Doomsday Book

By Connie Willis,

Book cover of Doomsday Book

Book description

"A tour de force" - New York Times Book Review

"Ambitious, finely detailed and compulsively readable" - Locus

"It is a book that feels fundamentally true; it is a book to live in" - Washington Post

For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in…

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Why read it?

7 authors picked Doomsday Book as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

A time-travel classic, this book is also a masterful example of how to juggle two very different tones and timelines without it coming across as jarring to the reader. The two timelines diverge at the start of the story, which begins in near-future Oxford. Time travel has been invented, and a student named Kivrin is going back to the Middle Ages to conduct research. Half of the book follows her story as she navigates the Black Death, while the other half follows the much lighter (and at times very funny) story of her colleagues dealing with the bureaucracy of an…

My two favorite genres, speculative fiction and historical fiction, are combined in this time travel story. A mathematical miscalculation traps a time-traveler in 17th-century rural England as the Black Plague sweeps in. Fully vaccinated, she watches in horror as the disease claims rich and poor, young and old—unaware that in her own time, another pandemic is raging, threatening her ability to return. Connie Willis is a Grand Master of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association, and this book demonstrates why she is considered a master of her craft.

From Catherine's list on science fiction from the backlist.

This is one of my favourite time-slips ever! Oxford University 2054CE, and historians are now travelling back in time to study seminal moments in history. Post-graduate student, Kivrin, goes through the Net to observe life in medieval time, but the coordinates are wrong and instead, she finds herself in a small village at the time of plague, not knowing that she herself is already carrying a virulent form of a flu-like plague sweeping through the History Department. Desperately ill, Kirvrin has no hope of rescue unless she can identify the ‘saviour’ who found her out in the woods and brought…

A time-traveling historian is stranded in the fourteenth century when an epidemic breaks out in her own time. A bittersweet, depressing, wonderful, character-driven book that shows the individual costs of plagues better than just about any other novel I’ve ever read- and I’ve read a lot of them. Deservedly won both the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Recommended to me by a good friend, proving what a good friend she is.

It’s set in a future where history students take field trips into the past. Kivrin persuades Professor Dunworthy to risk sending her back further than anyone’s gone before: to the 14th Century.

No sooner has she left than the techie operating the Time-Net falls seriously ill with influenza. The authorities, fearing that the disease has been brought back from the past, close the Time Net, trapping Kivrin in the 1300s.

Her plight worsens when the Black Death reaches her village and all the people she’s…

Doomsday Book is the opening volume of the Oxford time-travel novels, and it packs a huge emotional punch.

Kivrin Engle, a young historian, goes back to the Medieval period, fully vaccinated against the bubonic plague even though she is supposed to arrive twenty years before the outbreak. Things go wrong with the time-travel tech, and Kivrin arrives in 1348, where she witnesses the ravages of the historical Black Death pandemic, which is juxtaposed with a mid-twenty-first-century epidemic that has broken out in Oxford. 

Time travel and pandemic are two of my favorite science fiction tropes, so I love this novel,…

From Pamela's list on that make our pandemic look mild.

Granted, it’s not a big stretch to go from fantasy to science fiction, and this amazing novel won both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award. Connie Willis is one of the best writers in science fiction, and this is her masterpiece. It’s a time-travel story about a woman named Kivren who ends up stranded in the 14th century during the Black Death. Meanwhile, in the future, an influenza epidemic breaks out, and they’re afraid it may have come from sending Kivren back in time. I know, a charming selection during the time of Covid. But trust me, it’s…

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