Doorways in the Sand
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Doorways in the Sand

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  2,172 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Mass Market Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 1st 1991 by Harpercollins (first published March 1976)
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You know, a part of me really wishes I could have pulled off the same trick the book's protagonist did for 13 years - remain a perpetual student supported by a cryogenically frozen uncle, free to expand my horizons, create Lobachevsky-worthy mathematical odes to beauty, and not ever having to graduate to the real adult world.
"'Let there be an end to thought. Thus do I refute Descartes.' I sprawled, not a cogito or a sum to my name."
However, when the real adult world comes equipped with aliens un...more
Carol. [All cynic, all the time]
I had forgotten this gem until a question on a Zelazny recommendation sent me to my shelves to rediscover this blend of Bradbury and crime caper. Set in an Earth very similar to our own, aliens have made contact and invited us to join the galactic federation. As a token of sincerity, we're participating in an artifact exchange, lending them culturally significant objects such as the Crown Jewels and the Mona Lisa, and receiving ambiguous alien artifacts in return. Meanwhile, a perpetual universi...more
Dan Schwent
Where do I start?

Fred Cassidy is a college student and has been for the past 17 years due to a loophole in his late uncle's will. Fred is a compulsive climber and a thorn in the side of the administration who would like nothing more than for him to graduate so they can get on with their lives. Long story short, an alien artifact goes missing and a lot of people think Fred has it. The rest of the book is the quest to find the star stone and stay alive. Thankfully, Fred has help in the form of a t...more
Reread Apr2011: Still a good, fun read. I was sick & needed something upbeat & relaxing. Zelazny to the rescue again. I don't know how many times I've read this, but each time his poetic prose & wry sense of humor have made it a treat.

Dec2007: One of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors. It's an action packed mystery SF. Our hero, Fred, is as average as any Zelazny character - that is to say while he has no extraordinary powers, his sanity, habits & life philosophy are...more

... or as I like to call it now that I'm finished: Romancing the Star Stone , for it reminds me of the Michael Douglas / Katleen Turner crime caper with its tongue-in-cheek approach and its lively pacing. A priceless alien artefact in the shape of a gemstone has been stolen and the last person to have seen it is Fred Cassidy - a perpetual student who has managed to avoid graduation for 13 years, and who suffers from a rare affliction called acrophilia. Meaning he likes to climb things , preferr...more
I just don’t get how he does it.

No matter how many Zelazny stories I read, he still finds a way to surprise and amaze me. I simply cannot fathom how he keeps track of so many characters and creates plot twists that are entirely unpredictable yet still believable within the frame of the story. And then, just when you think you have everything figured out, more information is unveiled and your appreciation for the masterful storytelling increases a thousand fold.

I really don’t know what else to sa...more
Zachary Jernigan
OBJECTIVE RATING (my best stab at looking at the book's merits, regardless of whether or not I enjoyed it all that much): 4.5

PERSONAL RATING (how much the book "worked" for me personally): 5

Zelazny's most accessible work, unfortunately one of his least read. A blast from cover to cover. You've read humorous slacker science fiction before, but never done this well.
Colin Birge
Aliens, government agents, & thugs are all after a mysterious alien McGuffin that the narrator might or might not have ever had in his possession. Put like that, it sounds like a thinly veiled Hitchcock movie with the serial numbers filed off, which it is. That's just the structure, though. In between pulp-thriller standard kidnappings, beatings, gunshots, double-crosses, and jeweled treasures, Roger Zelazny meditates variously on academia, knowledge, the joys of climbing the outside of tall...more
Zelanzy was one of my all time favorite fantasy authors; I think I've read pretty much everything he ever did, plus re-reading all ten Amber novels about four or five years ago. Ol' Roger passed about fifteen years ago, so there haven't been any new Zelazny novels, and, as sadly happens when a writer dies, most of his stuff is out of print, except for the "Amber Omnibus," and that is, sporadically, hard to find.

This was the first Zelazny novel I ever read, back in high school, when my mother gav...more
Erik Graff
Jul 18, 2012 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Zelazny fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
I read this as an academic dean at Loyola University Chicago and loved the part with Fred Cassidy, the perpetual undergraduate, and Dennis Wexworth, his academic advisor, trying to outwit one another. I rarely laugh aloud when reading and don't find much humor humorous, but this little piece of silly sf fluff was an exception.
Roger Zelazny, where have you been all my life?
Aug 07, 2009 Roberto rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: young readers
This was a quick read. Then again, I was just finishing "The great book of amber" which is about the size of a phone book and has almost as many characters, so the Torah could have seemed a quick read, too.

This is a gimicky book, and almost every review mentions it: each chapter starts with the main character in Big Trouble (tm) and then he has a flashback that explains how he got there, then he gets away into a cliffhanger, which is resolved in the following chapter's flashback.

Strangely, that...more

Je me disais qu'il était possible d'écrire de la bonne science fiction avec des niveaux technologiques différents et convaincants, de faire de quoi de meilleur mais tout aussi exotique que ce que Schmitz avait fait avec "The Demon Breed". Je me suis souvenu de ce roman de Zelazny. C'est de l'action, avec un merveilleux rythme. C'est aussi très exotique, même si tout se passe sur la Terre.


I was thinking about action SF with believable aliens and well thought out tech levels and how it was p...more
This was a highly entertaining and rather original read. I've consumed a fair quantity of sci-fi over the years, and most of what I read these days feels derivative, or like "more of the same," which leads me to read progressive less of it unless that's what I'm looking for. So, while I grabbed this expecting "more of the same" after reading Lord of Light , the variance in tone, plot, and style was a welcome surprise. I particularly enjoyed the somewhat sparky humor of the protagonist, and his r...more
Keith Michael
stymied again by the Hugo and Nebula Committee! I was at Goodwill today, looking for something pulpy to read, and I came across this book. An award-winning sci-fi book, at that. Right here! In MY neighborhood thrift store! I was pretty excited. But after I cracked open the bright purple paperback, decorated with some gooberish flying saucer/time portal/taj mahal montage fantasy clipart, and brushed away the decades-old marijuana debris, things went bad pretty quickly. A few preliminary puns misf...more
Firstly, you have to understand that this is a comedy. It's funny. The dialogue is snappy, comical. I can very easily picture a younger Robert Downey Jr playing the main character and serving the story handsomely. It borders on screwball.

Secondly, Zelazny couched the humor in the situation, which is not really that funny, but has its funny side.

A perpetual student---who refuses to take a degree because the terms of his uncle's will only grants him a stipend as long as he's pursuing an education-...more
Awesome book! My second reading. I got more out of it this time. This was one of Roger's favorite books. It was somewhat experimental (like "Creatures of Light and Darkness", "Bridge of Ashes", "Roadmarks", and culiminating in "Eye of Cat".
Fred Cassidy the hero of this book is a perennial college student (13 years). His uncle left him a fortune until he gets a degree. He's not stupid he just keeps changing his major so he never finishes the courses required for a degree! He is also an acrophile...more
Jun 10, 2013 Simon rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: sf
Do you know those books that drop you in at the deepend, something major is happening right away but you don't know what's going on and the words are a meaningless jumble until you gradually start to make sense of what's happening? Well, this book's like that at the start of every single chapter.

Even though this book is a single narrative thread, the plot lurches forward with each chapter, often in some seemingly bizarre cliffhanger situation that you have no idea how it came about. The narrativ...more
Scott Holstad
This is the second Zelazny book I've gone for and I've got to say that despite all of the wonderful stuff I heard about him as a writer, I'm horribly disappointed. I couldn't even finish this one. It's his language, his use of language. He's a sci fi writer, writing this book in the 1970s, but who uses 19th century language. It's beyond distracting; it's maddening!

Here's an example. On page 20, the protagonist, Fred, kicks an intruder in the groin. and then attempts to flee. Instead of saying Fr...more
Jul 13, 2014 Kristin marked it as to-read
I'm interested in reading something in this form.....From Wikipedia: The novel Doorways in the Sand practices a flashback technique in which most chapters open with a scene, typically involving peril, not implied by the end of the previous chapter. Once the scene is established, the narrator backtracks to the events leading up to it, then follows through to the end of the chapter, whereupon the next chapter jumps ahead to another dramatic non-sequitur.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matt Brant
After Lord of Light, this one (1976) is probably Zelazny's best-liked science fiction novel. The inventive plot involves a frozen uncle, realistic bad guys, and undercover alien cops. It has wacky inventions: dog suit so alien coppers won't be conspicuous on Earth; a Rhennius machine for reversing one's self and others; and a star stone, the function of which cannot be revealed in a review. The likeable hero Fred Cassidy is an eternal student (a wise-acre polymath, similarly to other Zelaznian p...more
This was the first book I read by Zelazny (yes, insert shame here, I know). It was recommended by a friend a long time ago and the book landed on my shelf but didn't get read until just recently.

It's as much about how the book is written as it really is about the story. The story has a pile of crazy in it, but the thing that's really interesting is that once you're a couple of chapters in Zelazny pulls this trick where he starts the chapter with the end, then you have to spend the rest of the ch...more
I reread this every few years, and I can't really explain why.

This is old-school sci-fi, but it is very readable. It is exactly how I imagine alien first-contact would play out if it had happened in the 60s or 70s: everyone is smoking and getting stoned all the time, and also they've loaned the Mona Lisa to some aliens as part of a cultural exchange. No big deal - everyone get on with your lives. Sure, there are some flying cars, but otherwise life is the same. It's clever and funny with a heavy...more
Ron Johnson
Hugo Nominee 1976
Mar 19, 2012 Aleks added it
Shelves: unfinished-tales
The only Zelazny book I've ever gotten bored with. Maybe I'll try it again later, but for now I've moved on to The Doors of His face and find most of those short stories much better. Of course Lord of Light and Creatures of Light and Darkness still represent, for me, the pinnacle of Zelazny's work, and Nine Princes in Amber is also very very good.
Part Heinlein and part Carroll. A left-handed scifi adventure in which an eternal undergrad battles against the forces that would relegate Earth to a backwater, and worse, force him to get a diploma.

A fun romp, if rather more light than I'd prefer. The device of beginning each chapter with a flash-forward cliffhanger detracts more than it adds.
Enjoyable sci-fi comedy about what might follow first contact. The eternal undergraduate joke appealed to me greatly when I was one, and the book makes climbing around on buildings sound interesting enough that I tried it myself. Re-reading it after about 20 years, it seems light, pleasant, but not really worth keeping for another read.
Gordy Wheeler
Aggressively seventies. Average of 15 cigarettes per chapter. Completely relentless in plot. Flashbacks, flashforwards everywhere. Makes little sense unless you're very carefully parsing the entire story and remembering the many, many minor details drizzled in offhandedly. One of my favorite books. No idea how to explain a goddamn thing about it.
Zany and not necessarily in a good way. If you like Douglas Adams style, you will probably like this. At its core there is a pretty neat sci-fi idea. But the juxtaposition of hard sci fi with aliens disguised as animals, a protagonist who enjoys climbing buildings and the quirky "caper fiction" array of protagonists sort of did me in.
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Roger Zelazny made his name with a group of novellas which demonstrated just how intense an emotional charge could be generated by the stock imagery of sf; the most famous of these is 'A Rose for Ecclesiastes' in which a poet struggles to convince dying and sterile Martians that life is worth continuing. Zelazny continued to write excellent short stories throughout his career, which share the inve...more
More about Roger Zelazny...
Nine Princes in Amber (Amber Chronicles, #1) The Great Book of Amber (The Chronicles of Amber, #1-10) Lord of Light The Courts of Chaos (Amber Chronicles, #5) The Guns of Avalon (Amber Chronicles, #2)

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“Did you ever look back at some moment in your past and have it suddenly grow so vivid that all the intervening years seemed brief, dreamlike, impersonal—the motions of a May afternoon surrendered to routine?” 12 likes
“You are one of the few successful persons I know."
"Me? Why?"
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