Doorways in the Sand discussion

Doorways in the Sand > Finished? Here there be spoilers (but no dragons)

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message 1: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
A spot for those who have finished to discuss any and everything.

message 2: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
A holistic review provided by Karl (moved from the beginning thread):

Plot Summary: "Doorways In The Sand"

First Appearance "Analog Science Fiction- Science Fact" June, July, August 1975,

First Published Hardcover 1976 / Harper & Row / 181 pages


The will of Fred Cassidy’s cryogenically-frozen uncle provides him with a generous stipend to attend the university until he is awarded an academic degree. By carefully choosing his courses and changing majors, Fred avoids mandatory graduation for thirteen years. He meets with his new academic counselor, Dennis Wexroth, who is infuriated by what he calls Fred’s “dronehood” and threatens to send him off into to the real world by graduating Fred in the coming semester. Fred, however, finds a way to get enough credits in different majors to avoid graduation.

Fred goes to his apartment and finds it ransacked. He examines the apartment, but finds nothing missing. Paul Byler, Fred’s geology teacher comes out of a closet. He slaps Fred around demanding the return of a replica he made of the crystalline star-stone. Byler is a world-renowned expert in crystallography and says he makes copies of the star-stone in order to sell them as novelty items. Fred states that the replica is not in the apartment and maybe his ex-roommate has it. Byler does not believe Fred. After a brief fight Fred escapes through a window to an outside ledge.

Byler visits Hal Sidmore, Fred’s ex-roommate, roughs him up and demands the model of the star-stone. Hal insists he does not have it saying that Fred probably has it in their old apartment. Previously, during a poker game, Byler gives the copy of the star-stone to Hal. However, Hal switches it without Byler's knowledge for what he thinks is a better model, but is in fact the star-stone itself. Arriving home Fred sees a news story on television reporting Byler’s murder and the odd removal of some of his vital organs.

As part of his study plan Fred goes to the desert in Australia to study ancient carvings on a cliff. Zeemeister and Buckler, two professional criminals, arrive and torture Fred for the location of the star-stone. Two alien law officers, Charv and Ragma, disguised as a wombat and a kangaroo respectively save Fred, and they all go into orbit in their spacecraft.
Later, as he comes slowly into consciousness a voice instructs Fred that he should not permit the aliens to take him to another world where they want to telepathically examine his mind for clues to the whereabouts of the star-stone. Fred convinces them that it would be against their alien field regulations to take him without his consent. They return him to Earth.

After being set down on Earth, Fred goes to visit Hal who reports that he receives phone calls from various people trying find Fred. People break into and ransack his apartment several times. And that Ted Nadler, a State Department employee, is looking for him. Finding himself intoxicated Fred stays the night with Hal and hears the voice, now identifying itself as Speicus, that has been talking to him. It tells him to test the inversion program of the alien Rhennius machine and then get intoxicated. It is easier for Speicus to talk to Fred if he is drunk. Fred breaks into the room with the Rhennius machine and, hanging from a rope from the ceiling, puts a penny through the machine three times. The first time Lincoln is looking backwards and the ONE is also backwards. The second time the penny is incised like an intaglio. The third time returns it to normal.

Fred goes bar-crawling to get drunk as Speicus instructs him. He runs into a shady old school adviser named Doctor Mérimée who tells him he is being followed. He joins Mérimée at a party at his apartment, finishes getting drunk, and falls asleep. On waking Fred remembers a communication with Speicus during the night. According to Speicus, reversing himself through the Rhennius machine will put "everything in proper order.”

By subterfuge Fred manages to reverse himself by going through the Rhennius machine. Left is right and vice versa, and letters are read backwards from right to left with the letters turned backwards. He remembers his biochemistry and realizes that this reversal can be dangerous to his health. Meanwhile, Ted Nadler convinces the university to award Fred a Ph.D. in Anthropology. This outrages Fred because he loses his uncle’s stipend and has to get a job.

Fred calls Hal and they agree to meet in a secret place. They begin driving, aimlessly Fred thinks. Hal explains that Zeemeister and Buckler have his wife, Mary, and are demanding the star-stone. He has another replica of the stone from Byler’s lab and is going to trade it for Mary. Fred agrees to go along with the plan against his better judgment. They go to a beach cottage where they find Zeemeister, Buckler, a cat and Mary. Zeemeister declares the stone to be a fake and threatens to pull Mary’s fingernails off until they tell him where the star-stone is. Paul Byler, brought back to life by multiple organ transplants, enters through the back of the cottage with a drawn gun. In the ensuing struggle Buckler shoots Fred in the chest, and he blacks out.
Fred awakens in a hospital. He is alive since his heart was on the right side of his body due to the reversal, and he was shot on the left side where the heart is usually found. Everyone else from the cottage survives with minor injuries. Ted Nadler stops by Fred’s hospital room and offers him a position as alien culture specialist for the U.S. legation to the United Nations. Fred says he’ll think about it.

Nadler explains the history of the star-stone. The United Nations hires Byler as an expert in synthetics and crystals to make a replica for safety purposes. The loan of the British Crown Jewels to the aliens outrages Byler and some of his fanatical Anglophile friends. Byler and an accomplice exchange the real star-stone for a fake one. Byler hires Zeemeister and Buckler in their capacity as professional criminals to assist in the substitution of the stones, but they really want the original for themselves for a ransom, Nadler believes.

While shaving the next morning Fred remembers a smile that remains with him from his night’s dreams. Ted Nadler and Fred travel to New York to meet with a telepath. As Fred enters his hotel room he is seized and raised into the air by the tentacles of an alien telepathic analyst who practices attack therapy. He attempts to reach into Fred’s subconscious for information about the star-stone. He is stunned to discover that the star-stone, Speicus, is inside Fred, having entered his body through a wound while Fred was asleep. Since he was reversed by the Rhennius machine Speicus is now fully functional and should be able to communicate telepathically directly and easily with Fred, but because Fred is now reversed it cannot. On the way to the Rhennius machine to have him reversed back to his original state, Speicus warns Fred about an unknown enemy by saying, “Our Snark is a Boojum.”

In the building housing the Rhennius machine Doctor M’mrm’mlrr, the alien analyst, supervises the removal of the star-stone from Fred’s body. On the wall Fred sees a vision of “massive teeth framed by upward curving lips. . . .Then fading, fading. . . Gone.” Fred looks up and sees a black shape and cries out, “The smile.” Fred chases a telepathic alien disguised as a black cat up to the roof and over girders of the adjacent building. It attacks Fred and falls to its death. During the fight Fred realizes that Zeemeister and Buckler work for the alien agent called a Whillowhim.

Ragma explains that the Whillowhim are one of the oldest, most powerful and entrenched cultures in the galaxy. However, there is an alliance of younger ones that back common policies in conflict with those of the older blocs. The Whillowhim belong to a faction of the galactic coalition that opposes the policies of younger, newer members on major issues. One way to limit the power of the newer, less developed planets is to limit their number. The Whillowhim seeks to steal the star-stone to embarrass Earth and delay its entrance into the coalition of planets thereby weakening the power of the newer planets’ alliance.

Fred’s future is as an alien culture expert for the U.S. legation of the United Nations and as a host for Speicus. Speicus will use Fred’s nervous system as well as his broad knowledge of many subjects to gather information and process it as a kind of sociological computer. It can produce uniquely accurate and useful reports on anything they study together. In the end, Fred sees a beach with doorways leading to unique experiences in exotic places throughout the galaxy.

message 3: by Bradley (new)

Bradley (arctunn) | 20 comments My thoughts: Review

I actually had to revise my initial rating up. My original remembering of the novel hazy at best and I had only taken my initial disappointment at the *actual* resolution of finding the stone as more important than the additional resolutions after.

I mean, meh to the finding of the stone within him. Sure, it was set up to be only that, anyway, but it felt rather anticlimactic. Having a bit of a battle with the goons and the cat was okay, but just okay.

I think I liked the novel most as it was just going on and on. :) I know that's kinda strange, but it's true. Loved the beginning and middle A LOT. The language tricks were also pretty lovely.

I've got this really bad feeling about the very end. Anyone else? That our MC was NOT the same MC after the reversal? That now we have to do a complete re-read again? lol

That Zelazny. :)

But then, does it really change the reading all that much? Not really, except in giving a bit more depth to two characters rather than just one PoV. :)

What a fun novel!

message 4: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
Nice review, Brad. Interesting that you had to revise upward. I agree, I kind of love the 'on and on' part. I'd write more but headache--

message 5: by Andrew (last edited Apr 06, 2016 02:01PM) (new)

Andrew (andrew619) | 5 comments My review:

I liked this story and the idea of an IA in a form of a stone. Incredible is also the caracther of uncle Albert and his apparition at the right moment, even if I haven't understand what's happened to him (I had understood he was dead and is body frozen). At the end of the book, Fred says he has known things about his family, but I don't think are explained to us :(
I've lost some info in my reading?

message 6: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
Not far enough along, Andrew, but I'll be back... Interesting, I didn't really think of the star stone as an AI (or IA!) when I first read it. Of course, it was a few decades ago and all that. Clever!

message 7: by Gene (new)

Gene Finished! Thank you Carol for organizing the group read. It is much more fun this way. Really fun book.

message 8: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
You're welcome, Evgeny. Glad you joined in.

message 9: by Gene (new)

Gene Carol. wrote: "You're welcome, Evgeny. Glad you joined in."

Unfortunately due to personal life problems I could not join full-time, but it was fun anyway.

message 10: by Melora (new)

Melora | 2 comments Thank you for inviting me to join in with this one, Carol! I didn't get my copy in time to discuss, but I enjoyed reading it very much -- it's probably been 35 years or so since I've read any Zelazny, and I didn't remember him as so funny.

message 11: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
ah, discussion is ongoing... I actually haven't gotten far on my re-read because I had a stretch of work and i'm looking up a bunch of stuff as i re-read. It is funny, isn't it?

message 12: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
Sorry to hear you've had some stuff going on, Evgeny. Hope it is on the upswing.

message 13: by Mitticus (new)

Mitticus | 6 comments I was thinking that this book requires a few more books to get all the references; anyway, the star stone reminds me of a book by Clifford D. Simak :)

message 14: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
Which one? Way Station?

message 15: by Mitticus (new)

Mitticus | 6 comments Carol. wrote: "Which one? Way Station?"

Oh, Way Station is my favorite. No, The Werewolf Principle

message 16: by Andreas (new)

Andreas I just stumbled over the wikipedia article and I have to say: Wow, did they find lots of things!

message 17: by Andreas (new)

Andreas Here is my review. I left out describing plot or main character intentionally, because they are already given by Carol.

Zelazny is a must read for classical SF - three Nebula awards, six Hugos (two for his novels This Immortal in a tie with Dune, and Lord of Light) speak a language of their own. So do the titles of his stories like "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman or I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. The author usually uses characters from myth and interprets them in a modern world.
In this novel, he changes his style by adapting a work from phantastic literature - Alice in Wonderland - to SF. In one other aspect, he stays true to his style, namely the smoking density; I think, I counted more than 30 occurrences of smoking pipes and cigarettes in this short novel. Also, he uses his typical motif of absent father (e.g. in his Amber cycle) who reflects the unexpected death of Zelazny's own father in 1962.
Like many others of his works, the novel is a kind of literary experiment. He uses flash-forward technique by starting chapters with a jump forward in time to the result of the chapter and then using the rest of the chapter to describe how it came to it. I had to get used to this and didn't recognize the technique for the first couple of chapters, but then expected and liked it.

I think, this is the most funny work from him. He mixes SF, detective, and comic elements in a near future SF setting where aliens contacted Earth and started cultural exchange. But mostly, it is a homage to Lewis Carroll's works. Zelazny includes loads of references to Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Through The Looking Glass, or The Hunting of the Snark.
To really like this novel, you also have to like Zelazny's absurd humour:
"Enter, pray."
"In which order?"
O bless this house, by all means, first. It could use a little grace."
"Bless," I said, stepping in.

You will also find Zelazny's intelligent, poetic language: "Sunflash, some splash. Darkle. Stardance. Phaeton's solid gold Cadillac crashed where there was no ear to hear, lay burning, flickered, went out. Like me."

The plot itself? Not that important or memorable. But fun and full of action with a nice main protagonist, and short enough!
Thank you Carol, for setting up the flash group

message 18: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
First, I can't take credit--it was Karl's summation from another thread.

Excellent review, you capture Zelazny in a nutshell--"smoking density"--snort--giggle--snerk.

Thank you for participating in the flash group!

message 19: by Jason (new)

Jason | 21 comments Andreas wrote: "Here is my review. I left out describing plot or main character intentionally, because they are already given by Carol.

Zelazny is a must read for classical SF - three Nebula awards, six Hugos (tw..."

Just a quick note: "Repent, Harlequin!" and "I Have No Mouth" are written by Harlan Ellison, not Roger Zelazny.

message 20: by Andreas (new)

Andreas Bummer! I had others in mind and put those in. Well, Harlan is stunning as well :)

message 21: by Andreas (new)

Andreas As compensation, I give you Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth and A Rose for Ecclesiastes.

message 22: by carol. (last edited Apr 11, 2016 08:36AM) (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
Jason wrote: "Just a quick note: "Repent, Harlequin!" and "I Have No Mouth" are written by Harlan Ellison, not Roger Zelazny.."

Whew! Because I've read a lot of his shorter works and I was not recognizing those!

message 23: by Jason (new)

Jason | 21 comments And, for anyone interested, here is my review:

You know those books you can only explain by saying something like, imagine a cross between Stephen King and Agatha Christie? Or, imagine Gone With the Wind mixed with Tess of the D'Ubervilles? This is that kind of book. Imagine a mixture between Dashiell Hammett and Lewis Carroll, with a dash of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens too. It’s a bit of this and a lot of that. It lies on a foundation of this other one. The distinct sources each stand out, drawing attention, lying beside other sources, never blending fully, forming a collage. It is difficult to describe this novel holistically. One must provide a list of ingredients.

The novel begins splendidly. Fred the undergrad is scaling the roofs of his university on his way to a meeting. Once Fred gets there and crawls through the window, he and his advisor engage in a battle of wits as clever as the best high-brow university satires (imagine a mix of Kingsley Amis...) The academic setting here is intensely inviting. Like Hogwarts, you sort of want to be a student here. This is the kind of university where you can climb the buttresses of the cathedral in the middle of the night and find Professor Dobson on the roof drunk and counting stars. Fred, having been a student for 13 years, proves to be both intelligent and funny, and we like him. The opening chapters are light and quick-witted, drawing us into the world slowly, gently, maintaining a pleasant balance of high-brow and low-brow humour as we find our bearings, learn of Fred’s uncle’s will, meet a few of his friends and professors, and realize we’re in the future.

But there is something sinister afoot. Fred keeps receiving bizarre messages in the sky, in windows, on the concrete, messages that no one else sees, like whispers from another dimension, and we are reassured of darker undercurrents when an old friend and roommate of Fred’s is found one night in Central Park with most of his insides removed.

And so the mystery begins. Imagine a cross between Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. Fred’s friend, we discover, was disemboweled by dangerous men seeking a precious artifact. Everyone is looking for the star-stone, see, and everyone thinks Fred knows where it is. So, Fred begins to be stalked, attacked, kidnapped, and rescued in various orders by various sundry academics, thugs, and galactic cops, all trying to get him to reveal the location of the star-stone. He doesn’t actually know where it is, of course, so he spends the book dashing from place to place, trying to stay alive while seeking the stone himself. At every turn, he responds to his adversaries with the stoic wit of a hard-boiled hero, bantering, word-fencing, and otherwise deflecting all inquiries in a most Humphrey Bogart-esque fashion whenever someone points a gun at him and demands to know where he put the damn thing.

The Lewis Carroll kicks in with the sudden arrival of a talking wombat and his kangaroo, the latter of whom helpfully offers Fred a sandwich because “peanut butter is rich in protein.” Now, imagine if Alice were a grown man, in an urban environment, following the plot of The Maltese Falcon, stuck at the center of an interplanetary search for a missing star-stone, while strange talking animals and other unexpected visitors occasionally popped into his life to complicate matters and boss him around. That is essentially the feel of the book. He gets thrown in with this lot. They demand to see the stone. They try to kill him. This other lot rescue him. He goes off with them. There is some witty repartee. But they are not to be trusted. So he ends up with still this other lot. There are some extra flavours to spice things up, here and there. A mysterious recording keeps entering his dreams and giving him instructions. An alien machine reverses Fred, putting his heart in the wrong place which at one point, in a lucky coincidence, saves his life. A party scene involving a donkey and a dwarf playing cymbals is full of brilliantly surreal imagery. And the chase is fun, no doubt about it.

And all the while, the allusions pile up. When Fred’s mysterious wealthy uncle finally shows up, we are reminded of Great Expectations, and just in case we missed the allusion, Fred expresses out loud that he feels just like Pip. The climactic scene, where a doctor digs into Fred’s unconscious to discover where Fred has last seen the stone, is a replica of the same scene in Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, where, as you may recall, we find another search for a missing stone that ends in the unconscious of the protagonist. Given Fred’s love for knowledge, and the sheer number of deliberate homages and allusions to earlier works of which this novel is constructed, I can’t help but see a message in here somewhere about the value of our literary heritage. One can make a game out of it, locating all the references and allusions, until those ubiquitous references to other stories become the story itself. Perhaps more than anything else, this novel is a gleeful reminder of the vast corpus of great English books, a tour through some of its greatest moments, and a sort of pantomime that permits Zelazny to replay some of the great scenes for our benefit, so we can together remember and cherish the joy we got from them, and to experiment with new ways of telling them over and over again. At the end of the book, although Fred is no longer a student, he gets a job that allows him to continue learning for the rest of his life, and I feel this is no coincidence. The urge to learn, to understand, and to remember and apply what we have learned, is a lovely subtext through the novel, never coming on heavily, nothing in this novel comes on heavily, but always sort of there, somewhat self-deprecatingly, a bit charmingly, almost embarrassed and with a sly wink, but totally, I think, sincere. This is a book that loves books.

Unfortunately, there are explanations to be had, and questions to be answered, and plot threads to tie up. and much of the last section of the book feels weighted down with the responsibility of providing resolutions to all the mysteries. The secret messages, the recording in Fred’s head, the significance of the reversing machine, the location of the star-stone, all is explained neatly and cleverly, gutting the beautiful insanity, and laying everything out as plain as day. Neither Dashiell Hammett nor Lewis Carroll ever let logic or plot resolution get in the way of pure style or unfettered imagination, and at times I felt the novel would benefit from fewer explanations and more dwarfs with cymbals.

Doorways in the Sand is, without question, a significant step down from the great heights of Zelazny’s earlier science fiction works (particularly Lord of Light and the stories collected in The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth.) But, this book has clearly brought much pleasure to a great number of people, and while the stakes in the novel may not be so high, or the ambition so grand, this is certainly a book that cares about pacing, and wit, and the spirit of adventure, and if there were more books that cared about those things, we'd all be in pretty good shape.

message 24: by Bradley (new)

Bradley (arctunn) | 20 comments nice review! :)

message 25: by Amy (Other Amy) (new)

Amy (Other Amy) | 12 comments Great insights all. Nothing to contribute myself yet (unexpectedly busy), but I thought I might mention here (because I only recently learned it myself) that if you go to the group bookshelf and click on 'View Activity,' you can read the reviews from everyone in this group, which is also a nice way to keep up with reviews as everyone completes it.

Here is a direct link:

message 26: by Melora (new)

Melora | 2 comments Amy (Other Amy) wrote: "Great insights all. Nothing to contribute myself yet (unexpectedly busy), but I thought I might mention here (because I only recently learned it myself) that if you go to the group bookshelf and cl..."

How clever! Thank you for pointing that out, and for the link!

message 27: by Jason (new)

Jason | 21 comments Brad wrote: "nice review! :)"

Thanks, Brad. Not as gushing as yours, but still on the whole positive, I think. :)

message 28: by Bradley (new)

Bradley (arctunn) | 20 comments If the spirit takes me, I love to gush. :)

message 29: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
Excellent review, Jason. Nice summary. Amy--thanks for the link!

message 30: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
Like Jason mentions, I think Zelazny lost a little of the pace and rhythm in the last couple of chapters. The sudden explanation as Fred is recovering from his chest wound, the New York trip, the appearance of Uncle Al and the attempt to capture the interloper at the same time he summarizes the issue and the final, literal sunset--it felt different from earlier pacing, less scattered with references and more action. I notice that in some of his longer works, as I really think he mastered the short story.

message 31: by Athena (new)

Athena (athenapn) | 18 comments Thanks, Carol, for setting up this group: the various posts & reviews by everyone involved have greatly expanded my experience of this book & I am so grateful to everyone who posted comments & reviews. This is a great group of gargoyles! :)

I've had family unexpectedly drop in, but just briefly what stays with me most from Doorways, aside from the pile of allusions, was Fred's (almost) complete calm: there are a few well-placed moments of lack of same, such as striking the Prof who engineered his unwanted PhD, but on the whole Fred is preternaturally calm & accepting throughout (I'd be far less sanguine about torture, talking marsupials, etc!). He seems ideally suited in temperament as well as intellect for his ultimately revealed destiny.

At first the appearance of Uncle Al & the ending chapters felt forced but after living with it a bit and especially after reading Jason's comment "all is explained neatly and cleverly, gutting the beautiful insanity, and laying everything out as plain as day" and Carol's summation of the ending as "less scattered with references and [has] more action" I've changed my mind.

Viewed from the perspective of the change in narrative tone, for me the tidy real-world logic and action-driven ending structure dovetail nicely with Fred leaving the world of university-based learning, which often focuses on the analysis of others' works (tie-in to all the references?), to head into the very active world of first-person experiential learning, unprecedented & potentially limitless learning in Fred's case.

Also like to add my voice to those who find RZ's short stories absolutely masterful … it's definitely time for a reread there!

message 32: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
Oooh, nice interpretation of the style change dovetailing with Fred's personal shift.

message 33: by Jason (new)

Jason | 21 comments Great analysis, Athena!

message 34: by Naomi (new)

Naomi | 14 comments I enjoyed the reading of this thoroughly. I liked the words, the language, the flow. The imagery was great too. As for the story, the things that actually was kind of the standard fare. But it's all in the telling, yes?

Anyway, an extremely pleasant experienced. I probably would have given it five stars but the end was a bit weak.

message 36: by Amy (Other Amy) (new)

Amy (Other Amy) | 12 comments Wow, dizzy now! Thanks for that, Naomi :-)

message 37: by Athena (new)

Athena (athenapn) | 18 comments Thanks, Carol & Jason - appreciate your comments resolving my issues with the ending! :D

message 38: by Mitticus (last edited Apr 13, 2016 01:26PM) (new)

Mitticus | 6 comments This was my first reading of this book; I had read several books of Zelazny before, but this had fallen off my radar somehow. So, thank you very much for calling my attention to it, Carol.
They have all done very good reviews of the book. I'm sure not for you, I would have lost many things, except for the most obvious.With no knowledge of many more authors, it has become evident to me somehow his strong connection with Alice Through the Looking Glass. In that book Alice is a pawn and the red king is asleep, and it is speculated if she is a dream of him or vice versa. Uncle Al would be then the Red King being in cryogenics at the beginning , and when he wakes up, Fred stops being part of the board (the game).

Well, glad to be part of the group.

message 39: by Bradley (new)

Bradley (arctunn) | 20 comments Hey! That's awesome! ;)

message 40: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
Naomi wrote: ""

Fred's alter ego!

message 41: by carol. (last edited Apr 13, 2016 06:38PM) (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
Mitticus wrote: "With no knowledge of many more authors, it has become evident to me somehow his strong connection with Alice Through the Looking Glass. In that book Alice is a pawn and the red king is asleep, and it is speculated if she is a dream of him or vice versa. Uncle Al would be then the Red King being in cryogenics at the beginning , and when he wakes up, Fred stops being part of the board (the game)."

OMG. Of course. Not obvious to me. Thank you for sharing that! Glad that you got a chance to participate, Mitticus.

message 42: by Emily (new)

Emily | 5 comments Wow, I appreciate the deeper insights you all are providing me. I particularly liked Jason's review that was included in the comments here.
I tend to latch onto language and humor and miss a lot of allusions, so what I enjoyed most about this were Fred's way of putting things and the language flubs made by the aliens. The scene with the telepath and the "assault therapy" was ridiculously priceless.
In short, my review is pretty shallow. Don't bother reading it.
I do have a question, though, and I haven't read all the progressive threads or done an Internet search on it, so my apologies if this was already covered.
What are the doorways in the sand? Does the AI give Fred the ability to see what humans can't? Are there actual doorways? For a while, I thought doorways in the sand represented a feeling of having no escape route, or possibly the fact that escapes from impossible situations kept materializing, much like a doorway suddenly appearing in the sand. But by the end, I just wasn't sure at all what the significance was.

message 43: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
Emily--your review isn't 'shallow,' I'm sure, especially if it uses words. ;) Agree that the language flubs by the aliens were hilarious.
I couldn't remember where the title came from either... it's in the section where Mary is held hostage and Fred is looking at the beach, thinking that if this was a movie there would be an out, that there had to be an out, a "doorway in the sand," but he saw no doorways there.

It went something like that, at least. Which seems a pretty slender thread to hang a title on. I wonder if the publisher had something to say about the title. Or maybe it's a variation of "through the looking glass?"

message 44: by Jason (last edited Apr 15, 2016 07:07PM) (new)

Jason | 21 comments Emily wrote: "Wow, I appreciate the deeper insights you all are providing me. I particularly liked Jason's review that was included in the comments here.
I tend to latch onto language and humor and miss a lot o..."

Thanks for the compliment, Emily, but your review is not shallow at all - you noticed and mentioned and focused on things others didn't, which makes it a valuable addition to the discussion. As for the title, yeah, it doesn't work. I also suspect a publisher's insistence on that one.

message 45: by Emily (new)

Emily | 5 comments Thanks Jason and Carol. Swell of you.
Funny coincidence-I just saw Alice in Wonderland done as a play tonight and ended up doing a reverse-comparison to Doorways in the Sand.

message 46: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
Any insight to share? I really don't see too many parallels to Alice, I don't think. Except the cat.

message 47: by Emily (new)

Emily | 5 comments The big moment of recognition was a scene when the Red Queen gave Alice a poetry book, and the words were backwards.
I think they must have combined both books in the play. I haven't read them, but I just looked it up, and that scene was from Through the Looking-Glass. Everything is reversed in the looking-glass world.

message 48: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod

message 49: by Mikhail (new)

Mikhail | 25 comments Well, and so I mosey over here, better late than never. Nor am I likely to make up in quality what I lacked in timeliness, given all the capital reviews tossed about so far. Still, here's my thinking, if not structured quite as a review.

Overall, I thought the book was interesting, and it had its moments, but I didn't love it. I will now wait for the charges of heresy to subside. ;-)

I think the best way to put it is that I agree with Andreas's review from earlier. The beauty here is the language, the allusions, the cunning wordplay. The references to B. Traven, the "Pray, enter" line, the fact that we've got a Bacchanalian professor on a donkey... that stuff is absolutely wonderful.

But the plot lacks a certain something, and the characters come off as quick sketches of people, rather than fully developed individuals (our Main Character excepted). Fundamentally, I think the issue is that there are too many pieces for too short a book. There isn't the time and space to really delve into most of the plot elements presented, nor does that seem to be Zelazny's goal.

So, we've got beautiful writing and a plot that is "okay" (not bad, I hasten to add). The question then becomes if the writing is enough to outweigh the plot, and that comes down to a matter of taste. Judging from the very positive reviews, it was more than enough for most people. For me... eh? I'd call it a solid 4-star book, something I am glad to have read but will probably not reread for a while.

Mind you, once I mentioned that I was reading this to some family members, I was promptly dragooned into reading the Chronicles of Amber. So I will need to do that at some point.

message 50: by carol. (new)

carol. | 89 comments Mod
Mikhail, so glad you joined in. Doesn't it always come down to taste? Your comments always give me a lot think about generational perceptions of fantasy reading experience and world-building, and why it is I like what I do.

It's a stand alone book. The other book he has that is most similar is the Lonesome October book. I think the Chronicles are really Zelazny's only real series and certainly stretched through a number of characters and time. I will look forward to your thoughts on them.

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