Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club


TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG
by
CONNIE WILLIS
To Say Nothing of the Dog hardback cover To Say Nothing of the Dog (1997)
Winner - 1999 Hugo Award for Best Novel
1998 Nebula Award Nominee

This book is a time travel adventure


cover art by Eric Dinyer
Bantam Spectra hardback 434 pages (left)
Bantam paperback 493 pages (right)
To Say Nothing of the Dog paperback cover

From the back cover of the paperback:
       Ned Henry is badly in need of a rest.  He's been shuttling between the 21st century and the 1940s searching for a Victorian atrocity called the bishop's bird stump.  It's part of a project to restore the famed Coventry Cathedral, destroyed in a Nazi air raid over a hundred years earlier.  But then Verity Kindle, a fellow time traveler, inadvertently brings back something from the past.  Now Ned must jump back to the Victorian era to help Verity to put things right -- not only to save the project but to prevent altering history itself.

From the inside cover of the hardback:
       On the surface, England in the summer of 1888 is possibly the most restful time in history -- lazy afternoons boating on the Thames, tea parties, croquet on the lawn -- and time traveler Ned Henry is badly in need of a rest.  He's been shuttling back and forth between the 21st century and the 1940s looking for a Victorian atrocity called the bishop's bird stump. It's only the latest in a long string of assignments from Lady Schrapnell, the rich dowager who has invaded Oxford University.  She's promised to endow the university's time travel research project in return for their help in rebuilding the famed Coventry Cathedral, destroyed in a Nazi air raid over a hundred years before.
       But the bargain has turned into a nightmare.  Lady Schrapnell's motto is "God is in the details," and as the 125th anniversary of the cathedral's destruction -- and the deadline for its proposed completion -- approaches, time travel research has fallen by the wayside. Now Ned and his colleagues are frantically engaged in installing organ pipes, researching misericords, and generally risking life and limb.  So when Ned gets the chance to escape to the Victorian era, he jumps at it. Unfortunately, he isn't really being sent there to recover from his time lag symptoms, but to correct an incongruity a fellow historian, Verity Kindle, has inadvertently created by bringing something forward from the past.
       In theory, such an act is impossible.  But now it has happened, and it's up to Ned and Verity to correct the incongruity before it alters history or, worse, destroys the space time continuum.  And they have to do it while coping with eccentric Oxford dons, table rapping spiritualists, a very spoiled young lady, and an even more spoiled cat.  As Ned and Verity try frantically to hold things together and find out why the incongruity happened, the breach widens, time travel goes amok, and everything starts to fall apart -- until the fate of the entire space time continuum hangs on a sťance, a butler, and above all, on the bishop's bird stump.

Read for group discussion on February 10, 1999

Amy's Summary :  Connie Willis - To Say Nothing of the Dog

Ned Henry is a suffering from advanced time-lag, and it's impairing his logic.  He's made fourteen drops in a week for Lady Schrapnell and her Coventry Cathedral project.  So Ned is sent by Mr. Dunworthy to Victorian England in 1888 for some rest.  He knows he's to fix a time incongruity when he's there, but he can't recall what he's supposed to do.

After arriving in Oxford face down on the railway tracks, Ned meets Terence St. Trewes.  Terence isn't his contact but he's going in the right direction, so Ned joins Terence and his bulldog Cyril on a boating trip down the Thames.

Upon a bridge Terence spots Miss Tossie Mering.  Terence was helping Tossie search for her lost cat Princess Arjumund.  With Tossie is Miss Brown, who is Ned's contact, Verity Kindle.  They all end up at the Mering's house at Muchings End.

Time travellers Ned and Verity soon learn that the time incongruity is more convoluted than they, or those back in Oxford, ever imagined.

summary written by misuly@aol.com

To Say Nothing of the Dog is set in the same universe as Willis's Doomsday Book but it's lighter reading.  This book was inspired by Jerome K. Jerome's book Three Men in a Boat, To Say Nothing of the Dog.
RATINGS:
How we each rated this book
Dan - Amy 8 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 10 Barb 10
Aaron 7 Cynthia 10
Lars - Jackie -
Kerry u Lindsey u

Aaron's Commentary  Connie Willis - To Say Nothing of the Dog

This is amusing throughout, and hilarious on at least two occasions: early on, when Willis disguises her canine characters - the same way Jerome K. Jerome did in Three Men in a Boat - and introduces the very funny symptoms of timelag, and later when Baines gives his opinion of the bishop's bird stump.  The romance between Ned and Verity is nicely handled, although not a major emphasis through most of the story.  You have to recommend any book as fun to read as this one.

Still, the real focus of the story, fixing the time incongruity, didn't work for me that well.  For half the book, Ned is worried about getting the cat back to Muchings End.  Why?  As far as he knows, the cat was supposed to have died already!  At this stage in the development of SF, it's very difficult to construct a compelling time paradox story.  Willis was just a little too distracted with her tributes to Jerome, P.G. Wodehouse, Dorothy Sayers, etc. to pull it off.

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to vanaaron@excite.com

Our book group has also read the following books by Connie Willis:
-- Uncharted Territory  in August 1994
-- Doomsday Book  in September 1995
-- Bellwether  in August 1996
-- Lincoln's Dreams  in September 1996.
-- Passage  in February 2002

Bibliography:
Connie Willis (1945-    ) is a Colorado writer of short fiction and novels.

Awards
1983 Nebula Award for best short story "A Letter From the Clearys"
1983 Nebula Award for best novelette "Fire Watch"
1983 Hugo Award for best novelette "Fire Watch"
John W. Campbell Award for Lincoln's Dreams
1989 Nebula Award for best novella "The Last of the Winnebagos"
1989 Hugo Award for best novella "The Last of the Winnebagos"
1990 Nebula Award for best novelette "At the Rialto"
1993 Nebula Award for best short story "Even the Queen"
1993 Nebula Award for best novel Doomsday Book
1993 Hugo Award for short story "Even the Queen"
1993 Hugo Award (tie) for best novel Doomsday Book
1994 Hugo Award for best short story "Death on the Nile"
1997 Hugo Award for best short story "The Soul Selects Her Own Society..."
1999 Hugo Award for best novel To Say Nothing of the Dog
2000 Hugo Award for best novella "The Winds of Marble Arch"
2006 Hugo Award for best novella "Inside Job"
2008 Hugo Award for novella "All Seated on the Ground"

Willis's first two solo novels are serious in tone. Lincoln's Dreams (1987) features a woman suffering from dreams of the Civil War. Doomsday Book (1992) is a time travel novel in which a researcher from 2050 is accidentally sent back to 1348 and the Black Death.

Uncharted Territory (1994), Remake (1994), and Bellwether (1996) are short novels, really novellas, published as books. Uncharted Territory features two human explorers surveying an alien world. Remake is set in a future Hollywood where movie stars are digitized. Bellwether deals with tracing fads and chaos theory. Futures Imperfect (1996) is a SFBC omnibus of all three short novels.

To Say Nothing of the Dog (1997) is a humorous time travel book set in the same universe as Doomsday Book. Time travel researchers from 2050 try to fix an incongruity accidentally caused back in 1888 in Victorian England, which involves Coventry Cathedral and the Blitz in 1940.

She has books with collections of short fiction, Fire Watch (1985), Impossible Things (1993), Miracle and Other Christmas Stories (1999), and The Winds of Marble Arch (2007).

She has collaborated with Cynthia Felice on the novels Water Witch (1982), Light Raid (1989), and Promised Land (1997).

Connie Willis has edited The New Hugo Winners Volume 3 (1994), and Nebula Awards 33 : The Year's Best SF & Fantasy (1999).

Passage (2001) delves into near death experiences.


Links:
Aaron's review of Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Willis on Fantastic Reviews
Our book club's page for Passage by Connie Willis
The Connie Willis Page
Rich Horton's review: To Say Nothing of the Dog
Rambles review: Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog
Science Fiction Weekly Interview: Connie Willis
The SF Site Featured Review: To Say Nothing of the Dog (1)
The SF Site Featured Review: To Say Nothing of the Dog (2)
Excessive Candour -- To Say Nothing of the Dog

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