The Door Through Space. Marion Zimmer Bradley. Novel. 116 pages.
“The Terran Empire has one small blind spot in otherwise sane policy, ignoring that nonhuman and human have lived placidly here for millennia: they placidly assumed that humans were everywhere the dominant race, as on Earth itself.”
There are books that are good because they ask interesting philosophical questions, use entertaining but realistic facets of human behavior to create subplots, and have a really good protagonist creating a quality point of view throughout the whole text. And then there are books that are bad because they have really bad romance scenes for no good reason and a tendency to not fully explain realizations that characters have that shift their entire perspective.
These categorizations are easy to organize and read accordingly, but books are at their most frustrating when they’re both. And The Door Through Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley is both.
Marion Zimmer Bradley is famous for her Darkover book series. This isn’t one of that series, but it takes place within the same, not to be (punny), universe. Many things from the Darkover books are in this one, and it helps flesh out and add side stories to her central series. Quite a few concepts are pre-established in this story: there is a Terran government that is Earth-based and powerful over several dozen worlds; humans have traveled through space for quite a while and have become integrated with terrestrial nonhuman civilizations, even to the point of siding with nonhumans and autonomy over Terran loyalty.
There’s a Terran intelligence officer named Race Cargill who works a desk job on a planet called Wolf. This guy used to be a really big deal in covert operations, but he and his brother-in-law slashed up each other’s faces in a fight six years ago, and distinctive physical characteristics kind of inhibit someone’s ability to sneak around and blend in. But then he hears how his brother-in-law, Rakhal, is now involved in a plot to forcefully remove Terran influence on Wolf.
Race Cargill decides he now has two good reasons to kill Rakhal – ruining his ability to do his job and trying to supplant the government – and resolves to do just that. Shenanigans ensue.
These shenanigans finally coalesce into a plot through another character’s use of intraplanetary portals and toys that make children hate their parents. I can’t say much more than that, because anything else will give away the ending and the majority of the book is spent world-building more than it deals with the actual plot, anyway.
This book is best read after her Darkover series or if you’re willing to read a few more of her books. The writing style is great, as is her universe and characterization of the protagonist, but it feels incomplete. It can stand alone, but it probably shouldn’t. The good news is, if you read this, there’s enough quality stuff going on to make you want to read her other books. Oh, and that’s another noteworthy point: the author is a woman, and so readers don’t have to deal with the typical female character stupidity that happens far too often in science fiction.
This book is just over 100 pages long, and since it’s free – both in text and audio format – I can’t think of a good reason not to read it. That’s probably not the most enthusiastic verdict, but the really cool questions it poses about our future and potential interaction with extraterrestrials are probably in another, better book.
Maybe even in her Darkover series, which will find its way onto this site eventually.
Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.