November 07, 2005
A Million Open Doors by John Barnes
It is a common theme in science fiction to address the changes in a society (imagined or real) caused due to the introduction of technology or scientific ideas or ideals. It is less common to investigate the effects of the sudden introduction of artistic expression into a society. John Barnes explores this unlikely question in this novel. In order to do so, he invents two cultures of a human diaspora, both flawed in unique ways.
This is the first novel in a series that John Barnes has written in his Thousand Cultures universe. Humanity has colonized several habitable worlds by sending slower than light generational ships to colonize them. A process which takes thousands of years, causing each human colony to drift apart in several ways from all the others. Suddenly the invention of the springer changes all that. The springer allows instantaneous travel between distances that span light years (however the energy required grows exponentially with distance, a fact which is exploited in the plot for this novel).
Nou Occitan is one of the most isolated of the Thousand Cultures. The springer is gradually making a transformation in this world. Nou Occitan has a violently creative, chauvinistic and flamboyant culture. It is also a culture in which public service is done by lottery.
In one such selection, Aimeric, an inhabitant of Nou Occitan, is sent on a mission to Caledony, the latest human colony to be connected via springer to the rest of the human diaspora. Giraut, a close friend of Aimeric, decides to join him in his mission for all the wrong reasons. Humiliated by his `ententedora' (his mate for life), mainly because of the changes in the culture of Nou Occitan caused by the springer, Giraut decides to leave his beloved culture behind to spend a few years on Caledony. The culture shock is more than they could have imagined. But, as this experience changes each of the team that visits this new planet, the team themselves cause unforseeable consequences for the culture on Caledony. The novel is in the tradition of science fiction that is too engrossed in world building to bother with the (usually superfluous) cliffhangers in the plot. It is a worthly contribution to this genre.
The follow-up to this novel set in the same universe, but with a different sensibility, is "Earth Made of Glass".
%T A Million Open Doors %A John Barnes %I Tor %D 1992 %G ISBN: 031285210X (hc) %P 315 %K science-fiction
Review written: 2002/04/11Posted by anoop at November 7, 2005 01:43 PM