Monday, May 21, 2012

The Portable Door - Tom Holt

2003; 404 pages.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Contemporary Humor; Fantasy.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    For the first time in his brief working career, Paul Carpenter has a steady, full-time, paying job.  Of course, the work (filing) is boring, the Management Team seems like it just fell out of Tales From The Crypt, and there are strange rules about working late and arriving early.

    Then there's the other newly-hired clerk.  She's a skinny plain-Jane, has a crappy personality, likes artists for boyfriends, and seems to be always irritated with Paul.

   Perhaps Romance is about to walk into Paul's life.  But if so, it will have to step around that giant Arthurian sword-in-the-stone that just appeared in his apartment.

What's To Like...
    The Portable Door has the usual Tom Holt formula.  It starts out normal, then something surreal happens.  Then a second piece of weirdness is added.  And a third; and a fourth.  And so on.  Pretty soon we're up to our necks in strangeness, and wondering whether Holt's capable of juggling, let alone resolving, all the madness.

     Our hero and heroine are more ordinary than heroic, and I like that.  There's some time- and dimension-hopping, which is always a plus for me.  There's wit and surprises, and maybe-just-maybe some romance.  And last-but-not-least, there's the ultra-kewl Portable Door.

Kewlest New Word...
Bedsit : a one-room apartment typically consisting of a combined bedroom and sitting room with cooking facilities.  (Now you know what that Moody Blues line, "bedsitter people look back and lament" is all about).

    "Who would you rather be, Lloyd George or Gary Rhodes?"
    "Sorry," Paul said.  "Who's Lloyd George?"
    "What do you most admire about the works of Chekhov?"
    Paul frowned.  "I don't know," he said.  "The way he says, Course laid in, keptin, is pretty cool, but mostly he doesn't get to do much."  (pg. 11)

    She smiled.  "You know," she said, "you've put me in mind of something a kid like you said to me once, not long after we'd had a chat pretty much on the lines of this one, where I'd told him to watch his back, and he said, Yeah, sure.  Always stuck in my mind, it has, what he said then."
    "Really?  What was that, then?"
    "Aaaaargh," Mr. Tanner's mum replied.  "Be seeing you."  (pg. 262)

Do gerbils love?  (pg. 379)
   I worried at the start of The Portable Door.  Clerical work is boring, and it takes a little time for the wackiness to start permeating the storyline.  This was my third Tom Holt book.  (the other two are here and here).  Was it going to turn out to be the first dud?

    Silly me.  Tom Holt is a masterful writer.  He was just building up the tension via unresolved bizarreness.  Halfway through the book, he starts giving us some answers, and it's a fantastic read from there on.  The myriad of loose ends are ably attended to in a very nice ending.

    The humor had me chuckling, and TPD could serve as a textbook for how to effectively use the "show-don't-tell" precept.  8½ Stars.

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