March 20, 2011

Door Number Three by Patrick O'Leary

Title:  Door Number Three
Author:  Patrick O'Leary
Format:  PB
Pages:  383
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Tor, 1996
ISBN-13:  978-0312862879
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  I live in the future.  I remember the present.  I anticipate the past.

Synopsis (Amazon):  John Donelly's life is changed forever the day Laura, a young therapy patient, tells him that she has been left for a year on Earth by the Holock, an alien race. If she can convince one person - and she has chosen him - that she is telling the truth, she can stay when they come back for her. And she exposes her breasts as evidence, revealing square nipples. His least profound response is to drop his cigarette into the crease in his chair.

So begins the wildest SF novel since the passing of Philip K. Dick. Patrick O'Leary's Door Number Three is a constant wellspring of surprise and wonder, a novel about a young man of today and a woman from somewhere else who is out to love or kill him - or both. The whole, apparently real, world and everything in it can never be the same again.

Review:  Alternate futures, time travel, an alien race.  This sounds like a combination sure to be a winner.  In some ways, it is.  The first part of the novel is excellent.  Somewhere after the first half, it starts to lose the luster though.  After the discovery of what the half-alien Laura is really up to, the book starts to founder.  It becomes a mishmash of family secrets and self-awareness mixed in with an effort to change the future and past, none of which meshed as well as it could have.

Some of the science was above my head, but not terribly so, especially since the main character was not a scientist and therefore had to have the concepts explained to him in simple terms and small words.  I still got a little lost at times and had to go back and reread some of the explanations to try to make sense of the later portions.

The entire goal of the book's human protagonists -- to end humanity's constant hatred and warring with itself -- is a little well-used and is too easily reached just by one act by one man.  Certainly, it took some pain and effort along the way, but in the end seemed quite easy for him to accomplish.  The idea that all our troubles are caused by aliens stealing our dreams (and thus making our memories faulty) seems a little simplistic.  The idea that Hail Marys; rosaries; and plastic, hollow statues of Mary filled with holy water keep the aliens out of our memories and dreams is absurd.

I really did enjoy the first part of the book, but I was glad to be done, which is never a good sign.

Rating:  3.5 / 5

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