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3.9 out of 5 stars
A Million Open Doors
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Showing 1-3 of 3 reviews(3 star)show all reviews
on July 15, 2002
John Barnes shows some promise in �A Million Open Doors�, enough that I would recommend it to a friend. He�s assembled a moderately original idea and some likeable characters into an enjoyable book, but there are some big flaws that drag it down, especially towards the end.
The main character, named Giraut, leaves his home and moves to a culture known as the Caledons. Caledon society is a distopia based on the idea of rationality. If a group of computers known as �aintillects� decides that a person is engaged in irrational behavior, such as doing favors for a friend or appreciating the wrong works of art, then they can be dragged off to a mental institution by the government. Upset by this stifling censorship, Giraut decides to open a school and teach dancing and music to some of the Caledon children.
While this concept may sound interesting, Barnes� writing is all over the place. He can�t seem to decide whether he wants to be writing a true hard science fiction novel or a parody. Are we really supposed to believe that Giraut could break through generations of conformity and start a revolution just by teaching some kids to play the guitar? Fortunately, he hurries the plot along without giving us too much time to worry about such questions. Also, Barnes is quite skillful at developing his characters. Unlike so many of today�s SF writers, he gives them real motivations and allows us to see how their behavior and their thoughts change as they get exposed to new ideas.
However, I would be negligent if I didn�t mention some important weaknesses. Barnes� choice of language is pretty bland, and his descriptions don�t give you any real sense of what he�s trying to illustrate. Also, he needs a decent editor to crack down on sentences such as �Thorwald started, I could see that his career as a blasphemer would be developing slowly; he seemed to be reacting as if what he had said a minute ago was hanging around in the air like old flatulence.� He view of gender roles is still stuck in the 50�s; somebody should politely inform him that women are capable of doing more than just having sex and doing secretarial work. And there�s this annoying habit of substituting like-sounding futuristic words in place of common English ones. He writes �merce� instead of �mercy�, �nop� instead of �nope�, etc� Finally, the conclusion is too rushed, as if he was working under a deadline and had to cram too much plot into too little space.
Still, if you can look past these problems,, you can find some decent science fiction in �A Million Open Doors�. While it doesn�t rank up there with the masters like Heinlein or Clarke, it�s still a decent read.
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on August 20, 1999
I hated the first John Barnes' book I read - 'Kaleidoscope Century'. It was with some trepidation, then, that I picked this out of the bargain bin of my local bookshop.
Luckily this was better, both in terms of writing style and characterisation. The overall metaphorical device is quite neat; it is bascially quite a simple morality tale about the impact of communications and transport technologies on isolated societies. The main contrasting cultures were nicely drawn and fairly believable.
However it suffers from some of the same faults as his earlier work: he still appears to be plundering Heinlein's back-catalogue for ideas (which wouldn't be so bad if Heinlein was actually any good...); he relies too much on the juvenile adventure story to carry the plot along; he is too impressed by sadistic violence; and he seems to regard women with a rather misogynisytic eye.
Still, it is an improvement, and enjoyable enough to ignore some of the faults, and to make me want to see if he has improved still further with the sequal.
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on October 30, 2003
Even though the book is a fair read, good for a rainy weekend, or putting one to sleep of a night, I don't find it the award winning fair that so many critics' opinions say it is.
If you like a bunch of dandies waltzing about, drinking and wenching, then having the hero throwing himself into an altogether stange, socialistic society in the aftermath of a romantic betayal, this is your book; but I found it lacked enough action to keep the storyline moving, and to hold this reader's attention.
I am waiting to read "Earth Made of Glass", in hope that it is more attention keeping than "A Million Open Doors".
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