I’m 97% sure that To Say Nothing of the Dog is my new favorite book. My old favorite, Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus, is also a romantic drama with the additional sci-fi element of time travel, set in the future but taking place mostly in the past, heavy on world history and motives, causes, effects, and the arc of humanity. It’s lovely. But TSNotD is all that, and funny! and it has a dog! and a cat! And it discusses parts of history with which I am more familiar. And it wasn’t written by a straight-up psycho. (At least as far as I know, and I’m not going to research Connie Willis precisely because I’ve had my heart broken before. Oh, Orson Scott Card. I loved you so.)
TSNotD is very popular around CBR6, so instead of recapping the plot again, I’ll write what I tell people when I’m trying to convince them to read it. It’s set in the future, when time travel exists and cats are extinct for some bogus reason. The only real use for time travel is historical documentation, so historians get to travel around, mostly without incident. Our hero, Ned, goes back to Victorian Oxford, where there happens to be a cat of some mysterious historical importance. Because Ned has never interacted with a cat, he tries to treat the cat just like a dog, and is confused when, say, she does not “sit” or “stay.” When trying to figure out if she’s the cat he’s looking for, he calls her name, and when she ignores him, he concludes that she must be the wrong cat.
It’s hilarious. Things eventually get a little frantic in regards to the space-time continuum and possible paradoxical annihilation, but our heroes never stop making us laugh.
You might like To Say Nothing of the Dog if:
- You like time travel.
- You like pondering paradoxes.
- You like thinking about the future. Or the past.
- You like stories in which one must Save the Universe. (Very Doctor Who.)
- You like Oxford.
- You like Victorian England.
- You like World War II history.
- You like basically any period of history.
- You like architecture, churches, or art.
- You like Agatha Christie.
- You like mysteries.
- You like cats.
- You like dogs.
- You like boats.
- You like romantic stories.
- You like laughing.
There’s something here for almost everyone. The story is funny, smart, intriguing, and leaves you feeling like maybe the course of human history will turn out all right. I loved it.