April 11, 2008

To Say Nothing of the Dog ***

*** To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis, 1997

It's been a long time since I've found myself thinking about the characters in a book when I'm not reading it. That's what happened with this one. This book felt like PG Wodehouse meets Robert Heinlein.

The title is an allusion to a 19th century book, Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog). Before I was halfway through, I decided to get a copy of the 1889 book. After I finished, I went to the bookstore but didn't find a copy. However, I bought another book by Connie Willis. That should tell you something about how good she is.

Not surprisingly, To Say Nothing of the Dog was nominated for a Nebula award in 1998 and won the Hugo in 1999. But, before you write this off as a sci-fi time travel novel and give it a miss, which is exactly what I would normally do in that circumstance, let me tell you that it feels nothing like a sci-fi novel, so don't let that scare you off.

Strangely, although it was pretty clear from the cover copy, I somehow failed to realize it was written by a woman until I was 60+ pages in. I was surprised because the voice was remarkably like the dead white guys I'm so fond of reading.

This book has a lot going for it - a great plot, some nice puzzles, a gradual unfolding of the world of the novel and the issues at state, well drawn, memorable characters, and excellent writing. There were a few puzzles the characters seemed a little late to figure out, but even more things I was sure I'd figured out that I turned out to be wrong about.

Highly recommended.

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