Authors: Sylvia Engdahl
Tags: #Science Fiction
From the reviews of
The Doors of the Universe
“Although it is the third book of a trilogy,
The Doors of the Universe
stands powerfully by itself as a quest for survival on a planet that is basically alien to the Six Worlds’ life forms. This is much more than an adventure story. It is one man’s realization of the need for change and his slow acceptance of the responsibility to lead that change… . One never gets bored with the story and it haunts the reader long after it is finished.”
—Journal of Reading
This Star Shall Abide
Beyond the Tomorrow Mountains
… serve as solid foundation for this powerful culminating volume that treats in far greater depth the philosophical/ethical/religious issues raised in the earlier books… . Engdahl’s latest story is certain to appeal to the thoughtful good reader.”
“Engdahl again proves herself a master storyteller in this third book of her sci-fi trilogy. As a converted sci-fi hater, I am again impressed with the depth of ideas that she explores…. The constant twists and expansions of plot keep the reader’s attention from lagging.”
—Provident Book Finder, Scottsdale PA
““Engdahl can make a reader forget her characters are on another planet, forget that they may not be human in precisely the way the people on this planet are, forget the problems Noren is facing are simply fiction… . Humanity, she says, transcends the definitions of outward form and physical location.”
“This book and its companions,
This Star Shall Abide
Beyond the Tomorrow Mountains,
will become classics of science fiction. They will not, unfortunately, be popular [with teens] because the intellectual level and reading difficulty will restrict their circulation to the more intelligent high school students.”
—Children’s Book Review, Brigham Young University
The Doors of the Universe
(Children of the Star, Book Three)
Ad Stellae Books, 2010
Copyright © 1981, 2000 by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
All rights reserved. For information contact [email protected] This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only, and may not be resold, given away, or altered.
This is the third book of a trilogy.
It is preceded by
This Star Shall Abide
Beyond the Tomorrow Mountains
. They can be read independently, although doing so will eliminate the suspense of the first book.
Atheneum edition (hardcover) published in 1981
Meisha Merlin edition (with minor updating) published in 2000 in the single-volume
Children of the Star
More information available at
Cover photo © by Ryan Pike / 123RF
“…The land was barren, and brought forth neither food nor pure water, nor was there any metal; and no one lived upon it until the Founding. And on the day of the Founding humankind came out of the sky from the Mother Star, which is our source. But the land alone could not give us life. So the Scholars came to bless it, that it might be quickened: they built the City; and they called down from the sky Power and Machines; and they made the High Law lest we forget our origin, grow neglectful of our bounden duties, and thereby perish. Knowledge shall be kept safe within the City; it shall be held in trust until the Mother Star itself becomes visible to us. For though the Star is now beyond our seeing, it will not always be so… .
“There shall come a time of great exultation, when the doors of the universe shall be thrown open and everyone shall rejoice. And at that time, when the Mother Star appears in the sky, the ancient knowledge shall be free to all people, and shall be spread forth over the whole earth. And Cities shall rise beyond the Tomorrow Mountains, and shall have Power, and Machines; and the Scholars will no longer be their guardians. For the Mother Star is our source and our destiny, the wellspring of our heritage; and the spirit of this Star shall abide forever in our hearts, and in those of our children, and our children’s children, even unto countless generations. It is our guide and protector, without which we could not survive; it is our life’s bulwark. And so long as we believe in it, no force can destroy us, though the heavens themselves be consumed! Through the time of waiting we will follow the Law; but its mysteries will be made plain when the Star appears, and the children of the Star will find their own wisdom and choose their own Law.”
—from the Book of the Prophecy
The day, like all days, had been hot; the clouds had dispersed promptly after the morning’s scheduled rain. As the hours went by the sun had parched the villages, penetrating the thatch roofs of their stone buildings. Now low, its light filtered by thick air, it subdued the sharp contrast between machine-processed farmland and the surrounding wilderness of native growth, a rolling expanse of purple-notched grayness that stretched to the Tomorrow Mountains. Sunlight was seldom noticed within the City, for the domes, and most rooms of the clustered towers they ringed, were windowless. But since long before dawn Noren had watched the landscape from the topmost level of a tower he’d rarely entered. Like the other converted starships that served as Inner City living quarters, it had a view lounge at its pinnacle. And it was there that he awaited the birth of his child.
He’d been barred from the birthing room—part of the nursery area where infants were tended until, at the age of weaning, they must be sent out for adoption by village families. That was off limits to all but the mothers and attendants. By tradition, Scholars could not see their children. Even the women did not, except when no wet nurse was available among Technician women. Talyra, as a Technician, would nurse her own baby. Whether that would make it easier or harder when the time came for her to give it up, he was not sure. The knowledge that she could not keep the child hadn’t lessened her gladness in pregnancy any more than it had tarnished his own elation. It would not affect their desire for many offspring in the years to come. Yet it did not seem fair—she’d given up so much for his sake… .
For the world’s sake, she would say, and it was truer than she imagined.
“In our children shall be our hope, and for them we shall labor, generation upon generation until the Star’s light comes to us,”
she’d quoted softly the night before, when her pains began. Unlike himself, Talyra had found the symbolic language of the Prophecy meaningful even during her childhood in the village. He too now used it, not just to please her but with sincerity.
“And the land shall remain fruitful, and the people shall multiply across the face of the earth,”
he’d replied, smiling. Then, more soberly,
“For the City shall serve the people; those within have been consecrated to that service.”
He knew that Talyra indeed felt consecrated, no less than he, though in a different way. Still, it troubled him that she could not know the truth behind the ritual phrases. She could not know that the City and its dependent villages contained but a remnant of the race that had once inhabited six vaporized worlds of the remote Mother Star, that to bring forth babies was not only an honor and sacred duty, but a necessity if humanity was to survive. Nor could she be told the main reason why Inner City people were not free to rear families, though it was obvious enough to her that the space enclosed by the Outer City’s encircling domes was limited.
She’d clung to his arm as they left their tiny room and walked across the inter-tower courtyard. At the door to the nursery area, she’d leaned against him with her dark curls damp against his shoulder. The pains were coming often; he knew they could not linger over the parting. And there was no cause to linger. Childbirth roused no apprehension in Talyra; she was, after all, a nurse-midwife by profession.
“It’s nothing to worry about, Noren,” she assured him happily. “Haven’t I been working in the nursery ever since I entered the City? Haven’t I wished for the day I could come here as a mother instead of just an attendant? Men always get nervous—that’s why we keep them out. We’ll send word when the child comes, you know that.”
“I’ll wait at the top of the tower,” he told her, “where I can look at the mountains, Talyra. Ours is the only child in the world to have begun life in the mountains. Maybe it means something that the wilderness gave us life instead of death.”
“It gave you your faith,” she murmured, kissing him. “We were blessed there from the start, darling—not simply when we were rescued. Let’s always be glad our baby’s beginning was so special.” She drew away; reluctantly, he let her go. They’d be separated only a few days, after all. Past separations, before their marriage, had been far longer and potentially permanent; he wondered why he felt so shaken by this brief one.
“May the spirit of the Star be with you, Talyra,” he said fervently, knowing these words were what she’d most wish to hear from him. The traditional farewell had become more than a formality between them, for Talyra took joy in the fact that he, once an unbeliever, had come to speak of the Star not only with reverence, but with a priest’s authority.
Now the long night had passed and also the day, and still no word had come. Far beyond the City, sunset was turning the yellow peaks of the Tomorrow Mountains to gold. Noren stared at the jagged range, the place where during the darkest crisis of his life, their child had been conceived. It was there that his outlook had changed. He did not share Talyra’s belief in the Star as some sort of supernatural force, yet he had felt underneath that the world’s doom was not as sure as it seemed. Perhaps that was why the aircar had crashed—perhaps there’d been more involved than bad piloting on his part; only that, and their unlooked-for survival, had kept him from his rash plan to publicly repudiate the Prophecy… .
After the crash, thinking himself beyond rescue, he had felt free, for once, of his search for peace of mind; he’d shaken off the depression that had burdened his previous weeks as a Scholar. He had at last stopped doubting himself enough to accept Talyra’s love. It had been a joyous union despite his assumption that they were soon to die, and afterward, he’d known she was right to maintain hope. Talyra, who knew none of the Scholars’ secrets, was almost always right about the things that mattered.
On just one issue was she blind—she saw nothing bad in the fact that Scholars kept secrets. Though she’d learned that they were not superhuman, she never questioned their supremacy as High Priests and City guardians; she perceived no evil in the existence of castes that villagers thought were hereditary. And she was therefore ineligible to attain Scholar rank. Talyra simply hadn’t been born to question things, Noren thought ruefully.
He could not communicate fully with Talyra. He couldn’t have done so even if no obligatory secrecy had bound him. She’d come to respect the honesty that had condemned him in the village of their birth. She had protested his confinement within the walls and had been admitted to the Inner City, given Technician rank, because she loved him enough to share it. The explanations she’d received contented her. It mattered little that she did not know, could never be allowed to know, that he’d ranked as a Scholar before committing himself to priesthood; the true nature of Scholar standing was past her comprehension.
While his status was concealed from her they could not marry; and though there’d have been no objection to their becoming lovers, he had held back while their future was uncertain. Talyra had been puzzled and hurt. Already she’d longed for a baby, Noren realized with chagrin, although she was as yet too young to be pitied for childlessness. In the City she wouldn’t be scorned as barren women were in the villages. He had assumed that since she could not rear a family, a delay in childbearing wouldn’t disturb her, or that if it did, she would break off her betrothal to him. At least that was what he liked to tell himself, though he knew he’d been too absorbed by his own problems to give enough thought to hers. There had been a time when he’d not cared to live, much less to love.