Friday, October 10, 2014

Book of the Week

I was hoping to feature a book that was more in the Halloween spirit as this week's book of the week, but in light of recent events, this book -- Connie Willis' novel Doomsday Book -- seemed more appropriate. After all, Connie Willis' account of a young female time traveler who finds herself accidentally stranded at an English manor that has been afflicted by the Black Plague manages to be both depressing and inspiring, scary and yet hopeful. And given the news one so often sees on TV as of late, one can't ask for more than that.

I once read the novel for my science fiction reading group back around the year 2000 and such is the power of its story that every few years, I return to it. Moreover, there is something all too timely about Ms. Willis' vision of the plague years. In her view, it was not necessarily the most noble or most courageous who survived the plague; all too often, it was merely the most cowardly and the most selfish who survived. Not that Ms. Willis had any intention of encouraging us to identify with the knaves and the cowards of Plague-Era England; indeed, she makes it quite obvious that she identifies with the doomed but goodhearted far more than she does the selfish survivors. But she is as much a realist as she is a romantic and it is the very fact that she is not afraid to give her heroes and heroines flaws that helps make her novel so readable.

Given the fact that we live in an age where all too people think it is witty to send e-mails that suggest that the best cure for the Ebola virus is a M-4 rifle, I would like to think we need all the people like Ms. Willis that we can get.

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