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A Million Open Doors

(Giraut #1)

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  835 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Nou Occitan is a place where duels are fought with equal passion over insults and artistic views alike. Giraut--swordsman, troubador, lover--is a creature of this swashbuckling world, the most isolated of humanity's Thousand Cultures.

But the winds of change have come to Nou Occitan. As the invention of the "springer"--instantaneous interstellar travel, at a price--spreads
Paperback, 309 pages
Published November 15th 1993 by Tor (first published 1992)
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Aug 31, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf-opera
SF about a culture clash of two planets: a flamboyant poetry-spouting, mountain-climbing, dueling troubador (Giraut) going to a highly repressed religious planet, where there is no art or culture or freedom of expression, and sparks a revolution. Better than I expected, but I had a few quibbles with the book.

*SPOILERS* The main character is quite repulsed by the appearance of one very plain woman; her flaws (shiny uneven skin, unpleasing features, dispropotioned body) are so distracting to him,
Jun 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
loved this one and the immediate sequel (which is much darker but resonated a lot), though the third milieu book was a huge letdown; this is lighter but lots of fun
Feb 12, 2013 rated it liked it
This is the first book I have read by Barnes, although I think I've read several of his short stories. In this book, I was not very engaged with the characters, but the "universe" that Barnes created was of much greater interest. This is the universe of The Thousand Cultures. "Man" has spread across the galaxy and splintered into many, many diverse cultures, out of touch with each other for the most part. This is Poul Anderson territory and he was one of my favorites.
Giraut is from the planet N
Simon Mcleish
Sep 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in October 2000.

Each of John Barnes' novels to date has been different, each an excellent piece of science fiction. A Million Open Doors is based on a scenario similar to some of the ideas behind Gordon R. Dickson's Dorsai trilogy - the bringing together once more of the splintered subcultures into which the human race has developed after isolation on colony planets separated by interstellar space - while in tone it is reminiscent of the classic novels of Isa
Fábio Fernandes
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I had heard of this book a long time ago, but I could never found it until I got to Seattle last year. (last time I checked on a few days ago, you can't find a new edition still, and only two books of the Giraut series is available on Kindle - parts 3 and 4, for crying out loud!) This upsets me a lot, because I love to read a series in its entirety when the first book grips my attention. And this far future story sure did it. I loved the way Barnes created a whole retro-Occitan societ ...more
Mar 22, 2014 rated it liked it
John Barnes' "A Million Open Doors" (the first in his "Thousand Cultures" series) is an interesting book that's a bit uneven. Well, it's actually quite a bit uneven. For instance, the protagonist is from a world whose culture emulates the drawing room crowd of the French Revolution. Or, perhaps, it's the beatnik crowd of 1960s. I don't quite know. But, in a nutshell, the main character is a self-centered, callow, lout. Yet, after a lot of pages with this personality, he walks into a room and is ...more
Thomas Blaine
Jul 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
There was much to like about this novel: you are dumped right into the culture and story and forced to figure things out quickly, to the interplay of cultures and languages, to some engaging characters (though some will disagree on this point). It was also fast moving with a nice mix of action, character development and political discussion. However there we many disappointments as well: many elements which made no sense, development that felt very rushed in many places, and an ending that left ...more
Rog Petersen
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book snookered me.
It begins on a glamorous swashbuckling planet with fashion and action and a Jack Vance vibe.
For 30 pages.
Then the titular Open Doors open.
Our heroes head to a frozen, stoic, uptight, religious midwest planet. To open a student center.
Nothing much happens. Natives are met, details of the working of their planet are talked about, their political, economic, and religious systems are described at length. Everything that happens in this book is a second hand description.
Our h
Jan 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I had this pulpy short paperback so I figured I would read it. The fact it turned into a mediocre pulpy sci-fi book I guess shouldn't surprise me? The accolades it received surprised me. This book has some neat ideas about a future when 'cultures' get segmented, and then become mono-cultures in and of themselves. The female characters for the most part are treated pretty dismally. I think theres some effort here to make the shallow protagonist less shallow, but he still felt pretty shallow in th ...more
Kristin Lundgren
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Nou Occitan, Giraut, Quartier, jovent, donzelha Garsenda, Rimabut his best frined killed in a duel, and worn as a pyspyx for a whiel until he faded, and Aimeric, a refuge economist from the fringe planet colony of Nansen, with it's culutres ondifferent continents of Caledony and St. Michael. It was not terraformed by teh inhabitans, since it had microscopic life, theyw ere allowed to do as much or as littel as they chose - so they meerely added enough plants and animals for their requirements. T ...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]A great read: perhaps reflecting a bit the fall of the Wall and globalisation more generally, it's about an encounter between cultures, the dour market-driven frozen colony of Caledony being forced to open up to the rest of the galaxy and in partiicular to the romantic troubadours of New Occitan. Lots of interesting politics and general growing-up for our Occitanian narrator as he realises more about the problems of his own society as a r ...more
This was read for /r/fantasy's book bingo! CW for offscreen rape.

This is, at its core, a book about what happens when cultures collide, especially when the cultures are polar opposites. With, of course, the usual SF trappings: the extreme climates, the difference in thought, clashing belief systems, and the modes of politics and production.

It makes for great popcorn: the protagonist, Giraut, is a dashing young man trained in troubadorean values, and he joins a friend basically on a whim to go to
Steven Werber
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of the finest first 3 quarters of a book I've ever read. I had a lot of trouble with the last quarter (including that many of our main characters are absent from the overcoming of the book's main conflict.) Good read though....
Garry Geer
Jun 11, 2019 rated it liked it
One of the best combinations of religion/sci-fi, and coming of age. I don't agree with all of the conclusions drawn by the author, and as a Calvinist I winced here and there. Yet, its a great story that brings up some pretty serious questions. I look forward to the rest of the series.
Brian MacAskill
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Meh. Started out well, got dry.
Scott Holstad
Feb 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Giraut is from the planet Nou Occitan, a place where duels are fought with equal passion over perceived insults and artistic views alike. A place where the language seems derived from Portuguese and there’s entirely too much of it, untranslated. Giraut is an enthusiastic member of a culture based around the ideals of the medieval troubadours, a culture of literature and art, dueling, and “macho” personal honor. However, with the invention of the "springer," instantaneous interstellar travel has ...more
Alan Zendell
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
I am truly perplexed by this book. When I read of all the awards it either won or was nominated for, I expected a lot. I wouldn't say the book is bad, but it didn't deliver what its hype promised. For example, one reviewer trumpets that the author really makes the readers care. About what?

I certainly didn't care about the characters, who I found generally unlikable and inconsistent in their development. I simply didn't believe them. I also didn't believe the story in many places, though the gene
Andy Love
Sep 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
"The Man Who Learned Better" is a classic plotline, but when it's done well, it can be very entertaining. John Barnes starts his take on that plotline in a culture designed to emulate a mythical culture of medieval troubadours, devoted to poetry, dueling and “honor” – somewhat foreign to modern eyes, but with values that modern folks are familiar with (and which influence society still – the initial scene which Giraut paints in a romantic light, is basically a rumble between two street gangs, li ...more
Jun 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenne by: Jo Walton
A really charming SF story! It's the far future, and there are many Earth colonies on many worlds. Our hero is from a very Romantic culture (lots of art, music, dueling, courtly love, etc) and ends up on a sort of ultra-Lutheran world (very religious, rational, no frivolity).

I liked the little throwaway bits of Earth culture here and there, like how each society gets to make up its own historical facts (e.g. Milton Friedman was eaten by cannibals in Zurich) or how people still sing "The Happy W
May 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: otherworlds
This incredibly fun sci fi novel takes the protagonist from the troubador planet to the Protestant Work Ethic planet, whose capital is Utilitopia. Has a fast-moving plot, several duels, a romance of sorts, a couple great insults, and some too-facile feminism.

Only after I had read it twice did I realize that it was, in fact, the most entertaining defense of Keynsian economics that ever has been or will be written.

Downside: a bit dismissive of spirituality and cultural diversity.

Warning: if you li
Sep 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: sci-fi readers
I just finished reading this story of the clash of cultures on different planets. With the advent of the technology for people to travel instantaneously from one planet to another, an effort begins to reintegrate all of the far-flung human colonies into a connected human culture.

Giraut and two friends go from their home on Nou Occitan to Caledony, where they encounter a vastly different and repressive culture. Giraut's character develops and grows over time as he meets new people in incorporates
James Spencer
Apr 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
This has the flavor of a classic SciFi novel out of the 50's, in its somewhat innocent or unsofisticated attempts to reviel a message about clashing human cultures and morality. The major points are often forced home with rapier sharpness, leaving the reader numb to the more subtle character interplay. Any SciFi enthusiast will likely find this an intresting coming of age story and reasonable first installment of a series.
Considering the publication date and world affairs of that time, The phra
Feb 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This was a rather ho-hum book. It describes two cultures - one where technology does everything so people can write poetry, duel one another for excitement and generally look down upon women. The other avoids overusing technology by having each person replace a robot for 4 hours a day. Very much like a puritan culture meeting a very hedonistic one.

The characters are not very appealing and the two cultures do not seem like they really could survive. I finished the book, but only because my book g
Leigh Anne
Dec 11, 2014 rated it liked it
This is BFF's, read it on a whim. It was interesting, but not something I'd read twice. Basically it's about cultural imperialism and misunderstandings, which you would think I would love, but...I don't know. I think it's Barnes's style. It's just...flat. And I wanted to learn more about the world Giraut left before he left it. We got some, but not enough (rules of finamor, please? You can't tease us with an elaborate system of Occitans-inspired chivalry and then just abandon it...). Anyway, I d ...more
Mar 03, 2009 rated it liked it
I'm really only 9/10 through this book, and maybe it will wow me in that final 1/10 — but I'll be the one over here not holding my breath.

It's well-written, the universe and plot are interesting, and the characters have depth... but there's just not much more than that going for it. So far. I already have the sequel, since I got them together at a used book store, but unless there's an especially gripping cliffhanger, I imagine it'll be some time before I give it a chance.
Mar 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: finished-in-2013
I really liked the shape of the story, a fair number of the ideas (some of which were smart), and the sense that the supporting cast felt alive in the sense that several of them had lives happening in the background. I did enjoy the filler and world building, even if it felt too much like a presentation -- possibly one with Powerpoint, infodumps, classically telling instead of showing, tending towards the dry.
Steven Allen
Jun 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-to-go, not-kept
This book started a little slow, but the second half was better. I would not go out of my way to find other books in this series, but if I found them at the library discount shelf again I would certainly grab them. I used to read a lot of SciFi, but lately have not found any to my liking. This story was ok - a little too much political intrigue and lack of action for my tastes, but a decent read. I am not looking for the great literary novel - I just want some good escapist literature.
Jan 13, 2009 rated it liked it
An exploration of what would happen after humanity spreads to the stars, each "colony" developing its own culture and values, if it were possible to travel from one planet to another quickly enough for planetary cultures to "corrupt" each other.

John Barnes' book was quite witty and fun to read as he took his characters through some of the possibilities.
Mar 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best thing I've read in ages. The characterization, particularly of the protagonist, is skillful and well paced. The settings are well crafted, different without being cartoon opposites... All in all, it feels like a better, richer, grown-up version of the Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
Apr 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Probably one of my favorite sci-fi books (and series, and authors) ever. Oscar got his middle name from one of the characters in this book. I can't describe it better than the GoodReads synopsis, other than to say that the prose is awesome and the universe is just amazingly well thought out and formed.
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John Barnes (born 1957) is an American science fiction author, whose stories often explore questions of individual moral responsibility within a larger social context. Social criticism is woven throughout his plots. The four novels in his Thousand Cultures series pose serious questions about the effects of globalization on isolated societies. Barnes holds a doctorate in theatre and for several yea ...more

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Giraut (4 books)
  • Earth Made of Glass (Giraut #2)
  • The Merchants of Souls (Giraut, #3)
  • The Armies of Memory (Giraut, #4)

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