March 2004
© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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The Portable Door by Tom Holt
Orbit (UK) Trade: ISBN 1841492086 PubDate: 03/01/04
Review by Antony Wagman

404 pgs. List price £
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The Portable Door is variously described on the jacket as “uniquely twisted,” “wildly imaginative” and “fast and funny”. Without wishing to offend the no doubt multitudinous army of loyal Holt fans, I would beg to differ! Now don’t get me wrong - the book is an enjoyable read, amusing in places and overall entertaining – but did not grab me the way I had hoped .

Paul is a loser, his character is a well blended mix of any sad, lonely and unattractive to the opposite sex type that one can imagine in bed-sit-land. His new job at the mysterious J.W. Wells sees him in an office with an unfanciable girl (whom he of course, fancies) doing strange unaccountable work for strange unaccountable managers. More than a soupcon of Rowling’s Potter raises its head as Paul discovers he is, or at least will be trained to be a magician. The Portable Door follows Paul’s relationship with Sophie and his discovery of, not surprisingly, a portable door! Further thank this, I wont give too much plot away, but do watch out for goblins, dragon poo and flying horses !

An excellent setup is ruined by a story line that, to be fair, is not so poor as its execution. Yet, bolstered by some clever puns and one-liners – one of my favourites being Paul’s penchant for lemonade shandy – without the lemonade! - the writing is no doubt wickedly clever, with characters established early on in the narrative to return full throttle as the tale progresses and the ability to make one look deep within oneself and identify with our hero if at least in part!

It becomes more apparent with each review I write, that my status as a “new boy” at SFRevu shows up the huge gaps in my reading – my previous reading habits as a mere punter being only what caught the eye or was personally recommended .Tom Holt is a perfect illustration of this. With a list of credits longer than my weekly supermarket shopping list, quite how I have avoided him to date can only be attributed to fate herself .

The fantasy/comedy axis style of Holt’s writing is most certainly to my own taste – irreverence with witty application and peppered with expletives to spice things up. Even though I have not read his other works, I get the distinct impression that if this were a first novel, there would have been the same formula but not been so lacking in fire and desire. Read with enjoyment (existing Holt fans particularly,) yet alas, once more, I find myself looking for something extra.

© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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