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(Plus an additional 1/2 star) Holt's return to form...?
on 31 May 2003
"The Portable Door" is Holt's twenty-first comic fantasy, and is an insanely liberated romp with, allegedly, approximately 75% autobiographical material. It's the simple story of a crestfallen yet accessible loser named Paul Carpenter who perhaps thinks overly too much, and his exploits to secure the heart of a certain girl with the cheerful warmth of a hellfire, named Sophie. Thrown into the mix, as can be expected, is Holt's tangential comedic science fantasy eccentricities, mostly developing the subplot of Paul's newly appointed workplace, replete with goblin minions and training in the arcane arts of wizardy, and, er, bauxite mining (don't ask). Holt's always one for crazily groan-worthy puns and analogies, and he turns up this deft skill to 11, but sometimes it seemingly gets less hysterical, and more chucklesome... and this is perhaps why "The Portable Door" is not laugh-out-loud funny. However, what "The Portable Door" *is* is better than "Falling Sideways" and "Nothing But Blue Skies", which is calls for jubilant appraisal, as Holt's vaguely sauntering decline has continued for the last few years... but, hopefully, not any longer. "The Portable Door" is a satirically perceptive, observant novel, and thought it isn't high art, or Adams, Pratchett & Fforde, it nevertheless is fun, light, whimisical, and perhaps better than the last four novels he's produced. Holt has submitted the manuscript of a tentatively referred-to 'sequel' to "The Portable Door" to his publishers, and albeit the ending of *this* novel does not entirely justify its enjoyment or reading, I will continue to enthusiastically greet a new Holt volume (especially if Danny Bennett or Kurt Lundqvist continue to return to his bemusing pseudo-Britain). Read it: you probably won't love it, but it's enjoyable all the same.