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Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: The Doomsday Book

 The Doomsday Book (1992) by Connie Willis, a multiple Hugo-and-Nebula-award-winning author, is a storytelling triumph, a blend of classic science fiction and historical reconstruction. Kivrin, a history student at Oxford in 2048, travels back in time to a 14th century English village, at a time dangerously close to the onset of the Black Plague. When the technician responsible for the procedure falls prey to a 21st century epidemic, he accidentally sends Kivrin back not to 1320 but 1348—right into the path of the Black Death.   

Unaware of the error at first, Kivrin becomes deeply involved in the life of the family that takes her in. But she soon discovers the truth and confronts the horrible, unending suffering of the plague that would wipe out half the population of Europe. She also discovers she is trapped in time while her rescuers in 21st century Oxford battle their own deadly epidemic and try to reach her in time.

 Willis brilliantly weaves two storylines together as she depicts a pair of closely knit communities that face equally frightening and unknown enemies. The author uses the language of time travel and advanced technologies to speak of human concerns and finds parallels that transcend time in the hopes, struggles and fears of her modern and medieval characters.

Review by Peter Critchley, Vernon Branch

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