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July 27th, 2007


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09:35 am - perspective
I just finished The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, having finally gotten around to it by dint of running across a copy at the library when I was browsing. The book received both the Hugo and Nebula awards - meaning both the fans and her professional peers considered it the best work of its year. I concur with the high regard.

What I think is funny is this: I knew the book was pretty grim in places - I can't think of a single conversation I'd been part of before reading it where it wasn't called depressing at least once. It deals with epidemic diseases, and in spite of Monty Python the plague isn't really that lighthearted of a topic.

Then faintheart, who had stopped by last night, noticed the book lying next to my reading chair and warned me - because I am sensitive to these things, no lie - that he had found it quite depressing.

So I was ready to be depressed, ready for death, despair, disease, and futility. I was so ready, in fact, that in spite of all these things at the close of the novel it actually seemed like a happy ending. Until I sat and thought about it some more - but I guess I find it interesting how much a couple of flowers can do to mitigate a barren wasteland, metaphorically speaking.

Recommended. Willis draws a very interesting comparison between medieval and modern attitudes toward disease/quarentine/death in the cultures of 1348 (plague) and 2054 (influenza).
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From:faintheart
Date:July 27th, 2007 06:22 pm (UTC)
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What disturbed me about it was that she spent the first half of the book introducing you to an entire village of characters, and then systematically killed every single one of them in the second half.
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From:cithra
Date:July 27th, 2007 08:21 pm (UTC)
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I found that disturbing as well, but I wasn't expecting to find ANY positive outcome. Some people survived after all, and I expected everyone to be dead, in both time lines. It's still pretty grim, though.
From:celyn100
Date:July 27th, 2007 08:23 pm (UTC)
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When Jherek and I lived in the triplex in Fremont, our landlady was home sick one day and popped over to ask Jherek if she could borrow one of our books to read. Jherek knew I had recently read The Doomsday Book and had liked it, but he didn't know anything more about it than that. He mentioned it to me when I got home. I was worried that reading a book about people dying in horrible epidemics while she was sick would be pretty disturbing for our landlady, but I checked with her later and she had actually enjoyed the book.

But faintheart is right, the book is pretty harsh in the way that Willis introduces you to all these lovely characters, then kills them off. I recommend that you *not* read her later book Passages for similar reasons.
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