Saturday, December 26, 2009

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

A Hugo award winning novel.
Time travel is being used for historical research, and one female scientist is planning to travel to the medieval Britain, a few decades before the plague. After she has gone there, the technical in charge of the ”net” used from time ”drops” collapses from an unknown disease. It shouldn't be possible for diseases to travel upwards in the time stream. Just before he collapses he seems to indicate that something has gone wrong in the time jump. And the person who went back in time, Kivrin, starts to feel very ill very soon after arriving to the past. A severe, sometimes deadly disease starts to spread in modern times, and at the same time Kivrin is struggling for her life in middle ages with the same(?) disease. The idea is pretty good, but execution is less so. The book is overtly talky and overlong. Every character seems to engage in smalltalk with every other character talking about idle things. Also, many of the characters seem to be very stupid. And many events in the story depend on some pretty unlikely coincidences. Also, the technology seems to be extremely poorly thought about. There are no mobile phones, but a lot of wordage is used in describing phone calls which are NOT made by normal phonelines, as the lines aren't functioning. The are hardly any computers, and those there are seems to be pretty ineffectual. The calculation of the time drop is apparently something computers can't handle, as it demands a certain technical, and when he falls ill, no-one can use the net, or even check the results of the former drop. The book was written in about 1992, and cell phones were not so rare then (I checked, there were hundreds of thousands them for example in Finland at that time), and when some plot points involve badly functioning phones in the future of 2050, when there were better functioning phones in 1992, it gives an impression of one pretty lazy, and not very well informed author. Laziness of the author can be also seen in the writing. It is extremely loose with a lot of repetition, especially in the beginning where very little happens. One of the more baffling Hugo wins.
578 pp.

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