What would you do if you woke up and found yourself in a parallel universe under an alien sky? This is the question Zax Delatree must answer every time he closes his eyes.
Every time Zax Delatree falls asleep, he travels to a new reality. He has no control over his destination and never knows what he will see when he opens his eyes. Sometimes he wakes up in technological utopias, and other times in the bombed-out ruins of collapsed civilizations. All he has to live by are his wits and the small aides he has picked up along the way - technological advantages from techno-utopias, sedatives to escape dangerous worlds, and stimulants to extend his stay in pleasant ones.
Thankfully, Zax isn't always alone. He can take people with him, if they're unconscious in his arms when he falls asleep. But someone unwelcome is on his tail, and they are after something that Zax cannot spare - the blood running through his veins, the power to travel through worlds...
This story of Zaxony Delatree and his travels through the multi-verse was an easy and mostly upbeat read, despite the terrible villain and his awful plans. I loved the multi-verse and the infinite variety that we only get small tastes of. The real showstopper though are the companions Zaxony finds and travels with.
Vicki is just plain awesome, and Minna is probably one of my all time favourite book characters in terms of her understated yet extraordinary abilities and adaptable personality. The whole package is somewhat reminiscent of Doctor Who, although Zaxony is much more the average person (well, except for the whole multi-verse travelling ability thing) and his companions are the ones who possess extraordinary abilities.
I did love the central tenet of non-violence and finding accord that Zaxony adheres to. It made for an interesting struggle as he attempts to deal with an increasingly difficult and destructive foe. How do you neutralize a dangerous person without hurting them? How far should you go in sticking to your values in this respect?
At one time, Ursula Le Guin posited a story where a man would fall asleep and the world would change every time he dreamed. He didn't like that. He tried to avoid dreaming until an evil psychiatrist started controlling his dreams. The point is the world changed every time he slept. For Dr. Who and his amazing TARDIS, the universe changed every time he closed the callbox door and you never knew where he would end up except you knew he would be chased by Daleks. In other stories, people race through time to prevent some evil one from taking over the time continuum.
Doors of Sleep follows in the wake of all of these ideas with a story of a man, Zax, who falls asleeps and wakes in a different universe each time he falls asleep and wakes up. It is a masterpiece of endless creativity with thousands of worlds each experienced somewhat briefly. And, the author, Tim Pratt takes this to extremes and offers literally thousands of worlds. Of course, no matter what Zax does he does not wake up in walls, under the ocean, in the belly of a whale, or so forth. But, of course, he must come up with solutions in the form of pharmacological pills to instantly put him to sleep should a raging sabertooth charge at him.
Zax has two erstwhile companions, consisting of a plant creature and a jewel containing an artificial intelligence. And its a good thing he has companions because Dr. Evil (the Lector) is on his tail chasing him across the multi-universes, hungering for that magic blood so that the Lector can build armies of inter-universe beings who will conquer all universes. And chase they do since apparently the gates only work in one direction and they both end up in the same spots. This gives us the conflict and the tension that is not necessarily apparent with the quick stops in the multiverses.
Doors of Sleep is a fun and engaging romp through the multiverse, most enjoyable as the endless creativity of Pratt's brain is shown off with all manner of creatures on all manner of worlds.
"Here’s the situation. Every time I fall asleep, I wake up in another universe. That started happening nearly three years and a thousand worlds ago, and I still don’t know why, or what happens during the transition, while I’m asleep."
It is never really explained how Zaxony (or Zax) Delatree got this dimensional drifting affliction (although there is a strong implication). Zax has been keeping a diary about his adventures, and that is what you, dear reader, are perusing.
It is possible for Zax to take along other people (or creatures), if they fall asleep in his arms before he falls asleep. So he has had several companions before we start reading, most notably one called The Lector, who quickly turned out to be quite an evil bastard, a scientist who wants to extract Zax's dimensional hopping power from him.
There are many dimensions that are described, quite a lot of fun descriptions, a couple feel less imaginative, and overall I would've liked to see some more "out there" dimensions.
The book's main problem is that it only really gathers any forward momentum towards the end of the book. Before that we're basically just following Zax and his companions as they jump from dimension to dimension, which is interesting enough for a while, but then starts to drag.
Only about halfway the book does Zax find out that The Lector is chasing him through the dimensions, which provides some drive, but fact remains that Zax has little control about where he will end up next, so it's hard for him as a character to have any real goal besides "not dying".
Towards the end we suddenly have a ramshackle plot, with an unconvincing baddie and it all ends a bit too neatly.
That said, I found it quite a relaxing book to read, even when the characters got in dire straits. But is that what I want from an adventure like this book? My guess is that if the book had a stronger plot and stronger character motivations, it could've been quite an addictive thriller.
(Kindly received a review copy from Angry Robot through Edelweiss)
3.5 Stars This was an interesting exploration of multiverse theory told in a close and often intimate perspective. I want to describe this as a sci fi thriller, but in reality the narrative is much slower than the pager turners normally given that label. Certainly it still held my attention but there was not a lot of action in the story. Instead it was more focus on the characters. Towards the second half the story picked up with some interesting narrative shifts, however it fully immersed me.
The best aspect of this book was the exploration of the multiverse. I loved the author's creativity in imagining so many different realities. These worlds gave the book a more fantastical quality. In comparison to other scifi books I have recently read, it was refreshing to read a multiverse story that actually explored the other universe.
Overall, this was an interesting piece of sci fi that explored popular theories in some fun and imaginative ways. There was very little hard science in this one, which would make it an excellent entry point for those new to the subgenre. I would recommend this one to fairly wide range of readers - essentially anyone interested in the subject matter could read and enjoy it.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Angry Robot Books.
It has taken me quite a while to finish this book, but that's not because it's a poor book. Rather it's because I've been deluged with holds coming in at the library and most of them requested by others after me so no renewals allowed. I'm semi-caught-up now and had the time to revisit Zaxony Delatree as he plunged through the multiverse.
Tim Pratt has interesting ideas and I'm looking forward to reading more of his work. In this one, something goes wonky for Zax and whenever he falls asleep, he awakes in a new world. Sometimes it's hostile, sometimes benign, but never a repeat. Zax is lonely until he teams up with a woman from a farm planet, Minna. She can perform photosynthesis to feed herself if necessary and has remarkable abilities in replicating substances. Needless to say, their existence is complicated and becomes more so when they encounter a man that Zax has been trying to stay ahead of.
Pratt shows his knowledge of the science fiction canon. The novel, with its moral dilemmas, reminded me strongly of Ursula le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven. Her main character dreams the future into existence and unscrupulous people try to take control of his talent. Pratt gives this the multiverse treatment, which adds tension. There was also one world visited which reminded me of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine briefly. There were sky dwellers and groundlings, reminiscent of the Morlocks and Eloi.
The ending gave me many new questions. I have a hunch Pratt has plans for more adventures for Zaxony Delatree!
An interesting concept for sure but the concept is more interesting than the story itself.
The story of Zaxony Delatree and his journals explaining his extraordinary life of travel to many many worlds. Existing in a multiverse, when Zax falls asleep he wakes up in another world in an alternative universe. Along the way he meets up with various characters, bringing some with him. They also have to be asleep and hanging on to him to travel with him.
One of these characters has ulterior motives though. He is after Zaxs blood to travel on his own too, with much more sinister intentions. After being held captive by him and blood taken Zax manages to escape but while he travels randomly through the multiverse he has this character on his tale trying to catch up with him, take his blood and perhaps take his life.
This sounded really interesting on paper but sounds better than it works. The fact that Zax travels to a new world every times he sleeps means he never spends long in one place. He visits dozens and dozens of places in this book, some get a couple of pages, some get a paragraph and they end up becoming a bit of a blur, having little or no novelty and I found myself soon losing interest in the descriptions of them as they had little relevance.
It’s basically a chase movie set in a multiverse, a good vs evil battle with an overly cheesy ending. I’m sure there is plenty of philosophical questions and social commentary in here but the format didn’t grab my attention enough to care.
There are some interesting ideas in here but ultimately I think the book was somewhat doomed from the beginning due to the format.
Many thanks to Netgalley and Angry Robit for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Truthfully, I would not have picked up Doors of Sleep had it not been a book club selection. And even then, I resisted. It’s not my usual brand of novel. But the beauty of a book club is that it encourages you to try things you might not have otherwise, so here we are.
The verdict? It was okay.
I liked the first half better than the second. It introduced the premise for the story, infused some interesting characters, and gave a page-turning conflict. I found myself genuinely interested in continuing.
And then I got to the magic cornucopia.
This is not my first venture into Pratt’s work. The first 6 or so Marla Mason books are among the strongest urban fantasies I’ve ever read. I loved the first few (and the prequel) with a passion… and then lost patience once he started self-publishing them.
His ideas, which are already wildly creative and out-there, got too ridiculous and wild without a publisher’s careful eye on keeping the content geared towards the most mass- appeal. I find I have no patience when the things that happen in the book start to get stupid, but I know my tolerance level is less so than most. I just don’t enjoy the far-fetched.
So when things started taking that turn in Doors of Sleep, I lost a lot of the investment I was feeling in the story. Pair that with some lengthy existential dialogue passages, add a slowdown in pacing, then top it off with some very abrupt, convenient, and non-sequitur character growths, and you have the reasons for my eventual dissatisfaction. I also did not particularly enjoy the antagonists, which I’m sure didn’t help the experience.
Overall, I wish I’d enjoyed it more. It had a lot of promise and a cool idea, which I feel was explored pretty well in this first book. However I probably won’t be continuing the series.
Recommendations: if you appreciate the more conceptual novels and really don’t mind when things get ridiculous/weird, then Doors of Sleep might be your jam. I can definitely say I’ve never read anything quite like it.
Other books you might like (Note: because I’ve never read anything quite like Doors of Sleep, my OBYML selections are just a compilation of the last five weird books I’ve read…. perhaps they’ll strike a similar chord):
Zax Delatree has a special ability, every time he falls asleep, he travels to a new random dimension. Sometimes, he wakes up in dystopian world and sometimes he wakes up in a fantastical world where evil mushrooms try to kill him.
If Zax falls asleep holding someone in his arms, he can transport them with him. A lesson he has learnt the hard way the first time he traveled to a new reality. However, most of Zax’s companions tend to abandon him after a few realities to settle down on worlds they like, a luxury that Zax can’t afford. Some other times, Zax has to run away from his own companions when they try to vivisect him in order to understand how his powers work. That’s the case with the Lector, one of Zax’s former companion turned evil doctor who wants to replicate his powers in order to create an Empire across realities. Zax managed to escape the Lector once but, will he be able to avoid him forever?
Doors of Sleep is such a fun ride! This book really is a wonder of creativity, Tim Pratt imagined hundreds of different worlds that are all completely different from one another and it was fascinating to discover them one by one.
I really enjoyed the world but, most of all, I loved the characters! The main character is a fascinating character to follow. At the start of the novel, Zax has been jumping from one reality to another for 3 years and he has visited hundreds and hundreds of different worlds. In each reality, he tries his best to help the people he meets and, if he encounters someone or something who wants to visit a new world, he takes them with him.
I liked reading the novel from Zax’s perspective but I have to say that my favorite characters were his companions. I don’t want to say too much about the second companion because they arrive pretty late in the story but Minna was awesome! She’s a character from a world where biological engineering is mastered and she can modify her body at will to create biological compounds that are (more than a few times) life savers. Zax is a cool character but Minna was the highlight of the novel for me. She’s a gentle soul but also very badass in her own way and usually a lot more quick-witted than Zax!
Another character that I found fascinating was the Lector. Sure, he was kind of a “moustache twirling villain” and his personality probably could have been developed a bit more but, I had a ton of fun reading about him and his evil plans for the universe. He is also the one who injected Zax with a language virus that allows him to understand intelligent creatures in every world he visits and, without this virus, the story would have been a lot less interesting.
Doors of Sleep was one of the first book I read this year and, while it’s not perfect, it’s so much fun that I could easily forgive the unevenness of the pacing (it takes a bit for the plot to start) and enjoy the novel and its wonders. I don’t know if this book is standalone or a start to a new series but, if Pratt writes more stories in this world, I will read them for sure!
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for a honest review. My thanks to Angry Robot and Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books for the digital advanced copy of Doors of Sleep in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own! If you are a fan of multiverse adventures and creative characters, check this out!
Wow, what a wild ride! I can only imagine how Zax feels since I was getting dizzy just travelling with him! I think the book's biggest strength is just the sheer number of creative ideas on the pages - I coined a term for it, like "word salad" but it's "universe salad." One page might spit out six wildly different universes if Zax is travelling quickly. Pratt's well of ideas seems to be endless.
There are many pop culture nods that I enjoyed spotting too, like an Emerald City universe with a yellow brick road and all. One thing the book accomplishes is making me feel soooo small, the possibility of endless universes and endless galaxies, planets, and he is only seeing a small portion...
So Zaxony is travelling alone and it was hard for me to latch onto the story before he found a travelling companion, that is a super interesting plant/human hybrid. They become great friends and Minna is able to perform many scientific tasks to make Zax's life easier. They also eventually pick up an analytic war crystal named Vicki who I think is the best character 😂
Once the antagonist shows up in truth and the book turns into a pursuit, giving Zax and company a purpose, I finally latched onto the story. This happened maybe halfway through and is why I only gave Doors of Sleep 3.5 stars, I felt aimless before that point. The Lector is a brilliant terrorist with the aim of conquering all the worlds, creating a moving empire, and it's going to take mote than weapons and traps to stop him.... A really brilliant bad guy who is only limited by his inability to comprehend the true grandness of the multiverse.
I should mention Zax too as a character - he is thoughtful, a general good Samaritan with strong principles about helping people, but he is also flawed and sooo lonely before he meets Minna. I loved that they ended up just being partners and not pursuing anything romantic too.
Overall: clever but brief world building, strong friendships and interesting characters, many philosophies, and a twisty OMG ending, made me enjoy this book quite a bit. I am definitely 100% on board for the next book and hope you guys will check this one out! Just released on January 12th so grab your copy now!
The nitty-gritty: Inventive and engaging, Doors of Sleep is the feel-good sci-fi story you didn’t know you needed.
If you’re looking for an upbeat, quirky, feel good story to start off 2021, then you cannot go wrong with Doors of Sleep. This book was such a happy surprise, and I can’t believe this is my first time reading Tim Pratt! With an almost retro sci-fi vibe, Pratt has managed to write an entertaining story with loveable characters, a thrilling plot, some timely social commentary, and plenty of heart. I was also impressed by how imaginative Pratt’s worlds were, and I found myself wishing some of them were real.
This is the travel journal of Zaxony Dyad Euphony Delatree, or Zax for short. For the past three years or so, Zax has had the unfortunate ability to travel to a different universe every time he falls asleep. This means that when the story begins, Zax has already been to nearly one thousand different worlds, each unique and with its own set of dangers and challenges. Zax doesn’t understand why this is happening to him, only that he doesn’t know how to stop it. He’s been able to gather various drugs over time that allow him to fall asleep quickly and get out of sticky situations, but he can never stay awake long enough to fully appreciate some of the better worlds he’s discovered.
Zax can take someone with him from one world to the next, as long as they are asleep, and so he’s had several traveling companions over the years. But they’ve never lasted very long for various reasons, and so Zax is mostly lonely. One lost companion, however, is a scientist known as the Lector, the man who helped Zax in the beginning by studying his blood and figuring out ways to help him stay awake longer. He also injected Zax with something called a linguistic virus which allows him to communicate with anyone on his travels, no matter what language they speak. However, we soon learn that Zax left the Lector behind when his methods became suspect, and now he is trying to stay one step ahead of him, as he suspects the Lector is trying to catch him.
When the story opens, Zax has woken up in an orchard and soon meets a girl named Minna, who offers him some blue apples from one of the trees. Minna ends up joining Zax, as her world offers only a harsh existence of subservience, and she wants nothing more than to leave and go somewhere else. But the Lector isn’t far behind, and it doesn’t take Zax and Minna long to figure out what he’s up to: the Lector intends to take over the multiverse, and he needs Zax to do it.
I’ll admit the beginning of the story is a little slow and meandering, and after experiencing Zax jump to ten or twelve different worlds, I began to wonder if that’s all there was to this book—lots of really cool vignettes where Zax encounters more and more interesting and dangerous people, robots, and creatures, but nothing much happens. But at about the 33% mark, once Zax and Minna meet a new character named Vicki, the story really takes off. Pratt’s grand vision of his vast multiverse could have easily spiraled out of control, but I was pleased to see how well he reigned in his story, keeping the focus on a few main characters and making their stories the center of attention. For the most part, we see everything from Zax’s point of view (except for a few times when other characters fill in parts of the story), which made Doors of Sleep feel intimate and focused.
Which brings me to the characters. I absolutely loved Minna and Vicki in particular, although Zax is a pretty good character as well. Minna is a smart, resourceful woman who has been through terrible hardship on her home world. She’s part plant and has the ability to photosynthesize. She is able to regrow body parts if necessary, in the event of injury, and as we find out, she’s very hard to kill. Minna saves the day a lot in this story, especially when it comes to the nefarious antics of the Lector, and Zax is better off having met and befriended her. Zax and Minna meet Vicki on a world made of shattered crystals, and I think I’ll save that surprise for you to discover yourself. Let’s just say that Vicki is a marvelous creation, and the three characters together were my favorite part of the story.
Zax, Minna and Vicki are all good people (and I use the term “people” lightly!) and only want to help others. This was such a refreshing change from some of the more grim stories I’ve been reading. In Zax’s home world, he was a “harmonizer,” which is like a moderator who tries to help others resolve their disputes. Zax’s code of honor is to never harm a living creature, but of course he struggles with this whenever the Lector shows up. All this goodness is offset by the Lector, who to be honest, was almost a caricature of an evil genius. His big, evil plan to take over all the worlds was fairly predictable, and as a bad guy he was more annoying than scary. But I do like what Pratt does to his character at the end, which wasn't predictable at all.
The author came up with a really good hook for his story, a multiverse filled with wonderful diversity and different levels of danger, depending on what world you end up on. Pratt’s imagination is off the charts, and I loved experiencing each new world, even if some of them were very brief visits. Here are few examples: a “bubble” world where a civil war has separated everyone into different bubbles, where you only live with people who share the same beliefs and ideals as you; a fishing village ruled by a living lighthouse where people emerge from the sea each night lugging nets of shells, fish and gears; a world of subterranean engines where slaves labor in mines for insect-like aliens. One gets the impression that the author will never run out of ideas for his worlds!
And because I loved the characters so much, there was always a sense of worry that they would become separated. After all, if one falls asleep without the other, the sleeper will go to another world without his companion, and the twist about travelling like this is that Zax can’t control where he goes. In all his travels, he’s never visited the same world twice, and finding a lost companion would be nearly impossible! This gave the story a nice sense of tension and kept me frantically turning the pages.
Pratt throws in some interesting twists and surprises near the end, and I fervently hope there will be a sequel, because the ending practically demands one! I’m so glad I had the chance to read this quirky book, and I look forward to whatever Tim Pratt writes next.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.
tldr: Quick-paced, casual sci-fi fantasy adventure that takes you through an entire multiverse of twists and turns. Recommended if you’re looking for an action-packed quick read. 4,3*
When searching for new reads, I wanted a sci-fi novel that focused on the specific tropes of multiverses or alternate dimensions, as had previous titles like A Wrinkle in Time. I picked up this book, noticing its novelty, decided to give it a try. And let me say: Doors of Sleep is a hidden gem in every definition of the term.
Our protagonist, Zax Delatree, has a peculiar ability: whenever he falls asleep, he awakens in a new world entirely. As time passes, he gains some trans-dimensional allies: a botanical humanoid and sentient gem, both of which are striking characters with their own unique charm.
Leaving out plot details, another thing that struck me upon finishing the novel was how refreshingly human each character was. Zax, hailing from a utopian society and seated with strictly benevolent morals, is thrown into some turbulent situations where the very facets of everything he stands for are fractured. Despite his overwhelming drive to ‘harmonize’ the world around him and use as little violence as possible, Zax is in no way perfect: he is ultimately hoist by his own petard in many situations. Similarly, his allies go through their own moral dilemmas. Tim Pratt’s characterization is by far my favorite part of the story.
Although the plot itself is standard by sci-fi means, and a bit anticlimactic (though I’m a tad snobbish with my endings), Doors of Sleep exceeded my expectations. I’ll be looking into more works from Pratt in the future. Sleep well. :)
A really good read, I enjoyed Zax and his companions, the traveling between worlds, and the entire idea of the story. Zax is a social being who had a tight knit family, in addition he was a mediator or social worker in his world of origin, so being a drifter between worlds with no control and no way back home makes the entire story feel a bit bleak and hopeless, thus only a 4-star rating. Otherwise, I loved the characters, even the Lector, as they were well rendered. Felt a little like Quantum Leap in that I am happy for Zax at the end but, at the same time, sad that he will not see his family. Hope there will be a sequel that expands on his life and journey.
This book reminded me a lot of the tv show Sliders. A traveler is moving through parallel universes in a way he can't really control, hoping to get back home. Companions join him along the way. Some universes are silly or reference pop culture. Some are paradises. Most are dangerous.
My favorite parts of this book was when it listed all of the universes the character had visited. I wanted to spend more time in those places, and explore those worlds. Instead the story keeps up quite a quick pace and became more about defeating a big bad guy. As the story went along and became more complex I found it a little hard to follow and got confused.
I also really didn't like the narrator of the audiobook.
Overall this was an interesting read and I might pick up another book in the series, but it's not a favorite.
I enjoyed this immensely. My favorite part was getting glimpses of all these fascinating worlds and I'd have happily spent more time on each. A close second favorite element was how kind out hero is and how anti-violence. I feel like it's often rare to have a male protagonist with this level of empathy. I certainly enjoyed the rest of Zaxony's crew, too, even if they sometimes seemed a bit overpowered (but hey, it's a multiverse and certainly excellent overpowered people can live within that! It's a fun ride). At any rate, this is another excellent example of why I go to Tim Pratt's books when I want to feel good. They're always full of fascinating ideas, people to love, great (and thoughtful) storytelling... they may go to dark places, but they find their way out too.
The villain was laughably cringe and the protagonist's unwillingness to just bloody kill him even though he wanted to steal his blood and take over the universe (eye roll) was just irritating. But the different worlds were a lot of fun to see and the companions were delightful.
How does an essentially kind person respond to someone whose way of dealing with life is through conflict, control, domination and violence? That’s the central issue in this entertaining story of Zaxony Delatree who travels to a new, parallel world each time he sleeps. Along the way, he meets interesting people, including: -a woman, Ana, who travelled with Zaxony for a while and with whom he fell in love. She reacted badly to a transit and Zax lost track of her many worlds ago - a scientist, the Lector, intent on profiting himself from Zax’s unusual ability, and of harming Zax to gain Zax’s ability to traverse the multiverse, and, -an unusual woman (and my fave character) with incredible and unusual capabilities, Minna, who ends up travelling with Zax
Zax wishes to treat others with respect and kindness, and approaches each new world that way. He and Minna develop a wonderful friendship, while the Lector is really scary in his single-mindedness and megalomania.
For all its world-hopping, this was also a thoughtful exploration of kindness and respect, which I enjoyed quite a lot.
Excerpt from my review - originally published at Offbeat YA.
Pros: Inventive take on the multiverse genre. Original, resourceful side characters. Cons: Packs in a lot of worlds and adventures without giving them the time to unfold (some get no more than one paragraph). The deuteragonists are stronger than the lead. Will appeal to: Doctor Who aficionados willing to trade space and time for multiple universes. Fans of cat-and-mouse narratives with a peculiar twist.
First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on Edelweiss. Thanks to Angry Robot for providing an ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.
POINT OF DEPARTURE
Zaxony Delatree is, for all purposes, a not-so-distant cousin of Doctor Who (though the author admits being influenced by Quantum Leap as well). Imagine an alien much like us humans who, instead of hopping through time and space in a TARDIS, travels through different worlds (mind you, not through different versions on the same world) every time he's unconscious...though it's not like the poor guy voluntarily chose that path. Now imagine him having temporary companions (as long as they're willing to be in physical contact with him when he travels, and to actually sleep with him...only not "with him" LOL). And last but not least, imagine him doing his best to save/help the worlds/people he meets along his (multidimensional) way. Oh! And imagine him having an archi-nemesis he used to think of as a friend (though unlike the Master/Missy, the Lector isn't a childhood friend of his). Except, despite all these surface-level similarities, Zax is very much his own character, and his story is very much unique, as are the worlds he visits (seriously, kudos to the author for his endless creativity). Similarly unique are Zax's latest companions: a sort of woman/plant hybrid (for lack of a better word) called Minna and a crystal intelligence named Vicki, both endearing and extremely resourceful, not to mention, with their heart in the right place (yes...the crystal intelligence too). Pratt's creativity shines again in that department, and Minna in particular is an example of resilience and adaptiveness at the same time, very much in tune with her partly plant-like nature, and yet so very human. [...]
Doors of Sleep was a fun romp through the multiverse. It reminded me quite a bit of a way more science fiction heavy version of David Levithan’s Every Day. Zax one day finds himself waking up in a different universe every time he goes to sleep. Now three years into his new reality, he realizes he is being pursued by an old friend and finds new allies along the way.
This type of format does not lend well to establishing a feeling of settling in a new fictional world and has to rely solely on the personality of its protagonist. Thankfully, Zax is a great, if a bit closed off, main character who did manage to carry the story through, although I did want more emotions out of him. Minna, a companion he finds along the way, adds heart while Vicki, a disembodied intelligence possessing a gem, adds some surprising humor.
The book races through the different worlds, giving us a few glimpses into each. Similarly, it raises some philosophical and ethical questions but does not dwell much in them. The book ends quite abruptly and at sort of a cliffhanger with some implications of what future installments will bring.
*I was sent a copy of this book by Angry Robot Books as part of the book tour for its sequel Prison of Sleep.
2.5 stars. It was enjoyable enough, but so much of the plot was just so… convenient… Also I found the end very underwhelming. There were some cool moments and some cute things so I can’t say I hated it, it just felt more like a well written fanfic than a well written novel to me
My main problem with this book is the non-existence of its sequel! I loved this kooky story of a multiverse traveler -- every time Zax falls asleep, he wakes up on a new world in (possibly) a different universe. The variety of the worlds is both enticing and at times overwhelming, with Zax occasionally meeting other conscious life forms some of them he takes up as companions. The epistolary narrative starts with Zax already a while into world hopping, and we meet some of the previous characters through backdated journal entries. His new companions, Minna, a groot like being, and Vicki, a conscious crystal, are resourceful and faithful, and together they face off another world-hopping nemesis while figuring out how it all works.
Every time Zax fell asleep, I couldn't wait to find out what strange world he'd wake up in. At times, the worlds flash past so fast, there's little opportunity to learn about them or hold on to them in any way. There are post-apocalyptic worlds, utopias, anthropomorphic animals, anthropomorphic plants, and so on. For most of the times, I was just fascinated! There's also the mystery element of why Zax has that ability and how it works, and our team does some sleuthing when it can, adding another component to keep the readers hooked. I am looking forward to the sequel!
Funny how like Deep Impact and Armageddon, and Bug's Life and Ants that you sometimes get two very similar things quickly one after another? Have read, and loved "The Space Between Words" quite by chance right up next in my reading list is this book which also deals with the Multiverse.
The conceit in the Doors of Sleep is that the protagonist, for reasons not revealed, will move into a new reality any time he goes to sleep. He can take a companion with him if they are asleep in his arms when he falls asleep.
So all very Quantum Leap, the book is fun, interesting and at times very moving. Looking forward to any sequel and I'll definitely be checking out Tim Pratt's other work having read this.
Very nice book about a guy who travels from world to world when he falls asleep. He picks up companions while travelling and has an enemy who used to be a friend. All of this has a big Doctor Who vibe. And the worlds have a big golden age of SF flavor. So does the action and the characters. All in all this is a very nice old school SF book without all the casual rasicm and sexism.
Some time ago, I read quite a bad book with a main character named something similar to Zax, which is what this book's main character is called by his friends. Not only that, but the author's first name was not too dissimilar to Zaxony. And the premise was that whenever the protagonist fell asleep, he shifted into another universe.
So I wondered, when I picked this one up (having been fortunate enough to be invited to review it by the publisher, via Netgalley), whether it was prompted by the author reading that same book I read and, in frustration, deciding to write a better one.
Nothing else about the books is remotely similar, so it may be complete coincidence. But the most important difference is that this is really good.
I've talked in other reviews about how there are two versions of Tim Pratt. The "dark" Pratt writes gruelling stories about nasty people having a bad time, often because of what they do to each other; the "bright" Pratt writes hopeful stories about good people overcoming the evil of others, often by generosity and self-sacrifice. This book, happily, is by the "bright" Pratt.
The main character, Zax, is an early-career harmonizer, a kind of social worker who helps individuals and groups find ways to get along. Through mysterious events (they get a bit less mysterious in the course of the book, but are never fully explained), he begins to shift universes every time he goes to sleep. He's able to take someone with him if they're both asleep and in close contact, and, in a probable salute to Doctor Who, he has a series of companions, some of whom leave him when they get to a place they want to stay. One of them, however, the Lector (the chief administrator of a university and a talented scientist) betrays him and tries to take the secret of his universe-shifting by violence.
The story opens some time after his experience with the Lector, which is later told in flashback. He's travelling from universe to universe, and they're diverse and sometimes dangerous and sometimes extremely beautiful. The societies he encounters range from utopian to dystopian, and some are both depending who you are. He soon rescues a new companion, Minna, who's talented with genetic manipulation - just how talented he doesn't realize until later - and an indentured servant of remote and cruel overlords.
And then the Lector catches up with him, and reveals his plan to create a multi-universal empire, and Zax, Minna, and an AI they've picked up along the way called Vicki must find a way to thwart him.
The story puts Zax's training and ideals as a harmonizer directly into conflict with the Lector's as a conqueror and organizer, raising important questions about self-determination, civilization, and what is good. It's well handled, for the most part, and thought-provoking, and doesn't come to set conclusions about political structure, though it does have some things to say about attitudes and general approaches to relations between people and groups.
There are one or two moments when satire is applied with too heavy a hand, as when Zax visits a world where everyone has retreated to (literal) bubbles in which they can be with only the people who "share their exact values and biases", this being a ploy to end a civil war. The bubble he arrives in contains people who drink craft beer, ride electric scooters, have elaborate facial hair, believe in respect and kindness... and spend a lot of time using small electronic devices made in another bubble where people believe in child labour. I thought that was a bit on the nose. But that's an aberration in a story that's usually a lot smoother and more subtle, and the varied worlds are imaginative and interesting, reminding me irresistibly of Roger Zelazny's Amber and Corwin's trips through Shadow. It could, in fact, have easily become a series of vignettes, which would probably still have been entertaining, but the overarching story with the Lector as antagonist adds tension and weight.
I did also question the moment when a beautiful woman who Zax had met, spent a couple of days having sex with, and then lost was described as his "true love," though, to be fair, it wasn't Zax who used that phrase.
The ending suggests that we might be in for a series, and if so, I'm very happy and will follow the series eagerly. This book has no trouble making it to my Best of 2020 list.
First of all, Zaxony Delatree is SUCH a name. Moreover, its a metaphor for the enormous, mind-bending creativity of the entire novel. Pratt is an absolute fountain of imagination: the premise of his novel, which is that each time his protagonist falls asleep he travels to a new world, does little to prepare you for the sheer AMOUNT of worlds that Zax travels to. While not all of them are explored in extreme detail, even the worlds with only brief, one-line descriptions suggest at enormous depth and boundless diversity of thought. And Pratt has created literally THOUSANDS of these. Someone needs to hire this man to join a Doctor Who thinktank and just espouse ideas for new planets. The show is also the strongest comparator I have for this concept: fans of the Doctor and his TARDIS will certainly enjoy Zax and his companions proclivity for solving problems and spreading hope wherever they go.
Still, despite the breadth of inventiveness, the complexity of character and plot leaves a lot to be desired. Zax, Minna, and Vicki all feel one-note, with their motivations and desires existing fairly aimlessly for the first half of the novel and not really crystalizing beyond their stalwart opposition to the evil machinations of The Lector, who himself is a villain straight out of a cartoon in terms of motive and complexity. The plot, too, is secondary to the sandbox-like exploration of the different worlds that Zax and the gang hop between, which certainly serves to highlight Pratt's talent but also leads to a lot of predictably resolved conflict as Minna and Vicki god-mode through problems with their conveniently evolving abilities to save the day. In particular, I wished we had gotten more from Minna outside of her childlike devotion to Zax: I didn't love how much of her emotions and journey revolved around and were dependant on his. The ending was also kind of a letdown, with the grand build-up of the Lector's empire fizzling into a disappointing death, followed by the arrival of a hot girl whose entire purpose seems to be as a reward for Zax. In short: wildly creative in many ways, but disappointingly bland in others.
Really it's a 2.5 star rating.... but since we can't split hairs with the stars, it's generally less than more.
I waited for a bit to post a review on this book. Words were racing around my brain and I needed to put this down properly.
First off, the premise for this story is pretty awesome - a person who falls asleep and wakes in another world. Not another continent. Not another territory. Which would also be a pretty fantastic story on its own. No - this guy wakes up to a whole new reality in a whole new world in a completely new universe. It’s because he’s on a mission. He’s an emissary to help resolve conflicts where ever that need arises, which in his case is interstellar.
So - cool! I’m in. Except that once I start reading I’m just not feeling it. Like ….. really not feeling it. Which is odd for me as I really love science fiction and I can go anywhere and feel quite at home with whatever that book throws at me. But I’m not one to throw a book to the side and I want to give it a fair chance. Oftentimes a book needs some time to get into it and once you pass that hurdle, you’re golden! But the hurdle didn’t really happen for me.
I think that although I loved the premise of the book, the writing was not mature enough or something. It had really good bones to make an awesome adventure, but there was no meat on those bones to thrill me and keep me pinned to the story. The characters were also promising but were pretty shallow. There were ample opportunities to flesh them out and make you care about them and what was happening to them a little more, but it never materialized. For me, the arch enemy of the Universe - The Lector - kept popping up into my head as the old fashioned villain who puts the damsel-in-distress on the train tracks and laughs with evil intent. Once I saw him that way, I just couldn’t un-see it and there was nothing that changed my viewpoint at any other point either.
Plus I think the story could have done with a jumping off point in the world we know right at the outset. Perhaps to settle the story or sell the mission better? I just found I was constantly trying to get settled in the concept when things would change …… and change …… and change again ….. and again ……. Always trying to keep ahead of the villain whilst applying his negotiating skills in new places and picking up new friends. At least his friends were interesting! Not quite as paper-thin I suppose and without his friends, he was doomed to fail.
Anyways, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.
REVIEW: I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining portal adventure, which has a pleasingly old-fashioned feel. The overarching narrative is very straightforward. For reasons that poor Zaxony doesn’t fully understand, every time he falls asleep or unconscious – he jumps worlds. Initially, he spends his time in a horrified daze as he tries to come to terms with his new normal. For the worlds that Zax encounters are mind-bogglingly various, ranging from idyllic to nightmarish and everything in between. He can take someone with him, as long as he is holding them when he falls asleep – but he is haunted by an upsetting incident where a lovely woman he fell in love with stayed awake during their journey between worlds and arrived in the new world raving – her mind broken by the experience. So he is very careful who he takes along.
We join Zax in the middle of his adventures, after a couple of the companions he has taken with him haven’t turned out to be ideal – and just as he starting a relationship with another kindly soul. There is a generally upbeat, positive vibe running through the series of adventures that I thoroughly welcomed and while the main plot isn’t overly complicated, or particularly original – what made this book really stand out is the sheer inventiveness and variety of alll those worlds Zax visits. There is a building sense of frustration that we only ever see the thinnest slice of their dynamic – because as soon as Zax falls asleep, off we go to somewhere entirely new, again. But I really liked that niggling sense of annoyance, as it helped me bond with dear old Zax, who is generally a well-meaning, honest chap – in sharp contrast to a nicely satisfyingly nasty antagonist in the form of the Lector, an archetypal evil scientist.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure and note with satisfaction that it looks as though this is the first in a series. Highly recommended of fans of science fiction adventures with an upbeat tone. While I obtained an arc of Doors of Sleep from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10