Doors of Sleep

By Tim Pratt

Doors of Sleep, a novel by Tim Pratt
Book details Books in the series

Making an author come up with a single science fiction concept is tricky enough, but to ask them to come up with an infinite number of multiverses is just plain mean. Tim Pratt only have themselves to blame as they choice to take Zaxony Delatree on an adventure across a multitude of worlds. Worlds full of technology, worlds full or monsters. Some worlds not even on a planet. Will Zax every be able to get back home and, if he does, what type of person will he be? 

It happened one night when Zax went to sleep, rather than wake up in his own bed, he was in an alien landscape, unable to speak the language and having no idea where he was. To make matters worse, this continued to happen every time he slept. It was not until he met the benevolent The Lector that things changed. Now Zax had a companion to travel with and technology that allows him to understand any language. Things are not too bad when you have company, but are The Lector’s intentions noble? 

Taking on a series of worlds is not an easy task. Not only did Pratt need to come up with the ideas but also a valid way of leaping from one to the other. High concept science fiction ideas often fail as they lack rules. It would have been simple to have Zax zipping from place to place like a God, but Pratt intelligently avoids this by creating structures and rules that give the book foundations to build upon. 

Zax is a slave to his ‘powers’. When he sleeps, he warps. He can take other people and objects with him, if they are connected closely to him e.g. being worn or held. He heals while he sleeps but can die at any point when visiting a world. When you take all these rules into account you don’t get a grand pulp adventure, but a very human story or loss and fear. Zax is constantly in danger and when he is with a companion, he fears leaving them behind. Doors of Sleep is written as if it was Zax’s journal, so you get a sense of the man. On his home world, he is a harmoniser, trained to solve conflicts. Now he finds himself in constant turmoil and chaos. 

There are moments in Zax’s story that he gives into fear, but the secret to his survival is his companions. There is a hint of Doctor Who here, constantly visiting new worlds with pals, but Pratt has an unlimited budget and imagination. Zax’s later friends become a stabilising force in his life and allow the story to progress. There is a joy in just reading about new place after new place, but Pratt effortlessly steers the story to one of protagonist and antagonist. The stakes are raised, and the dangers heightened. An exploratory science fiction book becomes a thriller. 

Throughout the book, Zax and Co must visit over 100 worlds and many of them for a significant amount of time. It is impressive that Pratt can flesh them out so well, there are even worlds that get a sentence or two and produce evocative ideas. Doors is based in part on an earlier monthly exercise that the author undertook of taking characters into a different multiverse. The readers of this finished novel benefit greatly from the hard work as there is a sense of weight and research to even the most ephemeral places visited. 

As a reader I had an affection for Zax and his companions. Zax’s training means that he inherently wants to help, and it is nice to read a book about characters wanting to do good for the sake of goodness. This also helps to heighten the drama as the antagonist wishes to use the multiverses for a very different purpose. When the book starts to reach its conclusion, it slows down slightly, and the conflict unfolds, only for the ending to promise so much more. I hope that Doors of Sleep is not the final outing for the Journals of Zaxony Delatree as this book has proven a great start to 2021 and has set a level that is going to be hard to better.  

Written on 12th January 2021 by .

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