Quick Book Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix R. Harrow

Image credit: Orbit/Little Brown Book Group

I adored The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. It’s a beautifully written, magical, and often heart-breaking story that captivated me from start to finish.  Plus, the pacing is just right in that it doesn’t speed the story along, but it also doesn’t hold everything back while it goes through hundreds of pages of fluff.

I didn’t actually read this book, I listened to it after using one of my credits on Audible. I always have to be a bit picky with audiobooks as the narrator can have a voice that I just can’t get along with. So, my tip here is to always listen to the sample on Audible first, that way you instantly know if it’s a voice that’s going to grate on you or not. Thankfully, The Ten Thousand Doors of January is brilliantly performed by January LaVoy (I see what you did there!) who manages to make all the different characters sound unique.  

The Ten Thousand Doors of January tells the story of January Scaller, a young girl who lives a mostly closeted life in the care of the wealthy Mr. Locke. Her father is never around, as he’s off doing the bidding of Mr. Locke by collecting unique artefacts from around the world, artefacts that don’t actually belong in our world. Without getting into spoiler territory, January’s world eventually expands when she begins to learn about her father’s past, the existence of thousands of other worlds, as well as the means to access these worlds through various doors. 

One thing I loved is the intriguing text within a text approach where January is both telling the story from the POV of her future self, as well as interspersing the text with chapters from the book within a book (which features the same name as the book you’re reading: The Ten Thousand Doors of January).  Through these you’ll learn about how January came to end up at Mr. Locke’s and just how special a girl she really is.

I do wish there had been some more exploring of other worlds, although one of the worlds, The Written, is described in such detail that I’d love to live there. Harrow has crafted an absorbing world that I want to delve into again and again, so hopefully she’ll return to it in the future (on Goodreads Harrow has said that ‘there’s room for further adventures’ in response to a question).

I’m sure there would be plenty more I want to say about this book and it’s themes, but I neglected to make notes as I listened and I’m finding it hard to delve deeper when I have nothing to refer to (I don’t want to read other reviews, as that will just colour my opinion). I also think listening to it on Audible can mean you miss chunks as your mind wanders, although in this case I listened to the majority of it while I was washing dishes every night and that monotonous task did help me soak more of the novel in. Besides, this is supposed to be a short review, so I don’t want to go on forever. This is also the first ‘proper’ book review I’ve written in years.

To sum up, this is an imaginative and wonderful book. I’m a real sucker for stories that feature mysterious or parallel worlds that butt up against our own (I’m also reading The Long Earth series that has a similar setting) that may just turn out to be my favourite book of 2021, and it’s only February! 

You can purchase The Ten Thousand Doors of January on Amazon*. Here’s the version I listened to on Audible*.

Please note: Links to products on Amazon generate a commission that helps pay the costs for hosting this website. These links have a ‘*’ next to them. Find out more in my disclaimer.

Screaming Is Cathartic

Woman screaming

If the last 10 months of this god-awful pandemic have taught me anything, it’s that screaming is cathartic. I’ve often found myself randomly screaming, mostly when I’ve been home alone, if only to relieve some tension from being trapped at home all the time. Millions of people all no doubt feel the same, and thousands of them found a way to just scream.

The Just Scream project has collected over 130,000 screams from October 2020 to January 2021. They asked people to call a number, scream in whatever way they felt, then hang up. It’s now over (they’re collecting messages of hope at the moment) but you can still listen to them over on the website. I listened to a few and I was impressed at how varied a human scream can be.

This reminds me of an ad campaign run by Promote Iceland that I gleefully took part in. You scream ‘to let it out’ and they’ll play back your scream through real speakers peppered throughout Iceland. They’ll send you a recording once your scream has aired.

Apparently screaming is also good for you. There’s a thing called ‘primal scream therapy’ that Kanye West is a fan of. I can totally imagine Kanye West being the kind of person to stand in a room and scream. It can help you release anger and frustration, as well as help you with anxiety issues.

Although you can’t just do it yourself and should hire a therapist who specialises in it. Because if you can think of it, there’s money in it.

Anyway, if you’re interested you can read a bit more about primal scream therapy over at Shape.com.

Speaking of the pandemic. In the U.K. we did a ‘clap for the NHS’ that became a bit of a cringe-fest (I’m all for supporting the NHS, it’s a wonderful thing, but I’m sure most NHS would agree that they’d rather have better wages for the hard work they do than a clap at your front door once a week), but I’m all for standing at your front door and just screaming loudly into the night. Although I’m not sure my neighbours would agree!

Now if you’ll excuse me…. AAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!

Are We Seriously Debating Feeding Hungry Kids Or Not?

I began writing this post while the news was again dominated by the free school meals scandal. It’s been a few weeks since then, but since I’d wrote the majority of this post and it will always be an important issue, I wanted to finish and publish it anyway. 

This situation should, of course, always be at the forefront of the news as long as the UK government continues to get it disastrously wrong. I could also say that about the coronavirus pandemic, but that’s a focus for another day.

Footballer Marcus Rashford campaigned hard to ensure that kids would still be receiving free school meals, even when trapped at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. He did a fantastic job at bringing widespread attention to it, which culminated in the government backing down and agreeing to supply the meals

But the issue that arose last week is that the meals are, shall we say, lacklustre.

Led by author and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe and Marcus Rashford, images began appearing across Twitter of the free school meals parcels that were being sent out. Before long, Twitter exploded, and I was seeing them everywhere. 

The Mystery Flesh Pit National Park Is Amazing Worldbuilding!

One of the best things about blogging back in the pre-2010 era when the big social media websites were still finding their feet was the randomness of it all. I could spend hours trawling the blogosphere. It wasn’t just about reading about random people’s lives. The best thing was coming across some weird and wonderful things that just begged to be blogged about.

Of course, nowadays you can just send out a quick tweet, but I do feel as though social media takes away the wonder of just exploring the Internet. Part of the reason I started this blog is to share things that interest me, and weird creative stuff is one of the many things that interest me. Enter the Mystery Flesh Pit National Park.

Ok, so I’d be lying if I said I’d discovered this while randomly trawling the Internet. I heard about it on a recent episode of Waypoint Radio, a gaming podcast from Vice. The Mystery Flesh Pit National Park began as posts on the subreddit r/Worldbuilding. The posts document a fictional National Park where the star attraction is a giant orifice in the Earth’s surface that is literally made of flesh. Underneath the surface lies a massive superorganism, with its internals regularly explored by thousands of tourists.

I’ll let its creator Trevor Roberts, describe it better:

The Mystery Flesh Pit is the name given to a bizarre natural geobiological feature discovered in the permian basin region of west texas in the early 1970s. The pit is characterized as an enormous subterranean organism of indeterminate size and origin embedded deep within the earth, displaying a vast array of highly unusual and often disturbing phenomena within its vast internal anatomy.

Following its initial discovery and subsequent survey exploration missions, the surface orifice of the Mystery Flesh Pit was enlarged and internal sections were slowly reinforced and developed by the Anodyne Deep Earth Mining corporation who opened the Pit as a tourist attraction in 1976. In the early 1980s, the site was absorbed into the National Park System which operated and maintained the Mystery Flesh Pit until its sudden closure in 2007.

The Mystery Flesh Pit National Park

The best place to follow this fascinating project is to check out the Tumblr blog, where Roberts says new art and lore will be posted at a minimum of twice a month. You get such delights as this beautiful cutaway page that reminds me of Dorling Kindersley books:

Or this one showing a map of the ‘Amniotic Thermal Springs’ where visitors can bathe in amniotic fluids for its perceived health benefits:

There are also adverts:

You can also read a detailed investigation conducted by the US government into the disaster that ultimately led to the closure of the Mystery Flesh Pit National Park to tourists.

I LOVE stuff like this. I love how much detail, world building and sheer amount of creativity that gets put into something that’s entirely fictional, but comes across as if it could be very real. I’m also interested in fiction that creates parallel universes that are very close to our own reality, but with random batshit things like this in them.

If you know of more projects similar to this then drop them in the comments as I’d love to explore them!

The Economy Will Recover, But Your Grandma Won’t Come Back From The Dead

Sign outside cinema that says 'the world is temporarily closed' due to coronavirus

It’s the second week of the third coronavirus lockdown in the UK. If you were surprised that the beginning of 2021 would be any different to the horrendous year that was 2020, I would have to wonder just what drugs you’re taking.  

Of course, the frontline NHS staff that are fighting the coronavirus knew that no relief was coming anytime soon. In fact, as they’ve been telling us for months, things were about to get worse. We’re now we moving into the thick of winter with all its numerous illnesses.

Christmas and the seemingly non-existent party season (although some people went ahead and had parties anyway, regardless of what effect that would have on a health system that’s nearing the edge of collapse) were always going to add tens of thousands more infections to the daily statistics. Part of this is because there are still people who think making individual sacrifices for the good of your fellow countrymen is apparently an attack on their freedoms. It’s a selfish world we live in now, where caring about others seems to make you a ‘lefty snowflake’. It’s always funny how those who throw out the word ‘snowflake’ are usually the most offended by literally nothing.

Look, we’d all love to return to normal (whatever that is in this increasingly chaotic world). I’m a self-confessed hermit who loves nothing more than getting in my PJ’s and settling down for a night in front of the TV with my wife, but even I’m getting fed up of being shut inside all the time. But it’s not as if this virus is going to go away anytime soon, even with the vaccine rollout, so there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it but follow the rules. 

Our Road to a New Family Member

The last couple of months of 2017 were a pretty rubbish time for us. As I’ve blogged about before, we lost our first baby not long before Christmas, which would be a shitty end to anyone’s year. But, by the summer of 2018, things were finally looking up.  

A photo of us taken during our holiday to Cornwall at Tintagel Castle - just before we found out the good news
A photo of us taken during our holiday to Cornwall at Tintagel Castle – just before we found out the good news!

We’d decided to relax and just see what would happen. If we got pregnant again then that would be brilliant, but we didn’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves for it to happen. We had an amazing holiday to Cornwall where we simply relaxed and toured some of the most beautiful locations in the UK. Times were good, and they were about to get better. 

Just after returning from Cornwall, I was out in our back garden mowing the lawn that had grown to jungle proportions while we were away on holiday. Alex had gone to the nearby Tesco Express, likely to procure some junk food for the night ahead (we must spend a fortune in that place!).

I didn’t notice she’d returned until she walked out of the backdoors and into the garden. She had her hands behind her back, which wasn’t unusual after returning from the shop as Alex often brings a surprise home for me, she’s cute like that. But, as corny as it may sound, what she had behind her back was our future.  

Yep, that’s as corny as it sounded when I decided to write that.