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Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
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's review
Jan 02, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction, sci-fi, favorite-authors, british
Read from January 02 to 20, 2012

** spoiler alert ** My second (well really third) encounter with Connie Willis was, overall, a good one. The first book I read by her was Blackout, and that was full of mixed reviews. And this one…well, is similar. Let me explain.

Her writing style was the same. That was to be expected, what with this being written before Blackout. Funny, it didn’t bother me that much this time. I suppose I’ve gotten used to it. Almost. There were parts of the book where I felt it was a bit of a butt-dragger. But overall, it moved pretty well. It got much more captivating in the third part and I think that’s my biggest problem with this book. I still like the whole book, don’t get me wrong, but it was over half way through it when it started to get really good. I think that is her style though because that’s exactly what happened with Blackout. And when it did get to be captivating, it moved too fast for my taste. I think that’s because I didn’t want it to end. I guess I was spoiled with Blackout because it was dragged out for two books while this novel was a standalone. But like I said, it was a good book overall.

Probably the weirdest thing about reading a books based in the same universe in backwards order is the fact that I know more about the characters than what is revealed in this book. For example, I knew Colin was going to go with Mr. Dunworthy to the middle ages because it was mentioned in Blackout and both characters are in there. It was similar to the Star Wars Saga in the way that the last three films came out before the first three and by then you knew what was going to happen to Obi-wan and the rest of them. It was strange, but also entertaining to learn more about these characters. It adds a whole new dimension to the other books.

I really liked how there was more about the future in this book. That was one of the things that really bugged me in Blackout, but apparently she wasn’t that worried about explaining the future then because she had already done so in this book. Anyway, I really liked her version of the future. Okay, the tech was a bit old school it being 2055 and all, but that was to be expected because this was written in the ‘90s and I don’t think anyone can accurately predict the advancement of tech.

With more time in the future, we also got more of an explanation of how thye time travel, which is totally what I wanted! Okay, there wasn’t a direct explanation, but with more information I was able to infer basically how it works…sort of. The ‘net’ seems to be a part of the fabric of timespace, and through manipulation with complex algorithms they are able to travel through time! Now if someone can just do that in real life. I would LOVE to be a time traveling historian.

Another thing about her version of the future was their obsession with eliminating every type of bad bacteria and virus with their seasonal inoculations and all that. It’s even said that some people had never been sick before! That’s insane! The only way to build up a defense for what Mother Nature throws at you is getting sick, not killing it all and just waiting for the next mutation to create an epidemic. I’m sure Connie Willis justifies their germ-free existence by pointing out the fact that they suffered through a plague, the Pandemic. And alright it does make sense. That is a logical course of action that the world would take if we experienced a plague nowadays. But still, I think it’s a bit counter intuitive if you know what I mean…

Speaking of epidemics…I loved how she juxtaposed the 2055 epidemic with the 1300s Black Plague. It was amazing not only to see the difference and progression in medical care, but also the similarities. The more things change, the more things stay the same. Or so the saying goes. And that is what Connie Willis is good at. She had a brilliant knack for pointing universal qualities of human nature and showing how they transcend time (quite literally in some cases). That is what makes up for her sometimes butt-dragging writing style, and makes her such an esteemed writer.

Speaking of deeper meaning…man was the amount of religious symbolism in this book insane! Not only was the 1300s steeped with religion and religious allusions and connotations (which is to be expected), but so was the future. Her version of Oxford in 2055 was a world of the Holy-Reformed Church and even more new sects, a common language bible, and touring church bell troops. During Christmastime the streets are filled, not with Jackson 5’s ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town,’ Elvis’s ‘Blue Christmas,’ or any other Christmas carols that plague the stores in the present day, but instead deeply religious songs such as ‘When at Last my Savior Cometh,’ ‘While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night,’ and ‘We Three Kings of Orient Are.’ It was very strange to see the future so damn religious when today is quickly becoming less and less religious. I guess you can say that this religiousness happened because of the Pandemic and/or a Third Great Awakening or something like that.

But one thing’s for sure: Connie Willis must be religious herself. A version of the future is a reflection of what one sees the world heading towards and what one want the future to be. And this obvious religious nature of the author bleeds through the pages in this book almost to the point that it’s dripping with it. That’s not to say that it’s preachy or anything like that. It’s just steeped in religious symbolism and allusions that’s all, which actually adds a lot to the story, connecting the future and past in a glorious representation of the human spirit. I know that sounds like a quote from a snobbish, over exaggerating book critic, but is true.

And on that note, I’ll think I’ll end this little book review. I will surely read more of Connie Willis in the future, but for now I say good-bye!

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