous, compassionate, intelligent and vulnerable, Ms Willis certainly puts her through the wringer with this one, poor lass. Back to the "boring" allegation, there is some pacing or progression problem with this book, at times characters seem to be running around circle not advancing the plot very much.

The search for Kivrin's entry point to medieval time also gets a bit tiresome. That said, whether you will find this book intolerably boring will very much depend on how invested are you in the characters and their plight. I am totally sold on them. A very interesting question that the novel raised in my mind is since what happened in the medieval time has already happened as far as we in the present time are concerned, all the characters from that period have been dead ages ago, so does it matter to the visiting time traveller if they die or how they die? I think it does because when they are with you they are just people. View all 5 comments. Feb 08, Aerin rated it liked it Shelves: science-fiction , british-isles , time-travel , historical-fiction.

Original review date: 11 May Doomsday Book has a wonderful concept, but I have never in my life read another book with such infuriatingly rotten pacing. The last two hundred pages are sublime, but I can't bring myself to raise the rating any higher than three stars. In the first four hundred pages, we meet Kivrin, a young history undergraduate at Oxford in the near future. The development of time travel Original review date: 11 May Doomsday Book has a wonderful concept, but I have never in my life read another book with such infuriatingly rotten pacing. The development of time travel has transformed history from an armchair science to a field of dangerous, exciting participant observation.

However, no one has yet been sent back to study the Middle Ages, as they are considered much too hazardous. Kivrin is determined to be the first. Now, here's where the book starts to get obnoxious. As readers, we are asked to believe that a bunch of university professors would send an inexperienced undergraduate as the very first envoy to the Middle Ages, alone and ill-prepared, while they run none of the safety checks that are typical with more routine types of time-travel???! There are so many reasons that this is ridiculously unbelievable -- or have negligence lawsuits and academic rigor been obliterated in the future? In any case, Kivrin goes back in time. Only, a mistake has been made - she was supposed to go back to , well before the Black Death.

Instead, she's accidentally been sent to , just as the plague is sweeping through England. Now, this is a pretty cool premise for a book. Only problem is, we don't even learn that this is the plot until page Until that point, we're treated to In the present, it should have been immediately apparent that an error had been made, BUT the tech who noticed the problem got deliriously ill before he could tell anyone. It is so incredibly aggravating, I'm surprised I didn't end up tearing the book to shreds in my fury. I can't get a hold of so-and-so! Wherever could he be? His landline keeps ringing busy! Only he knows the answer to this major plot point! Let's let this hold up the story for at least 50 pages! One of the major "disasters" of this storyline is that the Evil Dean Of Evilness did I mention that the minor characters were all utterly one-dimensional?

So it's irrevocably lost and they'll never be able to find her!!! Seriously, in the future they can't save that information to a hard drive? Or even a floppy? If any one of them had had more than two brain cells to rub together, they would have realized what had happened to Kivrin immediately. Okay, so there's THAT storyline. This story is much better, and it's what kept me reading through all the boringness.

It is not without its own aggravations Kivrin too is something of a moron, missing all the GLARING signs that she's landed in the middle of a plague, plus, she ALSO immediately gets sick, making the first hundred or so pages of her adventure an exciting story of delirium and vomit. But things pick up once her health returns, and we get to know the residents of this small medieval town. These sections read like an interesting and well-written historical fiction story, and the characters are lovable especially five-year-old Agnes and interesting.

And then people start dying and stuff starts getting really interesting. The last pages flew by, and I enjoyed them immensely. So - two stars for the first two-thirds, four and half stars for the last third. I'd say that averages out to about three. Don't read this book unless you have much more patience than I do Feb 10, Guillermo rated it really liked it Shelves: science-fiction. I think Connie Willis did a great job at portraying something so absolutely horrible that it defies comprehension.

I had read about the plague that almost eradicated Europe, but nothing could prepare me for what I read here. The horrors of the Black Death seem to be something so far beyond anything we could imagine.. I found myself cringing and pleading: "she's not going to go there The feeling of abandonment that these peopl I think Connie Willis did a great job at portraying something so absolutely horrible that it defies comprehension. The feeling of abandonment that these people had, coupled with the fact that they did not hold their religion to the casual standard that most people in this age do - that they really thought God, Angels, and Demons, were just as material as anything they could physically see and touch, made it that much more heart wrenching.

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