Friday, April 15, 2016

To Say Nothing of the Dog

I recently discovered Connie Willis and I am so in love with her.  I started with To Say Nothing of the Dog, a comic sci-fi novel - one of the funniest, smartest books I've ever read.  Ned is a(n) historian  who works in futuristic Oxford, where time-travel has been discovered and summarily relegated to historians, having been found unuseful for anything else.  Ned has been overworked by his employer, who has him frantically searching for a "Bishop's bird stump" which has caused him to experience "time lag". In search of a rest, he goes to the Victorian period, where presumably he'll be able to do nothing but relax in serene environs.  One of the side-effects of time-lag is "maudlin sentimentality".  To test him for the affliction, a nurse asks him to describe a card. "It appeared to be a postal card of Oxford. Seen from Headington Hill, her dear old dreaming spires and mossy stones, her hushed, elm-shaded quads where the last echoes of the Middle Ages can still be heard, murmuring of ancient learning and scholarly tradition, of--"

Before going to the Victorian period, a co-worker assigns an easy job for him, to return an item that mistakenly brought through the net and should be returned immediately to avoid space-time continuum anomalies.  Unfortunately, Ned is experiencing such an advanced case of time-lag that he doesn't hear the instructions properly.  Immediately upon arrival in the 19th century, he finds himself involved in rather complex and increasingly ridiculous machinations involving
his simple assignment.

I could go on about this book for the rest of the decade but what should really do is just read the book and trust me when I say it is more about history than sci-fi, and touches lovingly on Jeeves and Wooster, reverently on Sayer's Vane and Wimsey, and ever so gently on one of my favorite themes: quantum physics.

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