Doomsday Book

Connie Willis
Doomsday Book Cover

Doomsday Book


I typically spend my summers reading science fiction books that have won both the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards.

By far, the most harrowing of the books that have won both awards that I have previously not read is Connie Willis' Doomsday Book.

It is almost impossible to put down. I started it on a Saturday afternoon lastsummer and I could not stop reading it until I finished it after 3 a.m. that night.

The story revolves around a time machine that allows historians to do "real time study" of important historical events.

In Christmas 2054, Oxford history professor James Dunworthy agrees to send his favorite graduate student Kivrin Engle to the Middle Ages, 1320 to be precise, to do field work for her thesis on this highly dangerous but fascinating era of human history.

Through an unfortunate incident Kivrin gets sent back to 1348 when the Black Plague was raging through the British countryside. Simultaneously, a suspiciously similar deadly epidemic is coursing through 2054 Oxford, complicating efforts for Dunworthy to rescue his trusted charge.

The parallel storytelling is incredibly gripping.

The writing is also hysterically funny.

Willis has a writing style that includes an impressive attention to detail combined with a subtle ear for dialogue.

I had never heard of her or her work before seeing her Doomsday Book on the list of Hugo-Nebula winners. Since then I have also read To Say Nothing of the Dog which has a similar profile of a time-travel story combined with historical detail and impeccable comic timing, in this case bordering on farce.

Doomsday Book is an incredible read and a very enjoyable (but nerve-wracking) experience.