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FriedEgg

FriedEgg

Doomsday Book - Connie Willis I felt a little bit of trepidation setting out to read this book. Firstly I was alarmed by it's size and then I was alarmed by some of the quite harsh criticisms of the book suggesting that very little actually happens. On the other hand, it is quite highly acclaimed by many and now featured in the SF Masterworks series.

Throughout most of the book I felt quite positive. I didn't find it boring or that not enough was happening. I felt quite caught up on the story and wanted to find out what happened next throughout. I did notice however that it started to drag a little in the middle. The narrative seemed to be needlessly and methodically plodding through minutiae and trivial details that did little to advance the plot or characters. Maybe the author wanted us to share the protagonist's sense of exasperation being beset by the selfish and menial concerns of others while they were just trying to get on and deal with the big issues. But I think she overdid it and most readers will just start feeling exasperated with the narrative itself.

The author had obviously done her research on the biological and historical aspects of the story. Her knowledge of life back in a thirteenth century English village felt well researched and her knowledge of diseases and pandemics felt convincing (to someone who professes no expertise in either subject). On the other hand the technological and social aspects of the story felt less well thought out. Although being set in 2050, it felt exactly like 1990 with the exception that time machines and video phones existed. Her failure to anticipate the rise to prominence of the mobile phone just a few short years after this book published is quite noticeable, particularly when so much of the narrative tension arises out of the communication problems that will seem silly to an audience so at home in an age of personal communications.

Ultimately the book was just too long for the story it had to tell. Even though most of it was split into two narratives that paralleled the experiences of a modern pandemic with an ancient one, it didn't really need to be as long as it was. And at the end, I felt slightly deflated, somewhat dissatisfied with the way it was all wrapped up. A good book but could have been better.