From Connie Willis, winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, comes a comedic romp through an unpredictable world of mystery, love, and time travel..From Connie Willis, winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, comes a comedic romp through an unpredictable world of mystery, love, and time travel...
Ned Henry is badly in need of a rest. He's been shuttling between the 21st century and the 1940s searching for a Victorian atrocity called the bishop's bird stump. It's part of a project to restore the famed Coventry Cathedral, destroyed in a Nazi air raid over a hundred years earlier.
But then Verity Kindle, a fellow time traveler, inadvertently brings back something from the past. Now Ned must jump back to the Victorian era to help Verity put things right--not only to save the project but to prevent altering history itself.
To Say Nothing the Dog was July's selection for the Cercle d'Atuan book club. It has received countless genre awards (Hugo and Locus awards in 1999 and nominated for the Nebula the year before), all of them more than deserved IMHO.
It's an unsettling read to say the least that presents complex time-traveling issues and has them played out like a Monty Python sketch. It's completely disarming, wacky and insane and yet, it manages to remain accessible and comprehensible. Quite a feat if you ask me.
Reading the first few pages feels like the author has thrown you in a swimming pool with no bottom, knowing full well that you can't swim. But, despite appearances, Connie Willis is not trying to murder you, she's trying to teach you, and guess what? You will be just fine. You'll even start to adjust to the totally unfamiliar surroundings and rewire your brain so as to understand just what the heck is at stake here... besides your own drowning that is. I can understand why some could feel put off by such a beginning but I felt right at home (this statement actually implies a lot more on my own sanity or willingness to drown if you will...). And even those of the Cercle who could not get the hang of it in the beginning soon came around and I'm glad to say that, in the end, this novel was highly acclaimed by all of us.
As I previously mentioned TSNOTD is an incredibly rich and lively novel that could translate into a wonderful play. Some scenes are simply priceless and if they don't make you laugh like they did me, you will at least smile as you watch Connie Willis use elements from vaudeville to set up crazy fake séances, time lag induced quiproquos, complex cheating during croquet, descriptions of excessive Victorian furniture and faster than light butler. Fans of British humor will be delighted as you may have guessed from my previous allusions to Monty Pythons.
The novel is filled with so many literary references some of which pointed out by my fellow Atuanians had totally escaped me (which did not hinder my enjoyment of the novel in the least, so again, kudos to Connie Willis for that!). There was the obvious Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome to which the novels owes its title, but also allusions to Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, various old mystery novels, etc. Throughout the narration, Connie Willis has fun deconstructing and sometimes purposefully employing various clichés found in said mystery novels (the butler did it!) and time-traveling novels.
To be quite honest, it was a pure delight to read, a real tour de force and a masterpiece that I would happily come back to in a few years, as I'm sure countless details have escaped me the first time around.
This was my first introduction to Connie Willis's work and I do intend to read more, probably starting with Passage of which I have a French edition somewhere, but especially her other novels dealing with time-traveling historians from Oxford: Doomsday Book, Blackout and All Clear.
This is a highly recommended part science fiction and part historical novel that will leave you with a feeling of euphoria and many questions about chaos theory!...more
I think this may become my second favorite in the series. PoA will, forever I think, be my number one. Some will call this one a bad remake of CoS butI think this may become my second favorite in the series. PoA will, forever I think, be my number one. Some will call this one a bad remake of CoS but I completely disagree. First, because obviously Harry needs to use all of his previous adventures, all of his experience now that he is getting closer and closer to the final encounter with Voldemort. Second, because the HBP’s book had nothing to do with Riddle’s diary… It wasn’t alive and never answered back, nor was it a piece of a random soul. The book was just that, a book, well Snape’s book which explains why Harry became a genius in Potions all over sudden. There was a lot of romance… well, more likely snogging. Ron finally got some action and so did Harry. True it was a little bit cheesy at times, especially when it came to Ron and Hermione trying to attract each other’s attention and making the other one jealous, but then isn’t teenage romance always a bit cheesy? I was a bit surprised by the pairing Harry/Ginny… it came as quite unexpected to me but then I think Harry felt the same way. I also didn’t think he broke up with her for the right reasons. Let’s face it, now that the Death Eaters have got Draco on their side, Ginny will be in danger whether or not, she’s going out with Harry. Perhaps, Rowling is using that as an excuse so that in book 7, Hermione will become the leading female character again. Draco… I must admit I really like the way Rowling portrayed him in this book. Long gone is the simplistic evil bully. Here, Draco’s grown up and showed a conscience, a strategic mind and determination. I found it funny that of all the people he’s surrounded with, the only he thought safe to confide in was Moaning Myrtle… this further uncovers this fake image of himself he’s trying to put up. The HBP was, according to the title, supposed to be the main plot element; however, there are times when it is completely forgotten by the reader. In the end though, when looking back on the entire book, Rowling did give a much major role to Snape. I’m an active believer in the theory that Dumbledore didn’t not as much beg Snape to spare him (I could never imagine Dumbledore begging even less if he knew that Harry was around) than begging for Snape to kill him. They are both accomplished Legilimens after all and they didn’t break eye contact until Snape cursed Dumbledore. However, I felt more than ready to know what it was that Dumbledore knew about Snape that made him trust him so. However, Dumbledore’s sacrifice saved both Harry and Draco in the end, making the whole experience less definitive for the latter. The fact that Dumbledore wanted to give private lessons to Harry at the beginning of the year kinda tipped me off. It meant that Dumbledore no longer thought that he was invincible, especially when he asked Harry his opinion. It kinda of deprived him of his untouchable image and prepared the reader for what was to come. That exactly make the pill easier to swallow but now that look back on it, I see the link. RAB… um, my best guess would obviously be Regulus Black, Sirius’ brother. That would probably explain why he was killed but it also lift the question: did Regulus destroy others of Voldemort’s horcruxes. One of the main criticism that I would make would be the total disappearance of characters that had become important in the OoTP… I desperately wanted to see more Lupin, Luna and Neville. Speaking of Lupin… the pairing with Tonks more than surprised me… he hardly seemed convinced by it himself lol! Overall, I disagree with those who claim that this volume was much darker than the previous one, I found it lighter (in all sense of the term!), like it was Harry’s last fun days before the big stuff got in the way. That’s probably one of the reasons why Ginny’s character withdraws at the end of the book. There won’t much time left for romance in the seventh book… well Ron and Hermione maybe cuz they still really have a long way to go....more