SF/F Review - The Saint of Bright Doors
Synopsis: In magical-realism India a young man raised by his narcissistic single mom grapples with not having meaning or purpose in life while reality gets weird and fuzzy.
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Book Review: Chapter One of this book is the protagonist’s childhood formative experiences. Chapter Two of this book is six sentences long, and gives a quick summary of the teen years. Chapter Three+ covers events in his young-adulthood. This book would have greatly benefited from many more chapters being like Chapter Two. Because The Saint of Bright Doors the “This Meeting Could Have Been An Email” meme in novel form. The majority of this book doesn’t need to exist.
Half the novel is either setting up things that have no pay off, or describing boring stuff that doesn’t matter. A long patronage relationship is set up over many chapters so the protag can get a visa. Over a third of the book is set up to a research program on magical doors so that we can find out that when they are prevented from transforming for a long time, when the prevention is removed the transformation happens almost instantly. Various characters are introduced and built up until they are forgotten and have no effect on anything (eg: A opposite-sex relationship begins to form, but goes nowhere and does nothing.) A seditious play is developed and seems to be a major plot point, only be to dropped entirely. Lots of wordcount is spent on bureaucracy and paperwork.
Heck, there’s half a chapter dedicated to him thinking about what’s happening somewhere else while he sits on a train, and this is very boring, and then we discover that none of what he was thinking about happened at all!
There’s a lot of cool stuff in this book. The twist near the end is really cool! (altho come to think of it, it also doesn’t really do much, ultimately). The idea of a magic that rewrites history and can effect massive time-skips (and write what happened during the timeskip) is really cool! The entire last third of the book where the world is getting weird and dreamlike and very Jeff Vandermeer-esque is really cool! But there’s so many words dedicated to things that have nothing to do with anything that the book fails to be emotionally compelling. The protag is so uninteresting that even the narrative of the novel loses interest in him.
There’s just so little substance here. I can see this being a truly outstanding novelette if all the cruft was cut away. As a novel it’s a chore. I shouldn’t feel like I’m forcing myself to do homework when I read it, and celebrate making it to the end like it’s an accomplishment. Not Recommended.
Book Club Review: No one likes homework. If the homework gives you interesting things to talk about and raises interesting ideas and emotions, that’s one thing. But when it just reminds you of school, that’s another. This book didn’t have anything interesting to say, and didn’t bring us into any discussions of substance. Not Recommended.