I’ve taken a few days off from work in honor of my birthday since no one has yet seen fit to make it a federal holiday. I don’t understand what’s taking so long. Anyway, I had planned to spend time really digging into Briane Greene (his book, not the actual man), hours of focused, deliberate, science. Well, I’ve had hours of focused, deliberate reading of science fiction instead.
I tried to read Greene but got sleepy, even after a cup of coffee. Not a good sign. So I planned on sneaking up on the book by reading To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis for awhile. I’ve been reading the Willis book in bits and pieces up until now. Once I actually spent time with it I couldn’t put it down. This book was fun!
In brief, the book takes place in the future when time travel is possible. “The net, ” the time travel network that gets historians back and forth through time–they can only go into the past, not into the future–has safeguards and backups and theories galore to protect inadvertent and purposeful attempts at altering the past. At the beginning of the story the net is being used to collect information in order to build an exact replica of Coventry Cathedral at the behest of a very rich woman who could probably make a Marine drill sergeant cry. In this future time all cats are extinct. A historian doing research back in 1888 accidentally brings a cat back with her. They hastily return the cat, but it is too late. An incongruity has been created and if it isn’t fixed the course of history will be radically altered.
Most of the book takes place in 1888 Victorian England with plot twists and turns like you wouldn’t believe. The title of the book is taken from Jerome K Jerome’s novel Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog). Willis does a wonderful job of incorporating references to Jerome’s book in her own. She also does a great job with character as well as capturing the frequently bizarre aspects of Victorian life. The book also manages to ruminate on history–is history made by individual character or through forces that are part of a Grand Design?
The book is technically science fiction, but if you are afraid of scifi, you have nothing to be afraid of in this book. Along with the science fiction aspect we’ve also got a historical fiction aspect and Willis even works in a mystery with many references to Agatha Christie and other classic mysteries of the 1930s. And there is Jeeves as well. I think the only thing she forgets is the kitchen sink. Have I said how much fun this book is?
You don’t have to have read Jerome K Jerome’s book to enjoy To Say Nothing of the Dog, but I would recommend reading both of them. You won’t regret it.