I have a new author to add to my list of favorites: Connie Willis. And I’m delighted because she’s written and published lots of books, and I’m planning to read all of them (except for the short story collections; I don’t like short stories.) I’ve already read three of her books, and although each of them was very different from the other two, I loved them all.
First I read Doomsday Book. It’s historical fiction and science fiction at the same and entertaining for fans of either or both genres. This book would make a wonderful movie; however Hollywood wouldn’t be able to resist tweaking it to add a bit of romance to a central relationship in the book that is a professor/student, father/daughter relationship and works quite well that way. So no movie. Even though a movie could be a great thing.
Kivrin, a history student at Oxford in 2048, travels through “the net” back in time to the fourteenth century. In the meantime, a virulent influenza virus puts Oxford and its environs under quarantine, and Badre, the tech who set up the program to send Kivrin back in time, is too ill to tell anyone exactly what’s gone wrong with the plan to send Kivrin back to medieval England and retrieve her in two weeks. But something has gone horribly wrong, and Kivrin’s professor, Dr. Dunworthy, is the only one who’s trying to get her back. The others involved in the study are either too sick or too busy trying to deal with the epidemic to help Dunworthy. Kivrin is stranded in an English village in the early 1300’s, and all of her vaccinations and preparations won’t keep her from experiencing the most harrowing and nightmarish time of her young life.
I would assign this book to a class studying the Middle Ages in a heartbeat. However, it’s long, maybe too long for a class assignment. I do think they’d get more information on medieval life and remember more of it by reading this book than by studying a history text. In fact, Doomsday Book made me want to do some research on certain aspects of medieval life. It’s not an exciting adventure novel, and as I said the romance quotient wouldn’t meet Hollywood standards. However, if you love history and good characterization, give it a try.
To Say Nothing of the Dog by the same author uses the same plot device of “the net” to enable the author to tell a much different, more comedic, time-traveling tale. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow. Suffice it to say I liked it even better than I did Doomsday Book.