Doomsday Book

Monday, February 5, 2018


Doomsday Book
Connie Willis, 1992

Hugo Winner -1993

Premise: In the near future, an Oxford academic is sent back in time to study day-to-day life in the middle ages. When illness strikes in both the future and the past, she may never see home again.

I really struggled with this book.

This might be an example of a book in which I would have been better off reading the description. This is not a book with a great plot or great characters. It's an examination of suffering, hope, and human connection, as well as an awkwardly forced repeated metaphor for God. My problem was that I didn't know that going in, and so I kept looking for the plot.

The time travel isn't important. The people in the present/future aren't that important or interesting either. I kept spinning theories about what the big reveal was going to be, and then there wasn't one.

The writing is compelling and nuanced, which is why it kept frustrating me that I couldn't figure out what was going on, or when possible plotlines came to not much. It's just descriptions of suffering and death and compassion in the face of suffering and death.

This is all fine, but it wasn't what I was expecting.

I was just left thinking, that was a lovely experience in parts, but what's the point? Why did these characters do any of the things they did? (On a certain level, the main character gains a measure of adulthood and grace through the horrible deaths of a bunch of people, which is pretty icky when you think about it like that.)

Is it just that people in all times suffer and struggle, and their suffering is real to them and we shouldn't forget that when studying the past? I think I knew that.

I don't know. It's well done, but it wasn't satisfying for me.

3 Stars - A Good Book

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