Friday, May 1, 2015

Review:: Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

Title: Doomsday Book
Author: Connie Willis
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

In some ways, I enjoyed Doomsday Book more than Blackout/All Clear. In other ways, I felt it was worse. But mostly, I had this continual feeling I was reading the same exact book, just with slightly different circumstances.

When I say that, I mean it's pretty much the same exact situation. Someone goes back in time. Extenuating circumstances mean they are trapped there. Everyone spends a long time figuring out exactly what's wrong, then working towards fixing it. Fixing it is difficult because things keep getting in the way.

Doomsday Book follows the story of a woman named Kivrin who goes back in time to study Medieval history. Only things get screwed up and she ends up in the middle of the bubonic plague. Which she's inoculated against, but scares everyone terribly when she understand that's what's happened.

It feels like characters are holding the idiot ball a lot again, but at least this time they have an excuse: everyone in contemporary time has come down with a terrible flu, source unknown. So everyone's kind of in a panic and the ones who are sick, their brains are muddled. And Kivrin contracted the same flu and is fighting it in a time with little understanding of medicine, so until she gets better it only makes sense she can't make any sense of what's going on.

Tech seems a lot more logical, too. Future!Oxford feels a lot more like future!anything, although the lack of mobile devices still clashes a bit. But hey, it was written in '92. Not everyone can be a successful futurist.

But while Blackout/All Clear had some religious tones, Doomsday Book is incredibly religious. Which makes sense, considering the time period, but the contemporary bits hinge heavily on religion as well. The more I think about it, the more these three books have been about struggling forward, despite having all your power taken from you, which lends itself well to religious tones.

Connie Willis also seems to be really obsessed with the trope of having to escape from a hospital. While it made more sense in Blackout/All Clear, where the hospital in question was a WWII hospital, it makes a lot more sense for a future!Oxford hospital to trap you against your will for non-psychiatric reasons.

Are you not allowed to check yourself out against medical advice in the UK? Or did they just abolish patients' rights in the future? Somehow, I think it's just a lack of thinking things through. It would make more sense if the character would be violating quarantine, but by the time he needs to break out, anyone who didn't get sick was inoculated and wouldn't get ill.

I think I've just come to the conclusion that Connie Willis books aren't for me. I don't really like the whole "saving people in the nick of time" thing either, which she seems to be fond of. It works better in visual media, but when you're dealing with a book, the dramatic appeal is somewhat lost. (And I'm not a big fan of it in visual media, either.)

All that being said, completionist I am, I'll probably read To Say Nothing of the Dog.

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