Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow, Hachette Book Group, 2019.

January Scaller is a young girl living in the mansion of the insanely wealthy William Cornelius Locke, a mansion packed with valuable collectables from all over the world…and some that apparently don’t belong in this one.  Her father, Julian, is an employee of Mr. Locke charged with traveling the world in search of said wondrous objects, so he isn’t home very much. Sometimes Mr. Locke has to travel himself, and sometimes he takes January with him as a treat or distraction.

On one such trip, January finds a doorway between worlds. So much for plot summary, because what happens doesn’t actually tell you what’s happening. That’s a separate issue altogether. Suffice to say there are more doors where that one came from and January’s discovery of them leads into all kinds of trouble, and not just for her.

I picked this one up on the recommendation of people whose taste and judgment I trust. I’m also a sucker for portal fantasies, probably ever since I came across George R.R. Martin’s “The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr” in Fantastic Stories years ago. This is one of the best ones I’ve ever read. From the first page I knew I was in for a treat, for it was clear the author was a person in love with language, specifically language in the service of story. A sentence might be as long as it needs to be, and sometimes it may be convoluted, but it’s never clumsy. A sort of wordy precision which is almost but not quite a contradiction in terms, and so rare to find.

I don’t think I’m giving too much away to note that January isn’t quite what she seems, but then neither are most of the rest of Harrow’s cast. Of course their secrets are tied to the existence of the doors and the astute reader will winkle most of it out before book’s end, and that’s half the fun. There are elements that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror novel, but this isn’t one. There’s contemplation of the nature of story itself and its role in the world. Not to mention one adventure after another, which are all part of the same adventure: growing up, and self discovery.

Recommended. Heartily.

Lost and Found

Fantastic StoriesContinuing with the purge and pack up, and in the process of cleaning out the closet in the library, I came across an unmarked box. Inside were several things I thought I’d thought gone forever, namely my accumulation (I wouldn’t dignify it as a collection) of digest magazines from the late 1970’s. It was originally much larger, but I’d reluctantly purged it during one lack of space or other. In my faulty memory I thought I’d purged them all. There are several AMAZING STORIES from the period, and even a COVEN 13, but I was especially glad to see the FANTASTIC STORIES from Ted White’s editorship. FANTASTIC was the first fantasy magazine I ever discovered. More to the point, I soon realized that there were such things as writers who sent them stories. I soon became one of them. I never did sell to Ted White, and by the time I sold one to his successor, Elinor Mavor, FANTASTIC had been folded into its sister magazine, AMAZING. Yes, I know. Just a second tier digest back in the days of ANALOG/ASTOUNDING and GALAXY, but there was something about the stories there that appealed to me more.  I still regret that I wasn’t good enough soon enough for FANTASTIC, but I remember what I was shooting for.

No sooner had I turned in the final manuscript of THE WAR GOD’S SON to Paula at Prime than I got an email from Audible.com telling me that the audiobook version is already going into production. I don’t know yet who’s doing the narration, but it should be out at the same time the print and ebook versions are available, still officially set for October. Which should happen on time, since the book is being typeset even as I write this.  Not much longer now, people. If/when there’s a link for pre-orders, I’ll post it here.

Losing My Religion

I’m going to get a little autobiographical here. Consider yourself warned.

I used to haunt the Post Office nearly every day. That is to say, I would check the PO box dedicated to writing correspondence, submissions, etc., every single day, save only holidays. By any reasonable standard, it was obsessive and overkill.  Considering the usual number of stories I had in circulation and the number of available markets, two, three times a week at most would have been plenty. Of course in my head I knew that at the time, but it didn’t stop me. Obsession and I were old friends. I’d often said that, if I didn’t have obsession, I wouldn’t have any discipline at all. It got the words out, the stories written. Now I actually do check the PO box once or twice a week, but of course these days I’ve switched my obsessive focus to email because that’s where the action is. Most submissions and acceptances and rejections, even contracts are arriving by email, and the Post Office lost its…well, I won’t say “luster.” It was the Post Office. It never had luster. Say rather its focus and attraction for me. Gone now. I do not really miss those daily trips to the Post Office.

Book stores, on the other hand…well, here’s where I start to worry a bit. Continue reading