Imagine a future England where people no longer get the flu, cats are extinct, and colleges have history programs able to send students back in time. The world Connie Willis creates for several of her novels is complex and highly logical.
First of all, this novel is the winner of three awards: 1992 Nebula Award for Best Novel; 1993 Hugo Award for Best Novel; & 1993 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.
It follows a young history student, Kivrin, on her journey to year 1320 – smack in the middle of the middle ages. It is a controversial ‘drop’ because no one has ever travelled back so far in time. The drop is being run over Christmas Break, and for that reason the drop is being handled by a few people who don’t entirely know what they’re doing. Mr. Dunworthy, Kivrin’s tutor and friend, is justly worried over the whole escapade…as someone who has done quite a lot of time travelling himself, he knew better than to let it proceed, but it was run by a different department/college, so he had no control over it whatsoever. As Kivrin explores the medieval village of Skendgate, ‘present’ England falls under a quarientine for a disease no one has ever seen before, and the technician who ran Kivrin’s drop fell ill – unable to read the ‘fix’ (meaning while Kivrin is expecting to be picked up in two weeks, they have no idea where she actually ended up to find her).
One seeming disaster after another, this novel is both exceedingly creative and intensely researched. The end result is a captivating, suspenseful, and entertaining read.
If you are more interested in Victorian England, I recommend To Say Nothing of the Dog. If the Blitz intrigues you, Firewatch. More World War Two exploration and you should check out Connie’s newest books, Blackout & All Clear.
After reading all of the above, and several more, I’ve begun to see a pattern in Connie Willis’ suspense writing that has become predictable and a little bit annoying (probably just because I’ve read them so many times and know the outcomes already!). For first time readers, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Connie Willis’ work.
Until next time,