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Like studying history; Mostly fun but sometimes boring

the doomsday book


My actual rating of this book is somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. It was an overall enjoyable read but certainly didn’t live up to all the hype surrounding it in the sci fi community. As a history nerd, I also enjoy a well told time travel tale. My two biggest quibbles are that a) the book drags for a hundred pages or so after the inciting incident b) The finale seems a little rushed after slowly building up to it.

The basic premise is this: the book is set about 40 years in the future. Time travel is possible and is used for academic purposes. A young grad student named Kivrin travels back to England in 1320 against the wishes of her mentor professor Dunworthy. Though things seem to go alright at first, the situation quickly goes pear shaped in both the past and the present. Here is one of the things I appreciated as someone who has studied history; as much as we’ve studied history, we don’t actually [i]know[/i] what it was like. Studying history is like shining a dim light on a dark landscape. We take what evidence we have and make our best guess. Despite being very intelligent and having prepared exhaustively, Kivrin can’t even speak the right version of old English when she arrives in the past. Unfortunately the action comes to a bit of a standstill after this as Kivrin tries to get her bearings and professor Dunworthy deals with catastrophes on his end.

Overall I enjoyed this book. Once things got moving I didn’t want to put it down. It was a nice blend of history and sci fi, two genres I enjoy immensely. When it was good it was very good and when it wasn’t, I felt like the guy in the old Dunkin’ Donuts commercial. “It’s time to make the donuts.”

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