A Million Open Doors Mass Market Paperback – Nov 15 1993
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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 ï¿½aintillectsï¿½ 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, Barnesï¿½ writing is all over the place. He canï¿½t 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 todayï¿½s 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 didnï¿½t mention some important weaknesses. Barnesï¿½ choice of language is pretty bland, and his descriptions donï¿½t give you any real sense of what heï¿½s trying to illustrate.Read more ›
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.
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").
Most recent customer reviews
I just happened to read the book that follows this one, so for me, to read this book was to go backards in time, to see how Giraut and Margaret first met, to see his home world and... Read morePublished on March 21 2004 by Michael Valdivielso
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... Read morePublished on Oct. 30 2003 by GRIZZLY
This was the first John Barnes book that I read, and while I agree with other reviewers that it's not perfect, it's an imaginative and enjoyable read, with enough light touches to... Read morePublished on June 2 2003 by Scott R. Lucado
A Million Open Doors is a well-crafted "cultural science fiction" novel in the vein of Jack Vance. Read morePublished on June 2 2000 by joe_n_bloe
I don't think this is his best book, and I think many of Barnes' fans would agree with me. It simply doesn't have the mind-bending, conviction-chalenging edge that his others do. Read morePublished on May 8 2000
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. Read morePublished on Aug. 20 1999 by flying-monkey
This excellent novel far exceeds most of the decade's award winners. Strong and bold exploration of many classic SF themes. Read morePublished on June 10 1999
If I had not read any other John Barnes novels before this I might not have bothered and would have missed the brilliance of Mother of Storms, Orbital Resonance & Kaleidascope... Read morePublished on Jan. 3 1999