Friday, July 5, 2013

Doors by Daniel Brako

One fateful day, David Druas, a very successful psychologist is interrupted by a patient in the middle of a session. Hans Werner believes that after using an ancient invocation that he is seeing doors which lead to alternate dimensions. Being a the logical man that David is, he tries to reason with Werner and when that does not work, he decides to say the invocation out loud. At first Druas sees nothing, leading him believe that Werner has indeed had some sort of break. Unfortunately for David, shortly after Werner leaves his office in disappointment, he sees his first door. Now believing that he and Werner are sharing a psychosis, David is desperate for answers. Each world he enters using the doors has something wondrous and new but when David becomes aware that someone is watching him, these spaces no longer feel benign. When Werner turns up dead, David becomes the prime suspect, causing him to use the door to escape; however, the problem is that the place he is using to hide from the cops may itself be worse than the prison cell he seeks to avoid.

Coming in at 162 pages, Doors is a comfortable afternoon read. Though in places the writing leaves something to be desired, it quite reminded me of the Adjustment Bureau. The concept of Doors was really quite fascinating but the novel fell prey to its own brevity in many ways. We didn't really get to know a lot about the characters, or what motivated them to invest in David and this left the story feeling unrelateable. We were only given brief glimpses of the worlds behind the door and even less of the doorkeeper society. In many ways, it felt like Doors was incomplete and could have used another hundred pages.

Often when I write reviews about books in the fantasy genre, I complain that the books in question erase GLBT characters. In the case of Doors, the opposite is true, I wish that Brako had actually erased GLBT characters. Much of this story was about David's interaction with Avan. Avan is an Indian man, who is desperately in love with David and when a very heterosexual David spurns all of his advances and refuses to love him back, Avan in a fit of drama jumps off a roof top in front of David. I have read the tropes involving the predatory gay man, but Avan took it to a new level. He could not have been more predatory had he been a lion let loose in a nursery school. When David rejects him he whines that it's because he doesn't have a "cunt."

There are three female characters in the book but we never really learn much about them. Professor Olivia Milner was once an adviser to David and is now his colleague. When David is arrested, Olivia actually risks her own freedom by attacking a cop so that he can escape. The problem with this is that beyond the fact that they are colleagues, we are given nothing to lead us to assume that their relationship is close enough for Olivia to risk jail. Then there is Celeste, who much like Avan seemed to exist to do nothing other than love David. Of course she dies tragically, but not to worry, David does pause briefly to angst over her.The third is Lisa Cho the police officer in charge of David's case. Her supervisor is her uncle and she is absolutely desperate to please him. In the first incident where David used a door to escape Lisa was disciplined, while her male partner received no such consequence. In fact, each time David disappeared became an opportunity for Lisa to be chastised and told how unworthy she was. This means that there are two women who are willing to sacrifice everything for David without a believable basis offered to the reader and one who exists to be outsmarted by him.  The issue with the female characters is something I think that could have been fixed had Brako written a longer novel. Because we don't get to know the women, they become empty tropes.

Though Doors was frustrating to read at times, the concept kept me forging forward. There were the usual social justice fails I have come to expect from this genre and they were absolutely compounded by the brevity of the book. Brako showed a clear sense of  imagination through the worlds he created, but as a reader I felt short changed because Doors felt more like a glimpse of what is possible, rather than a real leap for the imagination.