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There Are Doors Paperback – October 9, 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The door between fantasy and reality springs ajar as a man's love for an immortal woman casts him adrift in a world whose rules he cannot fathom and in which he risks being lost forever. Deceptively simple in tone, Wolfe's latest novel brings the world of dreams and desires across the border into the "real world" in a style reminiscent of his Free Live Free . Recommended. JC
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“It may well be Wolfe's most perfect story.” ―Orson Scott Card

“Intricate, glowing, fascinating work.” ―Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 313 pages
  • Publisher: Orb Books; Reprint edition (October 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312872305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312872304
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,482,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gerald P. Owens on December 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It may seem odd, writing a review of a book that is out of print, yet this is one of Wolfe's books that has strangely grown on me over the years, one which I have reread many times (I have reread the Book of the New Sun many times as well, though for different reasons). Not properly science fiction, or even garden-variety fantasy, it is a more like magic realism. As always, Wolfe likes to break rules, confounding the reader's expectations at every turn. The point of view character is not a larger than life hero like Severian or Patera Silk. Rather, he is a department store furniture salesman with subtle but serious mental problems, the sort of gray little man you might see every day, but couldn't describe five minutes later. He has also discovered that there are doors from here to there, "there" being a parallel world where women dominate and men die young. As the novel begins, he is recovering from a brief fling with a woman who has affected him like no other, and his pursuit of her leads him to discover that she is the physical embodiment of the Female Principal itself, the Goddess. She walks among mankind from time to time, and selects lovers who are unlikely to be believed (like the probably schizophrenic narrator). The central character's fractured psychology and his willingness to accept whatever reality is foisted upon him reminded me of a fever dream (and indeed, the second time I approached the book, I was down with the flu, and curiously, it made me more responsive to the material). As Wolfe moves his character back and forth between the worlds (with stops in mental institutions on both sides), he explores themes of alienation and isolation, the knowledge that one is fundamentally damaged and therefore different from one's fellows.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Good novels tell stories; great novels tell stories that haunt, leaving behind emotions much deeper than the tale seems to, at first, justify.
There Are Doors is a great novel; it's the kind of book that will have you slightly wistful and sad for days. My first thoughts upon waking, during several days in the week following my reading of this book, were of the images it evoked.
The plot is simple enough: a nebbishy nobody with psychological problems concludes that his girlfriend of brief duration is from some other place, and that certain gateways connect Here with There. There's the expected optical illusion of experience: are the protagonist's experiences really an interaction with a different external reality, or just an internal one? The plausible answer flips back and forth. Yet, where a overly clever and self-proud post-modernist novel would embrace this contradiction, and not resolve it, Wolfe does resolve it, although not simply, and not without a tour of the protagonists inner and outter life - which involves a world very similar and yet strikingly different than our own.
Don't expect standard science-fictional tropes, but be prepared for a lingering and haunting vision of deep love, loss, and yearning.
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Format: Paperback
I rarely praise any book quite so highly as I am about to praise this one. A great novel is one that, in addition to telling a good story, gets better on every re-reading and rewards its readers more and more as their understanding grows. This is a terrific story that holds a great wealth for the reader to discover, and thus I'm forced to admit that I do think this really is a great novel.
The style, if not the content, is definitely influenced by Kafka - there are deliberate references thrown in and even a character unmistakably based on Kafka himself. This is far from a retread of "The Trial", however.
The protagonist is led on a surreal chase through another dimension in search of "the Goddess", who he has fallen in love with after a short tryst in his own dimension. This other world is strange, yet familiar: it runs a bit slower in time (the clock, one might say, has gone by now about 40 years slow), but the major difference is that here, for unexplained reasons, human males inevitably die after mating. This creates a (significantly) bee-like social structure with childbearing women (queens, if you will) in the positions of power; the men are for the most part skittishly subservient, but with a dangerous revolutionary undercurrent.
Most of the struggle in this book, however, is internal, as neither the reader nor the protagonist himself has a firm grasp on his own identity. What is his real name? Is he really an "alcoholic"? Is he mad? Is he, perhaps, a god?
A bit of knowledge about ancient myth will greatly expand the scope of your experience with this book - it is a good story regardless, but looking up some myths (if you don't know it already) will open up a whole new dimension to things.
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Format: Paperback
THERE ARE DOORS was the first of Gene Wolfe's late-1980's fantastical fiction works, the others being CASTLEVIEW and PANDORA. After his acclaimed four-volume work The Book of the New Sun and its coda, THE URTH OF THE NEW SUN, and two fantasy novels set in ancient Greece (the "Soldier" series), these fantastical fiction works were a very different offering from an author known for his science fiction.
THERE ARE DOORS is the story of an appliance salesman who has a week-long relationship with, so we are told, a goddess from another dimension. She leaves him for her home, and he follows her, traveling through doors (normal doors which look "significant") hoping to find her. He reaches unexpectedly her dimension where, in spite of many similarities, there exists a major difference from our Earth: there after mating male humans die, like bee drones, while females continue to live to raise offspring. The protagonist in this other world is thrown into a mental asylum so he doesn't create rebellion in this alternate America and a series of absurd and nonsensical situations occur. THERE ARE DOORS does seem to share many elements with Franz Kafka's THE TRIAL, and when a writer as cleverly sadistic in his puzzles as Wolfe works with Kafka's manner of absurd reality, the result is sure to be difficult for the reader.
The novel's chief difficulty comes in the complication that Wolfe throws in. The protagonist may in fact be moving between two dimensions literally, but he may also be a mental patient and the plot his hallucination. Like Kafka's THE TRIAL, the ending of THERE ARE DOORS leaves the reader wondering "what does it all mean?" But with Wolfe the fun is usually in getting there.
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