Ace Double Reviews, 41: Dwellers of the Deep, by K. M. O'Donnell/The Gates of Time, by Neal Barrett, Jr. (#27400, 1970, $0.75)
by Rich Horton
"K. M. O'Donnell" is a pseudonym of Barry Malzberg's. Dwellers of the Deep is one of his "recursive" novels -- that is, it's about SF. It's some 35,000 words long. According to the ISFDB, it's his third novel, and his second Ace Double half (of 4 total). The Gates of Time was Neal Barrett's first or second novel (Kelwin also appeared in 1970), and his first of two Ace Double halves (I have also reviewed Highwood).
|(Cover by Jack Gaughan)|
Izzinius has other concerns. For example, he is afraid of women, but there is a young woman living in his apartment building, Susan Forsythe, who keeps invading his room and trying to get him to attend meetings of the local fan group, the Solarians. Fox is also out of work, having quit his civil service job to concentrate on SF magazine collecting. The aliens are torturing him with false memories of his dead father. And his landlord is just plain weird ...
So the novel continues -- full of satire of fan politics and fan obsessions, with the occasional side trip to satire of bureaucracy. It's really pretty funny for the most part, though it may depend a bit on getting some of the fannish injokes. Not a great story by any means but basically fun stuff -- much like the previous "O'Donnell" Ace Double I reviewed, Gather in the Hall of the Planets.
In my previous review of Highwood, I covered Neal Barrett's career: short stories in Galaxy and such places beginning in 1960, and novels starting in 1970 with Kelwin and The Gates of Time, and later the Aldair books for DAW. Then, as someone once said, Barrett stood too long next to fellow Texan Howard Waldrop and just mutated. Beginning in the mid 80s he published a few novels and a number of short stories that are gloriously weird, poetic, loopily imagined -- just real neat stuff, including novels such as Through Darkest America (1986), short stories like "Ginny Sweethips' Flying Circus", "Stairs", and "Cush". His more recent work includes a number of mysteries and a couple further unusual science fantasies beginning with The Prophecy Machine in 2000.
|(Cover by Josh Kirby)|
OK -- that could work. Then piratical evil aliens destroy the starship, only Jarcal and Lhis-Quan surviving. At the aliens' planet they encounter another human -- naturally a shockingly beautiful woman, named Sesharane. After the escape the quartet goes on the run, learning that, well, Jarcal and his N'Cil companion are fated to save the world or something and ...
Blah, blah, blah. Pretty much a case of the author making things up as he goes along. Without much concern for internal consistency (for example, we learn that Earth apparently had an extensive interstellar empire -- but wait a minute, earlier they just had one doomed starship -- is this explained? NO!) There is also such silliness as Sesharane refusing to have sexual relationships with Jarcal because, even though she loves him and he her, she is unable to have babies, so sex would be pointless. Eh? (As it happens, I just have been reading Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver, which makes much of a couple of main, heterosexual, characters engaging in rather extravagantly non-propagational sex -- not that that's a big deal or anything, but just that the contrast in attitudes really struck me.) Anyway, I really can't recommend The Gates of Time at all.