Doorways in the Sand (1976) by Roger Zelazny

DoorwaysintheSand1Bits and pieces. Pieces–

Splayed and static, dry-throated, stomach churning, a red-eyed study in Bruise and bacteria, at some 12,000 feet with a Speicus of my own, I reflect upon the whispered taunts: DID YOU REVIEW ME YET?

Sigh, no. No, I did not. Soon as I get off this mountain. Promise.

Bits and pieces. Pieces– Flips each chapter back-to-front, just like the machine, but now things are rightways forward. Not the same. But you can’t have everything all at once.

A rabbit hole is a doorway in the sand, but this tardy rabbit is an acrophiliac, always climbing and perching– not a social climber… until the end, that is– evading destiny until all tunnels collapse (and uncle comes back from the dead). Time to be a grown up.

But sand is a shifting, gritty thing. And so is destiny. Fred’s destiny doesn’t feel so right at the end.

But Bits and pieces. Pieces–where I swoon like a sixties Beatles fan at stuff like this:

Some upwelling in the dark fishbowl atop the spine later splashed dreams, patterns memory-resistant as a swirl of noctilucae, across consciousness’ thin, transparent rim, save for the kinesthetic/synesthetic DO YOU FEEL ME LED? which must have lasted a time-less time longer than the rest, for later, much later, morning’s third coffee touched it to a penny’s worth of spin, of color.

The last other gargoyle perched on high with not a thing to say other than “This book is a Boojum.” (It’s not really. It’s an odd little alien engineering mystery, a bit psychedelic, an inverted Wonderland given the sci-fi treatment with a Zelazny smart-ass spouting fizzy beat-prose… snap, snap, snap. I just had to think about it for a bit…)

I doubt I will ever know it thoroughly, though. I am a recorder…


Thanks to Carol at Books Reviews Forevermore for the invite to the Doorways in the Sand Flash Reading Group at goodreads, where I lurked like just another gargoyle over their thought-provoking comments.

10 thoughts on “Doorways in the Sand (1976) by Roger Zelazny

  1. thebookgator says:

    Did you read me, Ned?
    Fun little review, although I couldn’t quite answer if you enjoyed it or not.


    • I enjoyed it very much, even more on the second and third sweep, when I was trying to figure out what I was going to write about it. His knack for prose is out of this world, and the story itself is such an odd little thing. I can see why it’s one of his favorites and it’s a shame it fell flat on so many critics at the time.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        Zelazny’s prose almost always intrigues… The only work by him I’ve been less than satisfied with is the novella “The Eve of RUMOKO” (1969) which reads as some bland James Bond-esque SF caper…


        • The wiki entry states that he wrote this in one draft, no rewrites. I’m amazed that he can just flow like that. Talking to him must have been something else.

          I haven’t seen anyone talk about “The Eve of RUMOKO,” so I guess other people weren’t as satisfied with it, either.


      • I’ve recently read his collection,”The Doors of His Face,the Lamps of His Mouth”.I was hoping from what I’d heard,that his shorter stuff would be better than his novels,but I wasn’t very impressed.It appears that you might of been blown away by DITS,and was the best Zelazny novel you’ve read.You preferred it to any of his 1960s novels.Yes?

        If so,I might read it one day.I know it has been well received.I haven’t really got on with most of his stuff,although he is quite a good author.


        • I just read the story “The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth” and I rather enjoyed it. It’s not poetic like this one, it’s not mind-bendy, but it has it’s own appeal. Really, none of the things I’ve read by him so far are very similar. They all feel like Zelazny, but they all have different things I like about them.

          I’m not sure if you would like this one. It might come off as being a little too aware of itself– not quite meta, but definitely an effort to invert tropes (quite literally at times!) and skiffy up a fantasy. You can tell Zelazny had a good time with it, including lots of absurdity, smartassedness, and the poetic prose is turned up to 11. I won’t say I was blown away with it, but my appreciation for it deepened after a second and third look.


          • Well,I was thinking of “Lord of Light” and “The Dream Master”,even “This Immortal”.LOL in particular I wasn’t keen on.Assuming you’ve read them,I was hoping you preferred DITS to them.

            The first book I read of his,was “Jack of Shadows”.I quite liked it at the time,but this was during my very early SF reading days.Much later,I read “Changeling”,which I thought at the time was more enjoyable than any of his novels,but since then I feel more dubious about it.The first book in the five volume “Amber” series,was quite good,but would have been even better if the whole,boring saga had been been cmpressed into a slightly longer,single book.His other novel of the late 1970s,”To Die in Italbar”,I wasn’t all that keen on either.

            I’d have felt happier abut DITS if you’d have told me you thought this was his masterpiece above any of the novels I’ve mentioned.


          • I’ve only read This Immortal and an random assortment of shorter tales. DITS is very different, but it still has that “jaded jackass” affect that I find interesting, but tiresome (if that makes any sense).

            I haven’t tried the Amber series though I know it has serious fans. I can’t imagine anything saga-like like that maintaining my interest for very long, but if anybody could do it, it would be Zelazny.

            Seeing your response, you might like DITS because it does rely on some psychedelic, mind-bendyness and literary allusion.


          • You haven’t got much to compare it to then.”This Immortal” was quite good,but in terms of substance as I remember,it was as light and thin as paper.If DITS isn’t any fuller,then I’m not sure I’ll be attracted to it.

            I think what you describe as “psychadelic,mind-bendyness and literary illusion”,might describe “Lord of Light”.That showed Zelazny’s skills at writing prose well tuned,but I think “This Immortal” has a stronger structure.

            I feel lukewarm about this.I dn’t feel brave enough to go fr it yet.


  2. […] Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelazny – The tied winning author from the decade before, Zelazny is nominated again for this psychedelic sci-fi inversion of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which involves yet another Holden Caulfield-esque character who quips and shirks, and stops just short of calling everybody “phonies.” The prose is gorgeous, though. […]


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