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Midnight at the Well of Souls (Saga of the Well World #1)

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,125 Ratings  ·  137 Reviews
Nathan Brazil, a cargo ship-for-hire owner, detours from his route to answer a distress call. A hidden stargate hurls him and his passengers to the Well World, the master control planet for the cosmos created by the now-gone godlike race who designed the universe. Now someone wants to find the Well of Souls to seize control of all the cosmos--and it's up to Nathan to stop ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published January 29th 2002 by Baen Books (first published July 1977)
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Dune by Frank HerbertEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams1984 by George OrwellFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Best Science Fiction
256th out of 2,096 books — 3,249 voters
Old Man's War by John ScalziStarship Troopers by Robert A. HeinleinPandora's Star by Peter F. HamiltonDune by Frank HerbertLeviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
Excellent Space Opera
155th out of 370 books — 2,024 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nov 26, 2008 Terran rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, for-fun
Once upon a time, this was an incredible story for an awkward, introverted kid who didn't fit into any society that he knew. The vision of flying off to another world in which you could start again as any of a thousand possible different races was incredibly compelling. And the adventures and scope were captivating. For years, this series was clearly among my favorites, if not my favorite.

After setting it aside for more than a decade, I came back and reread this book a few months ago. I expected
Daniel Swensen
Jan 10, 2013 Daniel Swensen rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi
Midnight at the Well of Souls is an old-school piece of sci-fi, with a brilliant setting and a story that doesn't just examine the concept of what it means to be human, it kicks it over and scatters the pieces everywhere.

Just so you know what kind of ride you're in for, the book opens with characters learning the true nature of the universe. From there, the protagonists are transported to an artificial planet divided into thousands of "hexes," each with its own unique form of life. Moreover, the
Jun 14, 2012 Brenton rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm not feeling particularly charitable to this book. It has some rather interesting ideas that keep the first half fairly intriguing and entertaining, but the writing and ham-fistedness of the morality play ruins it pretty thoroughly come the second half.

The whole Well World concept is pretty unique for a plot device, and I would have been pretty satisfied if the book had stayed focused on the interplay between the people of the world and their surrounding environs. The questing portion of the
Mar 28, 2011 Andrew rated it it was amazing
I haven't read this, and the following books in the series for years - I came across it in a 2nd hand bookshop for $1 and when I got home, I found that it had been autographed by the author himself! I really enjoyed reading it. The thought that the whole universe is just a mathematical equation is quite alluring. I also enjoyed the various lifeforms encountered on the Wellworld and Chalker is very good at describing what it would be like to wake up in not just a different body, but an entirely d ...more
Jul 29, 2012 Ariana rated it really liked it
This was probably the most unique novel I'd ever read, and that's saying something, because I've also read John Varley's Gaea trilogy. The concept is just so original and alien, the latter of which is fitting, as it straddles the line between science-fiction and science-fantasy.

Protagonist Nathan Brazil is a conundrum from the beginning, and Chalker weaves him and the other characters into the plot beautifully. However, sometimes Chalker's writing style leaves something to be desired (bulky sen
Feb 26, 2012 Scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Four space travelers enter a mysterious portal and are delivered to the Well World--an artificial planet, the surface of which is honeycombed with over 15000 controlled environments, each with its own native population. There they must embark on a quest to prevent two previous entries from gaining access to the world's control center and rewriting reality. The problem is that everyone who arrives on the Well World is given a new form and identity, and integrated into one of the native cultures. ...more
Russ Moore
Jul 09, 2013 Russ Moore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Imagine walking through a dark gate on an abandoned planet and waking up on a different planet as a walking pumpkin-headed plant-creature. Or a centaur. Or an enormous bug. Or even a six-armed snake-man. This is the premise of Chalker’s excellent Well of Souls series, one of my favorite set of SF books from my formative years. ‘Midnight at the Well of Souls’ is the first book of the series, and follows a familiar pattern: a group of characters – some likable, some not – are taken to a strange pl
Dec 12, 2014 Aelvana rated it it was ok
Nathan Brazil has had a long, boring life as a pilot, longer than he even remembers anymore. When a routine transport is interrupted by a distress call leading to the site of a mass murder, though, things start getting more interesting. Nathan and his passengers are pulled after the murderer to a place called Well World, a single planet with over fifteen hundred sentient races---and many of the inhabitants used to be as human as they. But can Nathan find the two he seeks when they could be anyon ...more
The first in the "Well World" series. I accidentally read the second book first, so I wanted to go back and catch up before moving on in the series. Honestly, though, if I'd read the first book first, I'm not sure I would have wanted to keep reading the later books. I *would* have, because it's Jack Chalker, but he kind of blew his wad too early here--Nathan Brazil's character development and ultimate identity are kind of a huge deal to just drop into the first book in a series. That said, I alr ...more
Jul 18, 2015 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three and a half stars to be more precise.

I have been wanting to read this series for decades, but had never come across the first book. Now it is available as an audiobook. I'm afraid I found it a bit confusing with so many characters in so many different alien guises constantly changing their species and genders as the story progresses, I often had to shift gears, rewind and re-listen to figure out which character's point of view we are experiencing at any moment. Other than that major complic
Jun 06, 2016 Joy rated it it was amazing
An amazing feat of world building, and Chalker made the best of his love of body-changing. People who come to the Well World are transformed into one of the 1,560 sentient species living there. The personality conflicts already existing among before them before they arrive, play out in a race to control the Well of Souls. Brilliantly imaginative with a strong, disciplined structure and human sympathy.

One of two rereads tied as favorite Science Fiction Read of 2012.

2016 read: I have read my copy
M. Dixon
Mar 14, 2016 M. Dixon rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book and will probably read more titles from this series.
I only gave it three stars because, even though I liked it, there really wasn't anything about the story that made me excited enough to say I "really" liked it.
If you enjoy a good old fashioned Fantasy/Science Fiction quest then I think you'll enjoy this book.
Mar 10, 2016 Karen rated it really liked it
I read this series many years ago, during college. I obviously didn't remember much of it at all. I really enjoyed the Well World universe and the odd creatures therein.
Aaron Anderson
May 05, 2010 Aaron Anderson rated it really liked it
Well of Souls stuff isn't my favorite by Chalker, though it's what he's most well-known for, I think.

I'll label it as Sci-Fi, but has many fantasy aspects, and some outright magic.

The concept of Well World (and the universe history) is very neat, and a lot of fun. I guess I'll give the series as a whole a 4, might deserve a 3. I don't remember individual books, just the series as one large story.

I have reread this, and a lot of Chalker series many times, but I don't think it's rereadable for mos
Jul 29, 2014 astaliegurec rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Midnight at the Well of Souls" is one of Jack L. Chalker's earlier novels and is the first in his "Well World Saga." It's also what will turn out to be quintessential Chalker (physical transformation of his characters via a technology that approaches magic) through his later books. It's a well-written book with a really interesting premise, nice plot, good descriptions, and adequate characters. "Adequate characters" doesn't sound all that good, but, for what this book is, they're perfectly fine ...more
Scott Templeman
Dec 29, 2014 Scott Templeman rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: I read out of sequence and read it's sequel first. I rated it 5 stars, but this was certainly better of the two (and I now better understand the 4 star ratings from others). As each book essentially stands alone, using the same setting but playing with different themes and main characters on the same basic formula, it will be interesting to continue in this series. This book has much more religious themes than the second, but that is not a bad thing unless one is conditioned to rejec ...more
J.D. Adler
Apr 06, 2013 J.D. Adler rated it it was amazing
If you haven't read the Saga of the Well World Series, you haven't read proper Science Fiction. Combining quantum physics creation, fantasy creatures, secret alien manipulators, capitalism, drug addiction, and feminism all connected by a foil named Nathan Brazil, the Wandering Jew, this is the penultimate science fiction series. Chalker masters character and plot development, along with the magical allure of scientific wonder in a perfect recipe of SciFi goodness.

May 18, 2012 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Just read this book again... its been at least a dozen years since i last read it. Its a great premise, and the enigmatic character of Nathan draws the reader in. The rich cultures and and societies of the Well World are also very well presented... its not immersive but it gives the reader a strong sense of difference. Its also fun... and the tension and mystery are kept at a good pace and revealing enough to string the reader along without becoming bored.
Sep 03, 2011 Brendan rated it really liked it
This was a fun ride, though as a book, it stands more on its ideas than its plot. Everything that outsiders think science fiction is is in here. Weird aliens, weirder sex, complicated plots that don't explain everything, it's all here. However, the plot device of the well world works well enough to keep you reading in search of what weird thing will happen next, right up to the british dinosaurs at the end. Overall fun, and worth reading.
Robert Defrank
Oct 13, 2014 Robert Defrank rated it really liked it
In the far future, a group of three very different passengers and their captain are on a space transport which is diverted by a distress call to a research station on a planet that had once been home to a race of aliens who pre-date an in fact created most of the beings now inhabiting the universe.

The ship finds the research station destroyed, the people missing or dead, and the unwitting passengers are soon teleported to the Well World, a sort of testing ground the advanced aliens had once used
Kurtis Andrew
May 18, 2012 Kurtis Andrew rated it really liked it
tyrinėdamas galaktikos gelmes žmogus tikriausiai susitiks daugybę nežemiškų civilizacijų. O galbūt didesnė tikimybė surasti prieš daugelį milijonų metų išnykusių protinių būtybių paliktas "laikrodines minas", kurias palietus nutiks žmogaus protui neįsivaizduojami dalykai... Dalgonijos planetoje pilna keistų šulinių, kurie, atrodo, sminga į pačią šio pasaulio širdį...

visai geras skaitalas
Apr 14, 2016 Rick rated it it was amazing
Read this in the Navy on Diego Garcia. What did it lead to. I own every Chalker book...around 40 and I've read all but about two of them. I even have a few letters he sent me when I mailed him some questions and the letters are on his MIRAGE Press letterhead. Chalker is not Shakespeare, but he takes you on a rollercoaster ride every time.
Nov 27, 2011 Katie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2006, s-f
Interesting concept, but not unique - think of Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld series - and not entirely satisfactory in its execution, either. I doubt I'll be actively searching out the rest of the series.
Chalker's writing is pedestrian at best, awkward at worst.
Sarah Crawford
Feb 09, 2016 Sarah Crawford rated it it was amazing
This is the first in a series of really interesting stories based on an artificially-constructed world consisting of numerous hexagonal-shaped environments. Each hex has a different kind of environment and a different kind of dominant intelligent life form. Some of those life forms are even plants.

Into this world stumbles Nathan Brazil, pilot of an old spaceship, and a group of people on board the ship which consists of a really evil guy named Hain, Wu Julee, basically his slave, and Vardia, fr
Jan 26, 2016 Gustavo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was written in the 70s , and it's quite amazing. It has an old disappeared civilization that is being investigated by a humans that are starting to loose their own humanity, and call those that retain it Barbaric. The well of souls itself is remarkable in it's conception, reach and implications, and we are slowly driven to understand it.

The characters are quite unique, and I specially love the Vardia story, as she is clearly the one that loses something of herself, while at the same t
Dec 14, 2014 Miriam rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
There was a stargate in this? Man, I really need to reread some of these adult books I read as a little kid.
Natalie Waddell-Rutter
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 02, 2014 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sci fi fans, philosophy majors, materialists
Recommended to Michael by: Seth Klein
This mid-70s science fiction work is a rather ambitious effort, which succeeds in places and fails in others, resulting in a somewhat mixed, but generally enjoyable, reading experience. In some ways it never rises much above the level of a standard boys’ adventure story, but within those rules it is both surprisingly complex and cosmic in vision. In the hands of a lesser writer than Chalker this would have been dreck, although in the hands of a better one it would have been a masterpiece. Instea ...more
I just re-read this book [to be accurate, I should say I listened to it as an audio book] and have to say it wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it being. Reminiscent of both the Ringworld and Riverworld books, this novel sets up a premise that allows the author to jam together a bunch of things that would not normally be side-by-side, and then takes the reader on an extensive tour. Sure, the worldbuilding is impressive, but somehow the sum is not greater than the parts.

I do think this book wo
Jul 22, 2011 Charles rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi
This one is a bit difficult for me to rate, so I settled for a middling-good 3-star ranking. I liked the author's imagination and the way I was able to quickly and clearly envision the varied settings and characters.

SPOILER ALERT: no details, but some general stuff you may not want to read before reading the book.

On the downside, it shares a sort of deus ex machina issue with other sci-fi stories that take place in some situation where things can be essentially "magic" -- namely stories where yo
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Besides being a science fiction author, Jack Laurence Chalker was a Baltimore City Schools history teacher in Maryland for a time, a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association, and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Some of his books said that he was born in Norfolk, Virginia although he later claimed that was a mistake.

He attended all but one of the W
More about Jack L. Chalker...

Other Books in the Series

Saga of the Well World (7 books)
  • Exiles at the Well of Souls (Saga of the Well World, #2)
  • Quest for the Well of Souls (Saga of the Well World, #3)
  • The Return of Nathan Brazil (Saga of the Well World, #4)
  • Twilight at the Well of Souls (Saga of the Well World, #5)
  • The Sea is Full of Stars (Saga of the Well World, #6)
  • Ghost of the Well of Souls (Saga of the Well World, #7)

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