Saturday, April 23, 2011

To Say Nothing of the Dog (Book)

History was indeed controlled by blind forces, as well as character and courage and treachery and love.
Dogs & Cats. Séances. Church Restorations. Bird Stumps. Jumble Sales. The Space-Time Continuum. The 1999 Hugo and Locus Science Fiction award winning novel, To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, is part time-travel, part mystery, and all fun. Poor Ned Henry has a bad case of time-lag after traveling to the 1940’s too many times in search of information—particularly about a bird stump—for Lady Schrapnell, who is rebuilding Coventry Cathedral. To hide from Lady Schrapnell, Ned is sent to 1888 for some much needed rest and to return something that was mistakenly brought back by Verity, another time traveler. At the center of the mystery is Lady Schrapnell’s great-great-great-great-grandmother. A diary says that she is supposed to fall in love with and marry a mysterious Mr. C., but instead she becomes engaged to a young man Ned meets when he first arrives. In going back in time, has Ned accidentally altered the space-time continuum and history? Has Verity? Who is Mr. C.? Can Ned and Verity set everything right?

I want more! I loved Willis’s Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog.

1 comment:

France said...

This is one of the most interesting literary mixes I've ever come across, all the more surprising as it appears in the form of a science-fiction time-travel book. The book itself is a mix of hard sci-fi, Victorian comedy of errors and manners, and cozy mystery. Literary homages (most notably to Three Men in a Boat) and references abound, including P.G. Wodehouse's Beeves books, Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, not to mention Tennyson's poetry and Herotodus (who are both quoted throughout). The story has to do with a project in 2057 to rebuild the Coventry Cathedral, and time-traveling historians sent back to study its contents prior to the bombing of 1940. The story is set in motion when one of the historians somehow brings a Victorian-era cat through the time-travel "net", contravening the natural laws governing time-travel. The heroes must then return the cat in order to correct any "anomalies", but this gets them enmeshed in a matchmaking fiasco with loads of fun and well-drawn archetypes of the era (the ditzy girl, the absentminded Oxford don, the seance-loving matron, and miscellaneous butlers). And of course, by the end, all mysteries are revealed, everyone is paired off, and everything neatly dovetails. Truly a wondrous feat of writing and imagination.