A Wind in the Door
This book is, well, strange. For one thing, it’s intensely allegorical. For another thing, most of the action takes place in a strange realm of pure ‘being’ where things such as time and space do not exist. So the plot is a bit difficult to summarize. Basically, it involves the cosmic battle between good and evil, and several human beings — as well as a couple of angelic beings — who are called to participate first-hand in this battle, as it centers upon one human boy — and one impossibly small being which lives inside him.
The battle unfolds on a spiritual rather than space-time scale, hence the book’s emphasis on the relativity (and irrelevance) of distance, time, and size. Galaxies and sub-atomic particles are equally important in the war between good and evil. Distance is irrelevant to the immaterial. The book’s imagery attempts to depict purely spiritual concepts through allegorical portrayals. The enemies are known as Echthroi and are pure nothingness. Their means of attack against the good include hatred, deception, pride, lust for power, rebellion, selfish pleasure-seeking, and destruction. Goodness responds with humility, self-sacrifice, recognition of one’s place in the ‘dance of creation’, and above all, love (which is an action, not a feeling). At its most basic, the war which the book portrays takes place between love — which fills, makes significant, and Names — and nothingness, which simply annihilates. The book’s theme is significance: each being, no matter its relative ‘size’, is significant in the fight between good and evil, and each thing (though the book is not entirely explicit about this implied meaning) is Named by its Creator, created for a purpose and given unique being through Him. Each being is called to play a role in the battle between good and evil, and each must choose to follow his or her path.
All of this works quite well morally, though as a novel this philosophy exercise perhaps doesn’t work quite as well. The writing is pretty good, but it’s hard for a novelist to describe action which doesn’t occur in time or space and make it convincing; as a story I felt the book fell a little flat. It felt overpowered by exposition rather than action. And there are a few confusing bits stemming from this difficulty. My only real moral issue with the book is its seeming implication that a sort of suicide is the acceptable response to defeat by the forces of evil. It’s better to destroy yourself than be destroyed by the Echthroi, it appears. Even though the characters believe that this type of self-destruction is not eternal annihilation, this portrayal of a situation in which a character’s only choices are suicide and spiritual surrender is morally questionable.