I am a fan of Lars Walker‘s writing (having read a couple of his books and followed his online writing) but I confess I really struggled with his latest novel Death’s Doors.
In the near future, suicide has become a constitutional right. Tom Galloway is just an ordinary single parent, trying to keep his rebellious and suicidal teenage daughter from going to the Happy Endings Clinic. If there’s one thing he doesn’t need, it’s a tenth century Viking time traveler dropping into his life. But Tom is about to begin the adventure of his life, one that will change the whole world.
I have not read Wolf Time for which Death’s Doors is a sequel of sorts. As with all Walker books there is a great deal of creativity. You have a future dystopian society, Norse mythology, and a story about a family. I enjoyed the exploration of how Haakon views the 21st century world as a 10th century man. I thought the plot hook about how the Old Ones are secretly undermining the US was interesting and well done. The ultimate villainess was great too. And the idea that the underlying conflict came from an inability to understand humans, love and self-sacrifice was a nice element.
But I think the bottom line on this book is how far-fetched you think his dystopian society really is and how much that bothers you. Basically, Walker takes current conservative critiques of liberalism (from political correctness, to abortion and euthanasia, relativism, the ignoring of the threat of Islam, etc.) and takes it to reductio ad absurdum levels. The solution to everything is suicide (or really murder given the not so willing nature of the procedure). Courts routinely overturn basic cases because everyone has the “right to their own reality.” Christians are called Crossers and the faith has basically been made illegal for all intents and purposes. Meat is illegal. Muslims control Michigan (and then invade the US). Pagan/heathen religions are back in style and use ancient rituals to bring King Haakon into the present time.
Now, we could argue about how much of this is likely, and to what degree, given our current path but too much of it felt didactic and preachy to me. I get that dystopian fiction is unlikely to be nuanced but, again, instead of feeling like a possible, if extreme, world it felt like a conservative caricature of liberalism’s real aims. It is a straight line from the worst excesses of the lunatic left today to mainstream culture in the “near future.” For me it was a drag on the story and irritant throughout. And part of that was because it didn’t seem like the dark side had an attraction to it or a plausible path to happening. It was as if say the roughly 15% of the left that is really as crazy as Walker makes out suddenly controlled the entire United States. Just didn’t work for me.
That said, it was an entertaining and creative story. And if you are a conservative Christian who thinks we are on the verge of societal collapse already you will love it! OK, that was a cheap shot. But I do think that is the sweet spot audience for this book. Because if you are not deeply sympathetic to the issues surrounding religious liberty, the pro-life movement, the threat of relativism, political correctness, Christianity as the foundation of Western Civilization, the threat of Islamists, etc. I think the strong perspective will be hard to take. Heck, I am pretty conservative and found it too strong.
It is also worth keeping in mind that I am not a big reader of historical fiction or dystopian fantasy which Walker tends to blend together. I am a fan of mythology and enjoyed those elements.
At Goodreads I struggled with how many stars to give. Two seems harsh but is what I settled on. That designation is supposed to say “It was Okay” which seems about right. Although, if I had half stars I would have given it a 2.5. Ultimately, it was interesting with some well done aspects but didn’t really come together for me.