For my second post today, I am delighted to be reviewing Doors of Sleep by Tim Pratt which was released this week by Angry Robot. My first (that I can remember) foray into portal fiction, and I had a lot of fun with this book.
Disclaimer – I received an e-arc via netgalley in exchange for an honest review
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…
File Under: Science Fiction [ Green Power Sweat Dreams Waking Nightmare Zax of all Trades ]
For the amount of portal fantasy/sci-fi anime (isekai) that I watch, it is something that I rarely delve into in fiction, so the Doors of Sleep was an interesting venture into the unknown for me, and what an adventure it was. Overall, I had some mixed feelings about this book, but one thing that I can say with certainty that I loved was the portal aspect and getting to see new worlds – and so many of them. I can only have the deepest admiration of Pratt for being able to come up with the concepts for so many different worlds to create such a rich and varied multiverse, and even those places that were just glimpses or pit stops were well-imagined, if not as deep as I might normally want from world-building. But, the tapestry of worlds we were shown more than makes up for that (necessary – otherwise imagine how long this book would have been!) lack of depth, and the world-building was without a doubt my favourite aspect of this book.
The other major strength of the Doors of Sleep is its characters, although I would say that comes through more later in the book once the main protagonist gains travelling companions. Zax is a fantastic character, and you can’t help but become invested in his story and efforts, as he is our key to the different worlds, and I like how he interacts with each world in a different way. However, as much as I enjoyed reading about Zax’s adventures, it was his companions that were elevated to favourites – especially Minna, who as well as having an interesting biology due to the world she is from, just has a wonderful personality, is badass where needed and is an excellent character to have paired with Zax.
Where I did feel the book was a little weaker was the plot and the antagonist. Lector is a fun character to read, but he did feel as though he was a little lacking in development, beyond his role as the ‘villain’ and I think that bled a little into the plot. The main threat and purpose, was not as strongly defined as it could have been, and there were places where the multiverse and travelling aspect (as wonderful as they are) were too dominant, removing some of the feeling of danger and urgency, and as a result while the ending was a satisfying conclusion, it felt a little underwhelming because of those earlier elements. That said, I did still enjoy the plot, and while it takes a little while to get into the pace of the story, I enjoyed this tour-de-force of Pratt’s worlds and imagination, and his writing is fantastic and pulls you in.
This was a fantastic book, even with it’s flaws and has definitely left me wanting to check out more portal fantasy/sci-fi, and I will be keeping an eye out for future books in this series, and by Tim Pratt in general.
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.