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A Door Into Ocean (Elysium Cycle)

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,387 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
A Door into Ocean is the novel upon which the author's reputation as an important SF writer principally rests. A ground-breaking work both of feminist SF and of world-building hard SF, it concerns the Sharers of Shora, a nation of women on a distant moon in the far future who are pacifists, highly advanced in biological sciences, and who reproduce by parthenogenesis--there ...more
Paperback, 403 pages
Published October 13th 2000 by Orb Books (first published February 1986)
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Scott It has been released as an e-book by Macmillan Publishers and should be available from many different stores (including Amazon for the Kindle). A full…moreIt has been released as an e-book by Macmillan Publishers and should be available from many different stores (including Amazon for the Kindle). A full list of the places one can buy the book can be found on the publisher's page ( Incidentally, the last part of that URL is the e-book's ISBN: "9781429963657".

(I know this answer is well after you asked the question, but hopefully you or someone else finds the information above useful.)(less)
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Dec 04, 2013 Angela rated it did not like it
I loathe this book with an ungodly passion.

I want to preface the rest of my review by saying I am deeply feminist. In fact, feminist science fiction is my most beloved literary subgenre. I am well-versed in the canon of women SF/fantasy writers. And yet... I cannot like this book. I wanted to, and instead ended up throwing it across the room at several points in my reading. The plot is offensively gender-reductive. Slonczewski equates femininity with every positive attribute possessed by any of
Jul 11, 2012 Wealhtheow rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Native Tongue
Shora is a world without land. The humans who colonized it chose to reshape themselves, instead of terraforming the planet. Sharers, as the descendents of the colonists call themselves, strive to live in balance with each other and their world. Although they have incredibly advanced biological science, they try to change as little as possible about the natural ecology of Shora, even though it means losing friends and loved ones to vast monsters that roam the ocean. Their highest goal is to stren ...more
Nathaniel Taintor
Apr 03, 2013 Nathaniel Taintor rated it it was ok
Meh. As with most ideologically pacifist writing, this one left me feeling unsatisfied.

The setup is good: a planet of women who live in a tribal egalitarian society, with life sciences way beyond our own, is threatened by an imperialist power that wants to exploit their planet's resources (and is threatened by their difference).

But that's where it ends. The Sharers are really hung up on teaching non-violence to their would-be conquerers. The lack of imagination here is kind of offensive, not t
In a word: amazing. Landor’s narration is beautiful and lyrical, with well-detailed characterizations across the cultures and classes presented in Slonczewski’s award-winning novel of feminism, pacifism, and anarchism in a far-future of multiple visions of post-humanity. It immediately vaults into my all-time favorites list, though perhaps a half-step behind The Dispossessed and Parable of the Sower.
Dec 04, 2013 Anja rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: sci-fi fans
As I read this book I couldn't stop comparing it to Dune by Frank Herbert. In many ways it was similar, war time, a supreme ruler, a group of people who didn't want to fight, and a young male who is out of place but still makes a difference. The main difference- Dune is set in the harsh dessert while A Door Into Ocean is set on a planet with no land and only water.

Sharers are the only inhabiter's on the Ocean Moon planet or Shora. There are the lesser sharers like clickflies and starworms
Jun 25, 2010 Katie rated it it was amazing
Hours after I have finished reading this book I am still trying to emerge from the vast ocean Shora. The words on each page were like a whirlpool, sucking me in, forcing me to listen to their tale. I fell hopelessly in love with Shora and the sharers that inhabit Her. I feared for their fate at the hands of man. I questioned my own humanity, and that of others around me. My entire way of thinking has been eternally changed because of this book.

Perhaps, this is not as "critical" as a review shou
Roddy Williams
‘From the ocean world of Shora, Merwen the Impatient and Usha the Inconsiderate travel to Valedon, the world of stone. The Valans view with suspicion the ancient female race of Shora: with their webbed fingers, their withdrawal into ‘whitetrance’ and their marvellous arts of healing. Where the Sharers of Shora hope for understanding, they are met with aggression.

Joan Slonczewski pushes the moral and political philosophy of non-violence to its very limits in a powerful and gripping narrative. To
Parallel Worlds
Jun 12, 2013 Parallel Worlds rated it really liked it
Intended Audience: Adult
Sexual content: Significant
Ace/Genderqueer characters: Yes (Human and Alien)
Rating: PG-13/R for violence, torture, brief sexuality and rape
Writing style: 3/5
Likable characters: 4/5
Plot/Concepts: 4/5

Travelers from the ocean moon of Shora, Sharers Merwen and Usha must judge whether the Valans who have invaded their home are human in any sense they can know. Spinel the stonecutter's son follows them back, a "malefreak" among an all-female species. In the midst of the rising
Mar 23, 2014 Rob rated it liked it
...All things considered, I feel that A Door into Ocean would have been a better book if it had been a bit less political. I love the worldbuilding, emphasis on ecology and the way Slonczewski handles language for instance. In some respects it is a very strong novel so I can see why it was awarded the Campbell. I can't help but detect a bit of irony there, Campbell himself would, given the content and his views on women and science fiction, most likely have detested the novel. Ultimately it's th ...more
Carla Speed
Feb 25, 2012 Carla Speed rated it really liked it
Joan Slonczewski is a science fiction writer who has more than an armchair understanding of science, and it shows. When you have solid input from the real world, your new spins on old tropes can be surprising and fresh.

What follows isn't really a spoiler, but it is part of the story: When I first read DOOR INTO OCEAN in college, my classmates were saying "A whole planetful of purple lesbians? Really." But the purple color of the Shorans' skins derives from a microbe living in their bodies that s
May 04, 2013 kvon rated it it was amazing
Written in the eighties (the author has her own study guide up about the political times), about a world of women, a world of no land, that comes into conflict with the more traditional militaristic moon nearby. It's a study in nonviolence and consensus (she mentioned the Quakers in her study guide, see also Dazzle of the Day), and a setting rich in ecological niches. One of the great books that I hadn't previously read. In comparison, her more recent Highest Frontier has more economics, less co ...more
Nov 29, 2009 Marisa rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Old feminist sci-fi. The basic idea is that at some point, safely prior to recorded history, a group of women genetically engineer themselves to be semi-aquatic so they can go live in naked peacefulness on a water planet and not talk to anyone else for 10,000 years, at which point, traditional society led by the Man has a run in with them.

I will give the author credit for trying to make the fish ladies complex and not gratuitously superior. The personal (which is political, natch) stories are d
Aug 06, 2012 Kevin rated it really liked it
An epic world spanning eco-feminist book of self discovery and conquest. Ultimately, the main thing that bothered me about it was the pacing. Some scenes were just not needed or focused on a character who we never saw again. Also, about halfway through the novel (2/3 the way through part 3) it seemed like the end to a book and then it immediately started anew. The first half we follow our off worlder protagonists through their journies of self discovery. The second we watch as a war is wages on ...more
Feb 29, 2012 Alexa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While an interesting read, for the sake of her political imaginings, it falls short in its characterizations. Her anarchic, feminist, pacifist utopia is fun, yet she seems to have put much more of her energy into world-building rather than character building. Yet while the first half is slow, for just these reasons, the second half then truly takes off and causes a certain amount of fingernail biting. Somehow the whole just seems slightly dated, or perhaps it is just that I have moved on beyond ...more
Sep 25, 2014 Ashoka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 02, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing
This book was a pleasant surprise. Having heard it referenced several times in recent months, and having rededicated myself to the genre of science fiction, I thought I'd give it a whirl. Described as 'feminist, utopian science fiction, A Door Into Ocean is a compelling story about a world inhabited completely by women. A small moon, Shora, has--literally--no land. The females, a human subset species, exist on living rafts, and peacefully coexist with the natives species on their planet, as well ...more
Aug 14, 2007 Wyrmia rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book because it involves a planet full of naked women. I found it so cheesy and the characters so shallow, though, that I had to force myself to read it--I didn't enjoy it at all. I don't get what people see in this book.
Jen Julian
If eco-feminist "hard" SF is not your bag, I get it, but what can I say? I frickin' loved this. I consumed this thing. I can't argue it's place as a literary masterpiece, but it features masterful world-building paired with a super sincere (if not reductive) political and philosophical stance. It's clear that Slonczewski is highly optimistic from the get-go about the capabilities of passive resistance against a traditionally-patriarchal military mindset. However, the tension remains high through ...more
Aug 25, 2015 Chris rated it liked it
TFW you agree with a book more than you enjoy it. I did enjoy it, especially after the plot kicked off in earnest about a hundred pages in. Its greatest pleasures are those of fairly-hard SF: Sudden incursions of proper biochemistry, open mockery of space opera (a soldier sometimes carries a ceremonial raygun to go with his equally-useless sabre), the payoff of detailed worldbuilding in fast-paced action. Moreover, it's a very Christian book, in a lefty feminist vein. The Sharer society, a pacif ...more
Jul 29, 2014 Eve rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kirk Sluder
Mar 29, 2012 Kirk Sluder rated it really liked it
It's just my luck that I seem to be reading Slonczewski's Elysium cycle backwards. A Door into Ocean is the first, and most explicitly political of the four novels, focusing on non-violent action and culture.

Like most novels using this theme, *A Door into Ocean* focuses on the contrast between two cultures, with representative characters engaged in the process of discovery and conflict. The Sharers of Shora are a woman-only culture that have engineered their genes, environment, and culture into
Nov 28, 2013 Chris rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, 2013
This seminal piece of feminist SF is quite the tale of two halves.

Part one is the basis for the novel, the building of the world and the characters that inhabit it. Despite being really well thought out the novel suffers from glacial pacing which may bring many to quit before getting to the conflict. It is a real feat of endurance at times with action thin on the ground. What I can appreciate is the wonderful way Slonczewski has interwoven her background as a biologist into her world building.
Feb 10, 2012 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
One Of The Classic Novels of Both Feminist Science Fiction & Space Opera

Joan Slonczewski's "A Door Into Ocean" is definitely a masterpiece of science fiction literature, comparable to the best ever written from the likes of Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel Delany, and Bruce Sterling, to name but a few of our finest American writers of science fiction. In this astonishing, thoughtful novel published originally back in 1986, whose universal themes of environmental awareness and relationships between
Sep 27, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it
Shelves: keeping
What I have always enjoyed about scifi is there being a what if concept which has another one or two built on it and go from there. Previous reviews here note it as a bit old hat but I would say this is exactly the types of question feminists were exploring back in the early eighties. Can women be pacifist? Can they live without men? What about boys/sons? How to deal with that? etc.

Also, environmental concerns were very new back then. I think CFCs only started being talked about in the UK aroun
Apr 21, 2009 Kim rated it liked it
You'd think that a book about a planet of naked sea lesbians wouldn't be boring. You'd be wrong. I wouldn't have gotten more than a few chapters in except that I'm home sick and running out of entertainment, so it was a good way to pass the time.

The author's bio says that she is a biology professor, and this is pretty obvious from the writing. Anything to do with science is really well thought out, and some of the concepts are very interesting. However, the plot and more importantly the dialogue
Jul 01, 2014 Randal rated it really liked it
A peaceful world of water. A land of stone and soldiers. When the two fundamentally different cultures clash, how will the pacifist Sharers defend themselves without losing their way?

"A Door Into Ocean" explores how certain feminist ideals might flourish in an isolated culture. For example, those who are inclined to violence are seen as being in need of healing.

It reminds me of "The Fifth Sacred Thing" which came later and even "Herland," which came much, much earlier.

A more than satisfying rea
Nov 12, 2012 Matt rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi
Oh, thank goodness that book is done. It was a 470 some odd page epic that enters the rare genre of science fiction called "feminist sci-fi." Two planets that are close enough to each other they are considered moons respectively. One is a society of naked women and the other is more of an earth-esque society.

Don't get me wrong the book had it's merits. Maybe some allusion to the Vietnam war. An interesting take on a galactic empire. Some glances of intergalactic intrigue and espionage. An inter
Sep 19, 2008 Willa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was so unbelievably frustrating for me at times! It was so hard to watch the two cultures speaking to each other in the same language but saying such very different things and not being able to understand each other. It seems so unbelievable, yet every day we can see it happening in our own world on so many levels. This book will really make you slow down and think about the things you say and the way those things are perceived by those around you.

The world Ms. Slonczewski created was
Jul 11, 2012 Maria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not quite sure how to review this's certainly interesting the author clearly put a lot of thought into this and created and complex world and system of government and philosophy.The characters are unique and flawed even the token bad guy.The novel has a lot going for it and I feel like it'll stick with me however it's not really an enjoyable book.This took several powering through sessions and the beginning in particular because so much time is spent setting up everybody.Even the s ...more
Aug 02, 2015 Greyor rated it it was amazing
Easily the best book I've read all year, and, I dare say, one of the best SF books I've ever read. Not in a long time have I enjoyed a book as much as this one, and the world is so vividly described and the characters so compelling that it is very difficult to put down. Super feminist and full of fascinating questions and ideas and, often, difficult answers or simply more questions. So lovely.
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Joan Lyn Slonczewski is an American microbiologist at Kenyon College and a science fiction writer who explores biology and space travel. Her books have twice earned the John W. Campbell award for best science fiction novel: The Highest Frontier (2012) and A Door into Ocean (1987). With John W. Foster she coauthors the textbook, Microbiology: An Evolving Science (W. W. Norton).
More about Joan Slonczewski...

Other Books in the Series

Elysium Cycle (4 books)
  • Daughter of Elysium
  • The Children Star
  • Brain Plague

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