A word to the wise, this is in no way a happy go lucky time-travel novel. It is, however, a spectacular read from a Hugo and Nebula award-winning author. More than anything Doomsday Book uses the Black Death to investigate how different people react in times of crisis. Due to the fact that unfolding events are told from the perspective of someone who knows what is to come, this novel is emotionally heavy. Since the reader also knows how history plays out, it is easy for them to connect with the book's protagonist as she desperately tries to come to terms with her new reality. After all it is one thing to study a catastrophic event from afar and a completely different thing to actually live through it. Willis' novel leaves the reader wondering how well they would have fared had they been in Kivrin's shoes. The golden rule of time-travel is that one must not interfere with events or attempt to change history lest they change the future too. Doomsday Book makes the reader wonder if this golden rule still applies when you yourself do not know if you will come out alive. Does the fate of a future you know outweigh the realities of a past that you are currently experiencing? At some point in time all protagonists in time-travel stories are forced to ask this question. It just happens that stakes in Kivrin's situation are higher than most.
I stumbled onto this novel one day when looking for a new read and while it was in no way what I had expected Willis' book proved to be a very engaging, if very somber, read. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in history, philosophy, death + dying (yes that is an academic field), and the overall human condition. I've heard that Doomsday Book was in the works for anything from five to ten years. However long it took, it was clearly a labor of love and is a quality read for those of you interested in more serious novels that have a sci-fi twist.
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