Willis' macabre and amusing science fiction classic
How would we interact with those from the distant past?
By Yang Guo
How might one interact with people from the distant past if one were allowed to time travel there? This was the question posed by Connie Willis in her science fiction novel, The Doomsday Book. The novel is set in Oxford University, at around Christmas time, 2053.
A young woman called Kivrin, a historian, is sent back in time to research the past.
Concerned about the dangers of travelling back to such an unfamiliar time, a critical professor warns her of all the possible dangers she will face - diseases, poor sanitation, rape, being burned as a witch...
Yet all of those worries prove to be superficial when they realize they made a mistake, and she has actually landed in the year the Black Death reached Oxford, in the Christmas of 1348! Meanwhile, a mysterious strain of influenza is spreading quickly back in the Oxford of her time, and in the ensuing panic, it becomes uncertain whether anyone will be able to arrange her rescue.
The best part of the novel is the chapters concerning Kivrin's encounters with people from 1348, which seemed so real that I began to feel attached to the characters and their village. All of this is brought to a devastating end when, one by one, they began to fall victim to the plague.
5th March 2018