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A Million Open Doors Mass Market Paperback – Nov 15 1993

3.9 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; Reprint edition (Nov. 15 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812516338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812516333
  • Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 2.1 x 17.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,901,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Giraut Leones lives in Nou Occitan, a place where young people spend most of their time gossiping, writing poetry, and fighting duels over various insults. Eventually we find that Nou Occitan is just one of humanity's "Thousand Cultures," an artificial colony set up on a terraformed world to bring art, chivalry, and other old-fashioned values to life. Some years ago the springer, a device enabling teleportation travel, was opened, resulting in friction between the traditional dilettantes and Interstellars, youngsters who adopt new ways of life.

Giraut's old friend Aimeric is called back to his home colony of Caledony to aid in the economic recession and cultural explosion that will surely follow the opening of the springer there. When Giraut is betrayed by his entendedora (part mistress, part girlfriend), he seizes the opportunity to go along as an ambassador. A Million Open Doors becomes a coming-of-age tale as Giraut adapts to a culture radically different from his own. Caledony society is colorless, repressed, money-driven; it emphasizes religion and hard work. Bewildered by the discouragement of art or pleasure, Giraut opens a college to teach Occitanian culture to interested Caledonians. The threatened religious and political leaders, of course, look on this as an oddity, if not an outright seed of revolution. During the cultural and political upheavals on Caledony, Giraut and friends learn about life, love, diplomacy, and cross-cultural friendship.

The premise--human colonies flung across the universe evolving on hundreds of different planets now being transformed by instantaneous space travel--has been explored before. But John Barnes's sense of humor and world-building skills make it great fun. --Bonnie Bouman

From Publishers Weekly

In Barnes's ( Orbital Resonance ) futuristic universe, the Thousand Cultures are planets that have developed in virtual isolation. The world of Nou Occitan is based on a romanticized medieval Europe: duels are fought, artistic endeavors are encouraged, and sexism (the true face of chivalry) is fiercely institutionalized. Caledony is a society that has combined capitalism and Christianity into an oppressive milieu where artistic creativity is considered irrational. The advent of "springers," which provide instantaneous travel from place to place, is bringing these cultures together, and a delegation from Nou Occitan goes to Caledony to help them assimilate. Narrator Giraut Leones starts an arts school where Nou Occitan ways are taught, the repressions of the Caledon community are questioned and the students become liberated through music, poetry, art and fencing. The analogy to '50s repression and '60s rebellion is fairly obvious: we see youth questioning authority through music and poetry performed at the Occasional Mobile Cabaret, reminiscent of period coffeehouses; there's the Joseph McCarthyish Rev. Saltini; the characters even go on a road trip in multicolor vans. Most engrossing, however, are Giraut's evolution from petulant, bratty jovent of Nou Occitan to Caledonic hero, and the creative mishmash of European languages from which Barnes produces the language of Nou Occitan.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Yes, the theme is interesting, the plot is well constructed, the characters are conceivable. But: most of the positive characteristics of this novel are destroyed by long and boring philosophising. I really am not a friend of action and action only, but Barnes reflects too often and too much. And the whole subject of Occitan culture may be interesting for those who know about the old troubadour tradition, but the ordinary reader is certainly confused by it. His characters are believable in this Occitan context, but most of the readers have never come in touch with even the theoretical basis of a society like this. It may be interesting for the expert to discuss the oppositional viewpoints of a fundamental Protestant society with all its hypocrisy and a society that has its basis in artificial codes of honor and dignity. But both are far away from reality. And that is why they do not reflect any social problem in reality. Both should have been opposed to a realistic society of today, of course alienated from the here and now by science fiction settings. This is what science fiction is about. But here this novel discusses some theoretical problems and never arrives in reality. Some critics call Barnes a descendant of Robert Heinlein. Well, if so, he has still a long way to go.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.
pamhan99@aol.com
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By A Customer on June 9 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'd recommend to anyone who feels like reading older-feeling hard sci-fi novel that is still modern enough for one to not be embarassed by the author referring to events of the late 20th century that obviously never happened. One review on the actual book cover calls Barnes "one of Heinlein's spiritual descendents" and that review is very accurate. I also saw another review here on Amazon.com that called this a "cultural sci-fi novel." All true. Barnes does something very rare among modern sci-fi writers (that I have seen, I must admit I haven't had time to read a lot recently)...he makes a story based on cultures interesting and truly engrossing.
When I was reading the book I couldn't decide when it was written. It feels like a 50's era sci-fi novel because so much importance is placed on the culture. But then there would be a reference to a technological idea that was obvious very current (such as "growing" buildings using nanomachines). I guess the true beauty of this novel is the refreshing way that technology--while believable and realistic enough--is not the centerpiece, instead it supports and compliments the plot. Very refreshing to read a novel about the integration of technology and culture that doesn't spend time belaboring the internet and information technology.
Finally, a quick plug for Amazon.com. Although I did buy this book at my local Barnes & Nobles store, their Internet site was clueless on John Barnes. Glad to see that Amazon.com has a better selection so I can explore other works by this author. I can't wait to do so (apparently there is now a sequel to "A Million Open Doors").
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