cover image A Million Open Doors

A Million Open Doors

John Barnes. Tor Books, $19.95 (315pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85210-8

In Barnes's ( Orbital Resonance ) futuristic universe, the Thousand Cultures are planets that have developed in virtual isolation. The world of Nou Occitan is based on a romanticized medieval Europe: duels are fought, artistic endeavors are encouraged, and sexism (the true face of chivalry) is fiercely institutionalized. Caledony is a society that has combined capitalism and Christianity into an oppressive milieu where artistic creativity is considered irrational. The advent of ``springers,'' which provide instantaneous travel from place to place, is bringing these cultures together, and a delegation from Nou Occitan goes to Caledony to help them assimilate. Narrator Giraut Leones starts an arts school where Nou Occitan ways are taught, the repressions of the Caledon community are questioned and the students become liberated through music, poetry, art and fencing. The analogy to '50s repression and '60s rebellion is fairly obvious: we see youth questioning authority through music and poetry performed at the Occasional Mobile Cabaret, reminiscent of period coffeehouses; there's the Joseph McCarthyish Rev. Saltini; the characters even go on a road trip in multicolor vans. Most engrossing, however, are Giraut's evolution from petulant, bratty jovent of Nou Occitan to Caledonic hero, and the creative mishmash of European languages from which Barnes produces the language of Nou Occitan. (Oct.)