Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
This ultra-British award winner centers on historian Kivrin, who time travels to study life in 1320. Instead she lands in 1348, during the Black Death that decimated Europe. Meanwhile, a different virus throws Kivrin’s future colleagues into chaos.
Willis needs an editor. She’s buried a solid story in 250 pages of farcical hand-flapping. Ridiculous characters, like the shrewish Mrs. Gaddson and her philandering son William, are exaggerated past belief. But worse is the endless plot-related repetition without a whit of advancement. A key professor, Basingame, can’t be found. Why? He’s on holiday. In Scotland. Fishing. Fishing either salmon or trout. And so on. Apparently no cell phones or email exist; moreover, Basingame never shows up. Over endless visits to his quarantined time travel tech, Dunworthy learns no more than “Something’s – wrong!” I figured out what was wrong at least 100 pages before Dunworthy. Not good.
Still, the writing was amiable enough, and the good bits good enough, to keep me chugging along. There are sympathetic characters, like Kivrin, five-year-old Agnes, faithful Roche, and paternal Dunworthy. I liked the medieval narrative, and the use of time travel for academia. The serious parts ring true. Take it to the beach, glaze over the silliness and repetition, and just float through a jolly good story.
The 213 in 2013 series chronicles every book I read in 2013. Each review contains exactly 213 words, because 2013 words is too long and 2013 characters is too dang short.