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Other Voices, Other Doors
Patrick O'Leary
Fairwood Press, 200 pages

Rick Lieder
Other Voices, Other Doors
Patrick O'Leary
With only two published novels so far, Door Number Three and The Gift, O'Leary has garnered a broad base of fans for his fiction. The success of the first books has encouraged him to continue his craft while working as an Associate Creative Director at Campbell-Ewald Advertising in Warren, Michigan. He makes his home in Detroit with his wife and sons.

Patrick O'Leary Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Gift
SF Site Review: Door Number Three

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

Patrick O'Leary came to the attention of SF readers a few years ago with his excellent first novel, Door Number Three, an intriguing story about an alien visiting Earth in a woman's body. Which is a very sketchy and perhaps misleading way of describing the book: it's much more than that, and very much worth reading. His second novel, a fantasy called The Gift, was also very well-received. He seems to be a novelist primarily, but while readers wait for his next novel, we are offered this collection, Other Voices, Other Doors, which brings together eight short stories (five of them new), several essays, and a number of poems, most of the latter having been published in "little" magazines (such as The Little Magazine).

I said O'Leary seems to be a novelist primarily. This is, for the most part, reflected in the stories, which are built on clever or scary ideas but many of which don't quite work for me. They are still worth reading; they buzz with neat images and nice wordplay, and a few are better than that. My favourite was "Before and After," a very different mainstream story about a married man, shortly after the birth of his first child, who starts to frequent a strip club. Eventually, he finds his way to an unexpected "private room," and learns something about sex and responsibility: before and after. "23 Skidoo" is intriguing as well. It's another take on the idea behind Door Number Three: aliens visiting Earth in human bodies. And "The Problem Phone" is by turns funny and clever, about a new phone with a very special service.

The essays are passionate work, and very well done. O'Leary promotes some of his favourite artists: Randy Newman, Van Morrison, Gene Wolfe, and Spider Robinson. These aren't routine criticism, either, but nice imaginative pieces, building for example on the Book of Job for the Newman piece, and on the Wizard of Oz for the Wolfe piece. He also touches on politics, and he discusses the genesis of some of his fiction. Plus there is a neat sketch about the right way to respond to a critic. (Hmmm, maybe I better be a little more effusive in my praise!)

Finally, I was pretty impressed by the poetry. It's very sound contemporary poetry, almost always interesting, and in a couple of instances really striking. I particularly liked "You You Were Naked," "Somewhere Like Leonardo" and the self-referential "This is a Poem."

As I said, on the evidence O'Leary is at his best at novel length (or writing poetry). The short stories here are decent, sometimes rather better, but not always wholly successful. The essays are fine, and the poetry quite good -- this is a book worth having, but get the novels first, if you haven't found them already. And it's worth mentioning that this is the first trade paperback from Fairwood Press, the fine folks who publish Talebones: it's always nice to see another publisher trying to keep short fiction in print.

Copyright © 2001 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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