The Portable Door by Tom Holt, A Review.

Pros: Very funny, priceless witticisms.

Possible Cons:  Only for those ready to suspend disbelief from a flagpole.

Valuable Lesson: Don’t stress too much over cover art.

Finding comparable works to Harmony Lost was no easy task; the tale is a mixture: a dash of Sci Fi, alternate reality, an atypical romance, a struggle to the top. Perusing Amazon’s fiction categories didn’t reveal a perfect fit.

Amusing exchanges occur in Harmony Lost, but I wasn’t thinking humor when I wrote it. So imagine my surprise when several beta readers suggested a humor category. One reader recommended Tom Holt as an author with a comparable tone. Tom Holt is frequently mentioned in the context of Terry Prachett and Douglas Adams, SciFi authors with a light and humorous tone. Their motto seems to be: just because it’s a hopeless dystopia doesn’t mean it can’t be funny.

Holt’s oeuvre is broader than just SciFi and fantasy; he also writes historical fiction and mythological parody. Some of Holt’s titles and blurbs suggested the theme: bad jobs. I’ve had my share of bad jobs, so I selected The Portable Door.

In The Portable Door, hapless Paul joins the highly peculiar and questionable firm, J.W. Wells and Co. The job is execrable. As summed up by a pal…your colleagues are as:

“Nutty as a Snickers bar or complete bastards; the work’s boring enough to kill an accountant, and the place is freaking you out so badly, you jump like petrol prices every time the door opens.”

Sound familiar? Does to me.

Because he’s enamored with coworker Sophie, Paul sticks to the job. Various preposterous events ensue, involving rogue long staplers and photocopiers, Gilbert and Sullivan, a basement reminiscent of the mines of Moria, a pocket-universe apartment, goblins, magic, a love philtre, and the eponymous portable door which makes for a string of interesting lunch breaks. Somehow, the plot hangs together and entertained me beginning to end.

Paul’s internal dialog is the best elements of The Portable Door. His asides; funny and nerdy, weird and clever, inventive and true, and sometimes poignant or even wise, are dropped rabbit poop style throughout the book. For example:

Truth is a luxury, rather like pepperoni pizza; those who can afford it insist on nothing else, while the rest of us just have to make do.

Socially incompetent Paul’s world at the beginning of the book is hostile and uncaring. A passive character, he wanders from one awkward encounter to the next blundering accident, his tongue tied, his pizza soggy. He’s an everyman, ineffective, mildly morally challenged, but well meaning at the core, a type of hero that pops up regularly in British literature at least back to Bertie Wooster.

Paul and my character Martin Davis are psychological brethren.

By the end of The Portable Door, Paul has grown, and he’s found a tribe. Just as Martin does in Harmony Lost.

My favorite quote from The Portable Door is:

Declaring your true feelings is like going to the dentist, it’s no fun at all, but the longer you put it off, the worse it’s likely to be.

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