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To Say Nothing of the Dog Mass Market Paperback – December 1, 1998
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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The other thing to note about this book is that although it's technically sci-fi (the fluffiest and lightest of hand-wavy science sci-fi), the sci-fi/futuristic aspects are used mostly as a framing device. The majority of the book ends up being set in Victorian England around 1880, taking up such activities as a boating vacation on the Thames, dealing with a fishing-addicted history Professor, trying to save a cat from being drowned by a possibly nefarious butler, trying to prevent the wrong couple from getting married, and tracking down the bishop's bird stump. It's basically historical romance wrapped up with a sci-fi bow. Luckily I love both those things!
This is a time travel book, and although I'm not a big SciFi/time travel reader, I loved this one. Once again, there are three men in a boat, to say nothing of the dog, in Victorian England, mostly. There is a cathedral to be rebuilt, and the Bishop's Bird Stump to be found, and a taskmaster who insists that everything be done NOW, no matter how much time travel is required.
It did take me a few pages to get into the travel thing, to understand what was going on, and there was, to my taste, a little too much about time travel slippage. However, the characters are funny and endearing, and travel along the Thames brings adventures, often rather soggy ones. The dog and the cat in this story are wonderful. Altogether, a delightful story.
Our hero, Ned Henry, is from 2057 and has been tasked to find as fine a Macguffin as ever been imagined by Hitchcock: a piece of Victorian bric-a-brac called "The Bishop's Bird Stump." This task has him traveling to Coventry during the Nazi raid in WWII, as well as to Victorian England in 1888. There he meets up with another historian, Verity Kindle aka Verity Brown. Together they use a variety of detective styles to deduce the location of the Bishop's Bird Stump, and to iron out some wrinkles in time their efforts may have started.
Connie Willis casts an expert eye on this comedy of manners involving using the correct fork in 1888 and not talking about anyone who is "in the family way" among many others. The aforementioned title dog is also a major, though nonspeaking character,
This was an altogether entertaining read that got me hooked and prompted me to pick up the three other books in the series starting with the Nebula and Hugo winner "Doomsday Book."
By the time I was about twenty percent of the way through, I was thoroughly enjoying this. The errors and mix-ups with the time travel, the wrong people falling in love, always at first sight, was all reminiscent of a Shakespearean comedy, and I really enjoy Shakespeare's comedies. I'll take them over his tragedies, any day.
This was a light-hearted book, which I've started to prefer in between my heavier reads. It's clever and fun, and of course, like Shakespeare's comedies, ends happily. Near the end it started to drag for me a little bit, unfortunately, but I was happy with the conclusion, and delighted with the results of one agent's secret mission. Despite the slowness in spots, the book put a smile on my face and I enjoyed myself quite a bit.