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A Million Open Doors [Paperback]

John Barnes
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

2 Jun 1994
At the furthest reaches of the Thousand Cultures - 31 solar systems of planetary colonization - is Nou Occitan, a world shaped by romantic troubadour culture. Instantaneous travel takes one of their young men to the dark world of Caledony where he finds unknown values.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Cassell military; New edition edition (2 Jun 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857981499
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857981490
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 11.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,685,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The latest galaxy-spanner by one of Heinlein's spiritual descendents." --"Science Fiction Age""A thoroughly entertaining book." --"The West Coast Review of Books""John Barnes's "A Million Open Doors" takes a venerable theme of classic SF--the reintegration of far-flung colony worlds into a newly resurgent human culture--and enlivens it with such zest, narrative energy and critical intelligence that readers across a wide spectrum of tastes will be charmed." --"The Washington Post""John Barnes knows how to make readers care...Barnes combines philosophical speculation, high-speed action, and character development in a way that is the hallmark of a master, and "A Million Open Doors" is his most successful work to date." --"Los Angeles Reader""John Barnes convinces. He may well be the new writer on whom the mantle of Robert Heinlein falls." --Poul Anderson"With this book, Barnes emerges as a name to watch in SF." --"Booklist" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

John Barnes is the award-winning author of "Orbital Romance," "A Million Open Doors," "Mother of Storms," "Earth Made of Glass," "The Merchants of Souls," "Candle," and many other novels. With Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, he wrote the novels "Encounter with Tiber" and "The Return." He lives in Colorado. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars a great alternative cultural economic creation 24 July 2006
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Humanity has spread across the stars. Different societies are suddenly being reunited by the 'springer', instantaneous transport. Giraut, from the troubadour/bohemian-like New Occitan is given to art, duels, and passionate love affairs. Discovering his lover is unfaithful he impulsively exiles himself to Caledony, on planet Nansen. Caledony glorifies reason, hard work and conformity. As Caledony struggles under the shock of change Giraut must find new values, strength and heroism.

Superb, although I suppose the author could have fleshed it out even more and made it even better. I like the way Giraut seems sensible at first, then is gradually revealed to have been a rather immature young man, product of Nou Occitan's violent and artistic society. He takes on a more mature understanding in Caledony. Caledony is a great creation of a boring, hard work, money based society. He also sends up religion (i.e. rationalism) and hypocrisy. The innate desire of people to be artistic, individual and democratic shines through. Caledony is a kind of spoof on capitalism, but also on organised socialism.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Million Open Doors 10 Jun 2000
By "hmc3rd" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I'd recommend to anyone who feels like reading older-feeling hard sci-fi novel that is still modern enough for one to not be embarassed by the author referring to events of the late 20th century that obviously never happened. One review on the actual book cover calls Barnes "one of Heinlein's spiritual descendents" and that review is very accurate. I also saw another review here on Amazon.com that called this a "cultural sci-fi novel." All true. Barnes does something very rare among modern sci-fi writers (that I have seen, I must admit I haven't had time to read a lot recently)...he makes a story based on cultures interesting and truly engrossing.
When I was reading the book I couldn't decide when it was written. It feels like a 50's era sci-fi novel because so much importance is placed on the culture. But then there would be a reference to a technological idea that was obvious very current (such as "growing" buildings using nanomachines). I guess the true beauty of this novel is the refreshing way that technology--while believable and realistic enough--is not the centerpiece, instead it supports and compliments the plot. Very refreshing to read a novel about the integration of technology and culture that doesn't spend time belaboring the internet and information technology.
Finally, a quick plug for Amazon.com. Although I did buy this book at my local Barnes & Nobles store, their Internet site was clueless on John Barnes. Glad to see that Amazon.com has a better selection so I can explore other works by this author. I can't wait to do so (apparently there is now a sequel to "A Million Open Doors").
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heinlein who? 14 April 1998
By Michael Battaglia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Much has been made of the similarities between Heinlein and Barnes, at least it seems to me. Most copies of the paperback I've seen have some reviewer or other touting Barnes as the "new Heinlein" which I think can be misleading. Much of what Heinlein did was similar, granted, but Heinlein tended to take more of a . . . shall we say radical bent toward his topics, which put off more than one reader. The difference between Barnes and Heinlein is that while a typical Heinlein book had revolution plastered all over it (and at his best the man was good enough to keep it from being distracting), the work of John Barnes, and especially of A Million Open Doors is more of a quiet, understated revolution. Instead of hitting the reader over the head with it, Barnes takes us through the tale of a boy finally learning to be a man on a world totally unlike his own. In the process he shows us both worlds and shows us what is wrong with those worlds and why. In this way, I think Barnes can make readers think without forcing them to think, which seems more like Ursula K. Le Guin than Heinlein. Either way, from this book it's clear that Barnes, while maintaining some vestiges of both Heinlein and Le Guin, is quickly on his way to becoming neither of them, instead he is becoming the next John Barnes. That's revolution enough.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A "cultural SF" novel 3 Jun 2000
By joe_n_bloe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
A Million Open Doors is a well-crafted "cultural science fiction" novel in the vein of Jack Vance. The protagonist Giraut is a young epee-wielding "jovent" from Nou Occitan. Jovent culture apparently lies somewhere between that of 18th century aristocracy and that of Alex and his droog buddies in A Clockwork Orange.
Dissatisfied and dishonored, Giraut leaves his world through a "springer" (an instant teleportation device) to become an Ambassador for the Thousand Cultures. The world on which he lands contains two polar cultures: Caledon, where money becomes a holy arbiter of value, and austere St. Michael. Both cultures are deeply religious and theocratic although opposite in just about every other respect.
When the springers come for the first time to each of the Thousand Worlds, a "Connect depression" ensues. Giraut and the other ambassadors are there to help Caledon and St. Michael re-enter interstellar human culture ... but it turns out to be a challenge.
A Million Open Doors doesn't have a well-defined linear plot, per se. At the least, it is a coming-of-age story for Giraut, who grows out of his jovent ways as the story progresses. If you like atmospheric science fiction with interesting scenery and well-developed characters, you should find this book to your liking.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1992 Nebula Award Nominee 24 Aug 2006
By Antinomian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was a wonderful book to read. As I'm writing this review I'm debating on whether to give it 4 or 4-1/2 stars. Although written in the vein of Heinlein's juvenile series, it's obvious it was written by an adult writing about people in their early 20's and many of the themes touched upon should be universal throughout life: friendship, integrity, compassion, so that should not subtract from it's worth. However, the book was a tad too drawn out, the government obviously oppressive, and the characters just a bit too idealistic, so 4 stars it is, which of course still makes it highly recommendable.

This book is probably not what you expect it to be. On my paperback cover is this very science fiction-y view of what looks like a giant aircraft carrier superstructure on what could be a space station with a huge flat plaza underneath and lines of monochrome people giving a sense of `something's' going to happen. And the title has a sci-fi tone to it. So it's with surprise that much of the story is around a protagonist that can best be described as a trobador, on a culture based on romanticized medieval Europe where grace, style, and honor are paramount. Disregard the few references that they are on other planets and a student of Medieval Literature could find this just as enjoyable as a science fiction reader. However, that should not dissuade science fiction readers from reading this. This book had me laughing out loud on almost every page from it's tongue in cheek humor, which can be best explained IMHO as similar to Terry Pratchett or Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

The title, A Million Open Doors, refers to the human civilization in the novel that has a Thousand Cultures (not all of which are on separate planets) and an instant teleportation device is discovered called the `springer', and if each springer is considered as a door and if each of the thousand cultures has a door to the other thousand cultures then you have a million doors. Philosophically, Barnes makes a counterpoint to the theme in Dan Simmons first two novels of his Hyperion cantos. There Simmons is stating that instant teleportation is ruining the distinct cultures and/or ecosystems of individual locations. In this novel, Barnes is saying that communication, and because of vast distances between planets even going the speed light isn't sufficient, between cultures is occasionally needed to prevent a culture from going too extreme, as what happens in this novel. And instant teleportation, in addition to allowing cultures to learn tolerance of other cultures, then allows humanity to hopefully form a united front in case of first contact with a sentient alien species.

The protagonist leaves his medieval European culture and is transported to Caledony, an oppressive culture with a cold, raw climate. Even though this culture is described as repressively Christian and capitalistic because of the necessity of monetary tips for services, it really can be considered as similar to the culture of the Soviet Union, where favors replaced tips (I'll trade you hard-to-get chocolate for a lift in your automobile/trakcar/'cat'), and based, instead of on Christianity, on the Soviet System. Barnes may well have been following events of the dissolution of the Soviet Union that occurred in August 1991 when he wrote this book.

One more thing about the protagonist, Barnes makes him realistic in his attitudes from a culture that he is fully representative of to transportation and full immersion into a very different culture. The protagonist realizes there are a quite a few redeemable characteristics of the new culture he first considered bland, and that there are aspects of his previous culture that are somewhat reprehensible, and that as he tries to blend the best aspects of both cultures, he doesn't lose sense of where he came from.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Million Open Doors 16 July 2002
By not4prophet - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
John Barnes shows some promise in �A Million Open Doors�, enough that I would recommend it to a friend. He�s assembled a moderately original idea and some likeable characters into an enjoyable book, but there are some big flaws that drag it down, especially towards the end.
The main character, named Giraut, leaves his home and moves to a culture known as the Caledons. Caledon society is a distopia based on the idea of rationality. If a group of computers known as �aintillects� decides that a person is engaged in irrational behavior, such as doing favors for a friend or appreciating the wrong works of art, then they can be dragged off to a mental institution by the government. Upset by this stifling censorship, Giraut decides to open a school and teach dancing and music to some of the Caledon children.
While this concept may sound interesting, Barnes� writing is all over the place. He can�t seem to decide whether he wants to be writing a true hard science fiction novel or a parody. Are we really supposed to believe that Giraut could break through generations of conformity and start a revolution just by teaching some kids to play the guitar? Fortunately, he hurries the plot along without giving us too much time to worry about such questions. Also, Barnes is quite skillful at developing his characters. Unlike so many of today�s SF writers, he gives them real motivations and allows us to see how their behavior and their thoughts change as they get exposed to new ideas.
However, I would be negligent if I didn�t mention some important weaknesses. Barnes� choice of language is pretty bland, and his descriptions don�t give you any real sense of what he�s trying to illustrate. Also, he needs a decent editor to crack down on sentences such as �Thorwald started, I could see that his career as a blasphemer would be developing slowly; he seemed to be reacting as if what he had said a minute ago was hanging around in the air like old flatulence.� He view of gender roles is still stuck in the 50�s; somebody should politely inform him that women are capable of doing more than just having sex and doing secretarial work. And there�s this annoying habit of substituting like-sounding futuristic words in place of common English ones. He writes �merce� instead of �mercy�, �nop� instead of �nope�, etc� Finally, the conclusion is too rushed, as if he was working under a deadline and had to cram too much plot into too little space.
Still, if you can look past these problems,, you can find some decent science fiction in �A Million Open Doors�. While it doesn�t rank up there with the masters like Heinlein or Clarke, it�s still a decent read.
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