Most helpful positive review
A Meeting of Minds
on November 12, 2000
In its early years, science fiction used to be mostly "nuts and bolts" clearly distinguishing it from "sword and sorcery," but increasingly, we see SF novels that have all but abandoned the hard-science base as a focus. The physics and engineering of space travel, for example, is merely a given; the culture of other planets and species are the focus instead. Thus the "soft" sciences, such as archeology, anthropology and sociology come into play, but these novels are clearly real science fiction.
In this book, two planetary cultures meet. One is terraformed and one is not (but it turns out in an interesting little twist, that both have been terraformed, one anciently, so this segues nicely into the sequel). One is romantic, flamboyant, but violent, while the other is peaceful, but ideologically restrictive. In other words, there is a great deal that is wrong with each culture, but there is also a great deal that is right about each. The coming together of these two cultures and the way both are improved by the contact is the theme of this novel. The parallels between *A Million Open Doors* and Heinlein's *The Moon is a Harsh Mistress* are obvious, but I don't think this author is as heavy-handed and didactic as Heinlein (although the latter is funnier and, it may be argued, more entertaining than Barnes). I am more reminded in this work, because of its subtlety and in-depth psychological observations, of Ursula LeGuin's *The Dispossessed.*
This is the first Barnes novel I've read, and I'm pleased to have discovered him and looking forward to the sequel, *Earth Made of Glass.* A good read.