by Connie Willis
It’s a slightly futuristic England, and humanity has achieved the art of time travel. There are whole ‘history’ departments at Oxford dedicated to investigating different time periods – in person. Kivrin has set her heart on traveling to medieval England – specifically the 1320’s. And in the normal course of things, no problems would arise. Except that a virus spreading through Oxford infects her team, and results in her being sent to the wrong time, herself delirious with fever. Cue a sort of thriller as her team in the future tries to figure out what went wrong, where she ended up, and how to get her back in the middle of a quarantine, cast against Kivrin’s own experiences in a medieval England that was not at all as she had been trained to expect. It’s an interesting contrast. Both time lines have a sense of desperation, though the future story has tinges of absurdity and humor, while the medieval story is at turns heartwarming and hopeless. It’s a really good read, and kept me engaged the whole time. I did feel it ended a tad abruptly; I would’ve liked to see a little more of the aftermath of the whole thing. But overall it’s a unique take on the time travel motif, and well worth a read. It won the Hugo and Nebula awards, so clearly others agree.
I didn’t realize when I read this that it was published in 1992. I had just assumed the prevalent use of landline phones and handbell choirs was a sort of slightly alternate history. Ha! In other words, the more ‘modern’ portion of the story being 20 years out of date didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the book at all. And I just now when writing this review saw that is was the first in a series. Surprising, as I think it stands alone, but also yay! because I will definitely pick up the next one. 🙂