by Gene Wolfe
Even more than Wolfe's other works, There Are Doors requires one to strap on the mental seatbelt -- it's a wild ride. The protagonist, whose name is most likely William Green, is a very boring person -- a non-reader, an electronics salesman, no friends -- until he meets and falls in love with Lara Morgan. His love for her becomes the driving force in his life and he goes though a Door into a strange alternate world where she's a goddess.
I first read There Are Doors in 1995 or so during my initial infatuation with Wolfe's work, and at the time I actively disliked it. Since then I've learned how to read Wolfe: how to pick up his clues and how to decode some of his subtexts, and I liked it a lot this time around. At some point in most of his books and stories there's a critical sentence, usually understated, that hits like a thunderbolt and causes the reader to reevaluate everything that has happened. In this book that sentence doesn't reveal anything fundamentally new about Green, but it's still a wonderful and chilling moment to read it.
Like most of Wolfe's books, There Are Doors admits multiple interpretations. However, I think this one is pretty clear-cut: if Green is totally insane and everything is a fantasy, then there isn't much of a point to the story. Rather, I think it ends up being a somewhat sweet love story.
copyright © 2000 John Regehr