Well, sort of.
Portal is about two kids getting trapped in an alternative universe. The universe they ended up in was like ours, but a couple hundred years behind us technologically. I set it up that way because I wanted a bit of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court feeling to the novel — the kids had to figure out how to make do without modern inventions — no cars, no planes, no electricity . . . But then they use their middle-school knowledge to actually make a difference.
But why was this world a couple hundred years behind ours? I didn’t exactly have to explain this; my premise was that anyt event could split off another universe, as in Everett’s many-worlds theory. (Did I ever mention that I once saw his son perform at the Somerville Theater? I digress, however.) But I thought it would be an interesting plot point. So early on in the novel I had the kids figure it out: native Americans had a horrible disease (I called it drikana) that the first European explorers brought back with them. And it devastated Europe, the way that, in our world, smallpox devastated the Americas. The story of Guns, Germs, and Steel in reverse. Eventually Europeans built up immunity to the disease, but in the meantime the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution were delayed, and so the world the kids found themselves living in was still primitive compared to ours.
And of course the kids had no immunity to drikana. One of the kids comes down with it, and both end up quarantined, wondering if they will survive. Much drama and pathos ensues.
Having used this plot element in Portal, I didn’t trot it out again in its sequels, Terra and Home. But this nagged at me a bit — if I wanted this bit of realism in novels (that otherwise weren’t realistic in the slightest), I really should have had the threat of disease be a pervasive concern whenever you traveled to another world. If I were writing these novels nowadays, this threat would have loomed a lot larger, I’m sure.
Here you go:
Home (the portal series, book 3 ) is an alternative history adventure book. A masterpiece, Richard Bowler’s work on this is spectacular. In this epic coming of age sequel to TERRA, earthborn Larry Barnes discovers his ability to move through the multiverse via a portal of his own creation. A powerful and dangerous ability, Larry seeks the council of a priest named Affron, who has the same ability but when Larry discovers affron has disappeared from TERRA, he risks following him to Elysium leaving his friend pasta behind.
Let’s put aside some of the reviewer’s tiny mistakes, like getting my name wrong and allowing the character name “Palta” to be autocorrected to “pasta”, and focus on her uncanny perspicacity and critical judgment. Reviews don’t get any more perceptive than this.
This one is titled “A Fun and Grand Adventure”:
This story is so much fun! I love historical stories and getting to explore places of the past. This book takes it a step further and has created alternate histories that our hero, Larry, can visit through a power to make portals. In this book, Larry is in ancient Rome, trying to save Affron who has disappeared from Terra. The story is just complex enough to keep it interesting, but I never got confused. While I really enjoyed Elysium and the mysteries that it held, my favorite part of this book was the relationship between Larry and his best friend Palta, forced apart during the book their bid was interesting and full of depth. The story is fun, action-filled, and really interesting. I loved the alternate world that Richard Bowker has created. I would definitely recommend this book.
And here’s one titled “Super Entertaining”:
It seems like authors and audiences are obsessed with futuristic tales with alternate worlds colliding or fighting for power; I began HOME a bit skeptical, thinking there would be no original premise. I was utterly wrong.
The multi-universe created by Richard Bowker is just marvelous. In the story, Larry our hero has a unique power that allows him to “jump” from universe through universe via a portal. After attempting to follow and save a priest with whom he shares this gift, he needs to leave his soul mate Palta behind.
I struggled a bit at the beginning, connecting the dots –lots of names to learn- and figuring out who was whom; once I got accustomed to the names and terms, I enjoyed the book much more. I love the pondering question, that brought some self-reflection on humanity: where is home?
So, um, what are you waiting for?
I’m glad you asked. It’s called Terra — have I mentioned that? And it’s the follow-up to The Portal. Here’s the marketing blurb I wrote for it yesterday:
Larry Barnes thinks he’ll never use the portal again. The strange device that took him to a parallel universe has disappeared, and he is back living his normal life — until one day a beautiful woman appears and begs for his help. She tells him that the mysterious preacher he met in his travels is in trouble on another world, and only Larry can save him. Against his better judgment Larry enters the portal with her, and soon he finds himself in a desperate battle against a secret priesthood that wants to kill the preacher – and Larry. As he struggles to defeat the priests and return home, Larry begins to sense he may have powers that he never dreamed of, and he begins to understand that his fate is inextricably linked to that of the preacher . . . and the portal.
I don’t like these sorts of blurbs; they seem to suck everything that’s interesting or different out of a book in order to fit it comfortably into its genre. Maybe I can do better. Should I bring in the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics? That would probably help sell some copies, don’t you think?