Doomsday Book. Connie Willis. 1992. Random House. 592 pages.
Mr. Dunworthy opened the door to the laboratory and his spectacles promptly steamed up.
"Am I too late?" he said, yanking them off and squinting at Mary.
I loved Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog. I just LOVED it. But I think I loved Doomsday Book a little bit more. It was incredibly compelling. It was intense, emotional, and impossible to put down.
The writing was as great as I expected. Willis does a wonderful job with her characters. They feel very real--very human. The setting--the world building--is also amazing. She does a great job building the past--the fourteenth century--and the "present" which is a time-traveling future. (The story alternates between past and present.) She blends mystery, science fiction, and historical fiction--and blends them well!
Doomsday Book is dramatic. Kivrin--our heroine--is a historian traveling to the Middle Ages--to 1320 to be exact. The fourteenth century has just been opened up to historians. And this is a dream come true for Kivrin. While, certain years will most likely remain "too dangerous" to visit--like the year 1348--the year the Black Death was first recorded in England--there is much to learn, to explore. And Kivrin is excited--thrilled--to be the one to go. She'll be spending two weeks in the past--in a small village--during Advent. Mr. Dunworthy, however, has his doubts. And he's not afraid to voice them. Kivrin thinks he's being too cautious. That he's just being silly, ridiculous. Of course, she'll take all the necessary precautions--like her vaccinations and such--but she's an educated woman capable of taking care of herself--no matter the century.
But. From the start, there is something wrong with the drop. It starts with the technician, Badri, becoming ill. Soon the whole area is quarantined. Cases start coming in--and soon medical staff are overwhelmed. What is this disease--this illness? How is it spread? Where did it come from? Is it fatal? Is there a cure? Is Badri the first case? Did he have a chance to pass this on to Kivrin before she went through the Net? What was Badri trying to communicate to Dunworthy at the last minute?
Readers meet dozens of characters in both centuries as this mystery unfolds. And while it is serious--dramatic--and emotional--people will die--it's not without its lighter moments of wit. I loved the narrative. I loved the way this story was told. This one I'll definitely be recommending!
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews