I’ve enjoyed Lars Walker’s books for years, and this latest is no exception. This isn’t, I should say at the beginning, a light-hearted fun read. It is Human Wave, and it will make you think, and perhaps flinch a little. Biting social satire with a Christian bent, or perhaps Norse – although it is not an evangelical book. Walker’s scholarship shows in the book, with the accuracy of his portrayal of a long-distant past, and of the state of the human heart in our society today.
Death’s Doors is a tale of the love between father and daughter. Any parent will be able to see themselves in Tom, especially the parent of a teenaged child. But rebellion in a world where suicide is not only socially acceptable, but encouraged, could be deadly. He’s fighting just to keep her alive, and then work interferes. Tom is an author, and he’s working on a story about a Norse cult, when something very odd happens. Suddenly he finds himself with not only his daughter to care for, but a tenth-century Jarl on his hands, who speaks no English and suffers no fools.
Tom’s life turning upside-down makes for a compelling read. There is action in this book, and violence, and a lot of internal conflict. The world Tom lives in looks as though it were ripped from the headlines of our own world, in the very near future. Only in Tom’s world, elves are real, and not at all sparkly nor wing’ed. Tom must come to grips with the reality of what is happening, and what he could do to make a difference. And he has to try to keep his daughter alive through it all.
There are moments of great beauty in the story, and in particular a recurring theme concerning singing as a group pastime. This really resonated with me, and Walker’s musing through his character strikes a chord “Maybe that was why America was dying, he thought absurdly. Maybe it was a simple deficiency of song.”
In light of recent kerfluffles on the internet, this spoke to me, as well. “It’s not a question of getting along in the sense of approval,” said Roy, turning his juice glass in his hands. He spoke deliberately, with conviction. “It’s a question of agreeing to disagree, and giving the other guy the right to be wrong.”
But this book is a fantasy, as close as it lies to our own world. And although it is dark in mood, it is not without hope… or humor. “From god to elves, from elves to fairies, from fairies to pixies and goblins and brownies,” said Tom. ” And in the end to an even lower thing – behavioral scientists.”