Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Doors of Sleep

by Tim Pratt

How would it feel to be a traveller who has to keep moving, never laying down roots or making permanent attachments? Zaxony Delatree is the ultimate rolling stone: every time he lays down to sleep he wakes up in another universe. When we meet him he's in a hedonistic playground for the rich with his companion, Laini. But Laini has found somewhere she wants to stay, and isn't prepared to travel with Zax to another unknown universe.

Zax can take possessions with him, and also people so long as they fall asleep in his arms. Some of the worlds he encounters are more dangerous than others, although he tends to land where there is breathable air and situations a human can survive, at least in the short term. So although almost everywhere in any given universe may be a freezing vacuum or otherwise uninhabitable (the usual laws of physics tend to apply) Zax travels only to the Goldilocks zones.

On one world Zax meets Minna, a sort of agricultural worker with genetically-engineered plant powers. Zax has a linguistic virus which allows him to communicate wherever he is, and he passes this on to his companions.

It's a high-concept story that can be disconnected by design. Each world is different, the only link being Zax and whoever he takes with him. He's a harmoniser, and his goal is to make the places he passes through more balanced and happier than he left them. Unfortunately, he's being pursued by a malevolent scientist who wants to capture Zax and study him, and who seems to be set on empire building. Zax is going to need all the tools and allies he can gather if he's to remain free and outwit an enemy who will chase him across universes.

Vicky is a high-tech crystal intelligence small enough to wear as a ring, who becomes one of the multiverse companions we meet. Some of the story is told from Vicky's point of view, and some from Minna's, as the plot works up to an exciting, tense, and convoluted showdown.

If you like stories with a pounding pace, meaningful characters, an intriguing villain, and lots of twists, Doors of Sleep should press the right buttons. There's clearly more to come from Zaxony Delatree, and that's gratifying. This narrative pulls threads of continuity from where they're least expected, so that instead of being adrift like a speck in an infinite multiverse there is a sense of direction and purpose to our protagonists' smallest actions.

This is inventive and original. The concept of swapping worlds with each sleep could easily get samey, but thanks to likeable main characters who care about what they leave behind, it never does.

26th November 2020

Book Details

Year: 2021

Categories: Books

  Science fiction

If you like this, try:

The Dreamthief    

The Dreamthief's Daughter by Michael Moorcock
This fantasy is set in the world of the Eternal Champion and features Ulric, Graf von Bek.

4 star rating

Review ©

Source: eARC