There Are Doors

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Suppose there were a parallel world that functioned according to different biological rules, a world in which sexual intercourse means death for a man. Suppose this world at times became accessible through the most ordinary looking doors. While entertaining these suppositions, suppose a man from our world fell in love with a woman from the other. Suppose he were a mental patient.L Gene Wolfe’s THERE ARE DOORS presents a situation as jarring and unreal as a paranoid’s delusion or an invalid’s fever dream. Green, searching for Lara, his beloved, stumbles into her world through one of many unmarked doors that connect his domain and hers. In her world, she is the Goddess, beautiful and feared. In her world, as in his, biology is destiny--and sex, for a man, is the doorway to death.

Green embarks on a winding, circuitous journey in which he encounters unexpected danger, unregenerate evil, and unlooked-for friends. In his quest for his love, he enters a world in which everything has significance. He receives messages from the television, random phone calls connect with the right party, everything is ultimately connected to everything else.

Green’s adventures have an obsessive, insane edge to them. Can this really be happening? Will the protagonist wake up at the end? Eventually the reader succumbs to the magic. Everything takes on a manic edge. All things are forgiven, gifts are received. There are mysteries; there are answers. Perhaps there are even doors.

The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Mr. Green, a handsome young man who works for a large department store in an unnamed city, has found the great love of his life in the mysterious Lara Morgan. After Lara explains that love of her brings death for her lovers, he wakes up to learn that she has deserted him. When he attempts to find her, he wanders through an invisible “door” to an alternate world where women are dominant and society is ruled by a female president who is the incarnation of an archetypal mother goddess, an elusive woman of transcendent beauty. Green realizes that Lara is this mysterious goddess, an avatar of the mythic femininity embodied in Ishtar, Astarte, Venus, and the Celtic and Arthurian Morgan Le Fay. Green sets out on a quest to find her.

Evading some pursuers, he hides inside a float in a parade but injures his head in a fall while trying to escape. Taken to a private hospital, Green is admitted to the psychiatric ward as an alcoholic. Soon he meets a journeyman boxer and a revolutionary named North. Compelled to aid North in an escape, Green eventually finds refuge in a gigantic luxury hotel on an inland sea. There he meets a mysterious doctor and Fanny, a hotel employee who aids him apparently because she is attracted to him. Although Green remains puzzled by events, he becomes convinced that in this alternate Earth, Lara, under another name, is currently the reigning goddess.

Green becomes separated from North, whom he fears, and is aided by Fanny, who takes him back to the city. Dining in Capini’s restaurant, Green accidentally...

(The entire section is 634 words.)