Doomsday Book is a time travel book…or is it a historical novel? The year is 2048 (well maybe as I will explain later) and Kivrin, an earnest undergraduate female historian, is sent back to the Oxford, England of 1320. She doesn’t arrive there, but instead somewhere else, sometime else in Old England. Meanwhile a deadly influenza epidemic sweeps across present day England. The nasty virus hits Kivrin soon after she arrives. Things get worse. She doesn’t arrive in merry Oxford, but in a tiny hamlet where a minor noble family has taken refuge from the Black Plague raging across England. Willis weaves parallel stories of present with that of Kivrin in 1348. Kivrin’s tale mesmerized me. Will she survive the flu? Will she and her new friends survive the plague? Will she be able to find the drop site for her retrieval back to the present? Willis’ depiction of small village in Medieval England rang true and made a perfect backdrop for her nail biting drama.
In the present day, the flu ravages the ranks of the time travel scientists. Will they be able to organize Kivrin’s retrieval? A sprinkling of farce leavens this story. A strict sci-fi fan may have some issues with the 2048 story as cell phones, voice mail, and even answering machines don’t exist. Maybe Willis originally wrote the story in the 1970’s. A speaker at the PNWA Summer Conference a few years ago, who knows Willis, said the book’s technology reflected Willis’ own level of technological savviness. I decided to ignore the issue and enjoy the story. Don’t expect a quick read. This is a long book. Instead, get cozy in your favorite chair, pour yourself a good glass of port, and discover Kivrin’s fate.
I put books into three categories: the fun reads, the reads I don’t finish, and the books that make a mark on my memory. Doomsday Book is one of the last. It was a rare joint winner in 1993 of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. It shared the Hugo Award with Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep. The two winners couldn’t be more different. Vernor’s book takes place in deep space and features some of the most imaginative aliens I’ve encountered in sci-fi. I’ll review A Fire Upon the Deep next week.
When I started writing science fiction, I realized how dated my reading in the genre was. It was time to get reading. I started with the Hugo Award winners and nominees. I didn’t read all of them. I didn’t even like some, which emphasizes how reading is such a personal thing and a book one person loves, another might hate. For me, I’ll take a good plot and straightforward writing.
This reading quest led me to John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep, and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game among others. I also read some classics that somehow I missed, like Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. Currently I’m the fantasy/science fiction world of Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light, which I first read years ago.
Over the next weeks, author by author I’ll explore my experiences on this reader’s quest.
No, it’s not the birthday of Krin Bishop, the empath heroine of Truth-Teller Rebellion.
There is a real Krin. She’s a spunky ninety-one years old today. Happy Birthday, Krin. I’ll have a full profile of her soon.
I had a problem three years ago when I started Truth-Teller Rebellion. I wanted a strong name for Cary’s remarkable sister, and I didn’t have one. My wife Teresa remembered Krin. It was the perfect name: both different and strong. We met Krin and her daughter two years earlier while on a cruise, and had kept in touch. Krin graciously gave me permission to use her name.
Thank again, Krin, and happy birthday.
A few highlights of the review are:
The world building in this book first becomes evident by the sometimes odd ways in which the characters speak. Archaic words are effortlessly mixed in with futuristic slang and references to cutting-edge technology. Strictly speaking this isn’t steampunk, but I do see some influence from that genre in the ways in which the characters communicate about certain ideas. It took me a few chapters to adjust to some of their odder uses of syntax, but once I did I really enjoyed learning about how Cary and Krin think in particular based on the types of words they choose to use and how they string them together.…
Mr. Schultz’s scenery descriptions are not to be missed. The earth has changed a great deal over the past few thousand years, and the best passages in this story describe how humanity has adapted to some pretty extreme climate shifts in North America. Enough time has passed that none of these dangers are particularly newsworthy to characters who have never known any other way of life, but as a reader I really enjoyed quietly comparing their world to my own.…
What I liked most about this book was how intelligently the characters respond to the dangerous situations they find themselves trapped in. I may not have always understood why they made certain choices, but Cary and Krin were written in such a way that they honestly act and sound like two teenagers who grew up herding cattle on the steppes. They know how to react quickly in a crisis and are clearly used to thinking creatively and making the best of their resources.
The complete review is at http://www.longandshortreviews.com. Go to the review tab and then pick sci-fi/fantasy.
Truth-Teller Rebellion is once again available for purchase as an e-book on Amazon, from my publisher at www.champagnebooks.com, Barnes & Noble, and other e-book sellers.
More great news! I’ve signed a contract with Champagne Book Group for Rebellion’s sequel. Truth-Teller Revenge will be released in November.