Review, Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

The Doomsday Book (Oxford Time Travel)The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An unusual time-travel cum historical fiction book populated with annoying characters among both the long ago ones and the latter day folks. A multi award-winning book that slowly comes to a climax in the last quarter of the text.

I must offer kudos to the creative efforts at depicting life in medieval times, yet showing the conflicts between children, extended family and the young historian protagonist. Unfortunately, the author spends way too many pages to show that medieval interpersonal relationships were not so different from those of today.

Yes, the challenges facing the time-traveling historian were ably revealed—but like the character conflicts, were too repetitive. It took too long to get to the point. Again, there were jerks—life is full of them. To me, it seems after we understood who was who, the author might have moved the story along—in perhaps 35-40% fewer words.

As for the other half of the story (the current times from which the young historian traveled), the reader is repeatedly treated to an obnoxious character that is an impediment to resolving the risks to the traveler. This character is a combination of the “Peter Principle” and it’s analogue, the “Dilbert Principle.” There are more bothersome people as well; life is full of them. If you have none in your life, you are a rare fortunate one. But did readers need so many in this book?

The saving grace for me is that both the latter day person elevated to his level of incompetence and a few annoying folks from Medieval Times shared the fate of karmic retribution. Being a Buddhist myself, who realized what they had coming, this felt like an offering of schadenfreude to those who might be so inclined. It would be a spoiler to tell you how the heroic types wound up–but you might guess, this not being not being a noir book, just plenty of suffering.

Finally, another positive observation: This story offers few of the traditional time travel issues but other conflicts and complexities seldom seen.

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