There Are Doors by Gene Wolfe

There Are Doors is Gene Wolfe’s ver­sion of the ancient Indo-Euro­pean leg­end of the Goddess/Queen of the Wood and the Horned King. Of all the var­i­ous ver­sions I’ve read of this sto­ry, Wolfe’s def­i­nite­ly has the most inter­est­ing and nuanced por­tray­al of the these fig­ures. In this iter­a­tion the rela­tion­ship between The Wood and The World is described in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent ways, as reflec­tion, fre­quen­cy, and per­haps most strong­ly as Sea and Land. Mr. Green [Horned King] is in search of Lara/Lora/Marcella/Tina [The God­dess] through both worlds. Once a per­son from The Wood has met a per­son from The World, doors take on a spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance and act as por­tals between the two areas. I’m used to read­ing about the God­dess as a cold-heart­ed and puis­sant woman who is mourn­ing the loss of her lover, usu­al­ly with­out explain­ing why is this way. Wolfe adds sub­stance to her dis­tant nature by mak­ing her the only immor­tal in either world, and by adding a twist that every man from The Wood who has sex dies imme­di­ate­ly after, like drones in a bee colony. When the Queen seeks love she has to go to The World, but also has to leave her lover after­ward. So her cold­ness is a way for her to pro­tect her­self from the pain, As she takes oth­er lovers, each of the pre­vi­ous ones becomes a bit sar­don­ical­ly a cuck­old­ed ver­sion of the Horned King. We find that she does indeed love all of her Kings, and ones that are per­sis­tent enough to pur­sue her and catch her are allowed to serve her. The ser­vice isn’t sub­servience, but an expres­sion of love.

Gene Wolfe is rapid­ly becom­ing one of my favorite authors. His books move slow­ly and appear to jump around until sud­den­ly the pieces fall into place and run smooth­ly and rapid­ly to a con­clu­sion. His great­est strength seems to be his abil­i­ty to lace a sto­ry with enough ambi­gu­i­ty that uncer­tain­ty nev­er real­ly leaves you until the last page, if then. Mr. Green is in and out of men­tal hos­pi­tals through­out the nov­el, so we’re not sure if the world through his eyes is true or not. The type of sto­ry­telling isn’t like Peace, but the doubt is ever present. I’m start­ing to round up any­thing I can find by him.