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The Portal - Reviews
I wouldn't be surprised if this turned out to be a Sci-fi Classic, Apr 18, 2014
By Laura Rose at Fantascize.com and Fantasy and Sci-fi Rock My World on Facebook
"Scarily believable. And the end...I won't lie, I cried." excerpted from the video review at
4.0 out of 5 stars, Clever, Competently Crafted, Dec 14, 2012
By Denis Dube at Goodreads.com
This clever and competently crafted self-published novel is fast paced and action packed SF, but what stands out is the emotional ups and downs the featured characters must live through throughout this multi-generational yarn. They are believable (though the introspective protagonist Harry might seem to be simply too flawless, but he is the hero and the teller of this story, thus can't help but put himself in the best light).
The first part reads much like a Heinlein juvenile with a youth mentored by a strong minded senior role model, the boy's ailing grandfather. This then becomes a story of young unrequited love. From there, the heartbroken and tormented Harry turns to the love of the game of baseball (of all things). It is obvious that Zendell, loves and knows baseball. His 22nd century America might have gone through several technological, cultural and economical changes, but baseball has not changed other than it becoming, once again, the unchallenged number one American sport, surpassing football, basketball and the apparently extinct game of hockey! But I digress.
Though well thought out and intelligent, with many good ideas such as the discovery and development of the portal itself, the redistribution of fresh water from the north to the south by way of canals, the science fiction aspects of this novel are secondary, being merely a backdrop for a story mostly concerned with the loss of loved ones and the rebuilding of a nation that has fallen to economic ruin.
This is not to say that this is a perfect novel. Perhaps, it could have used a little more refinements in some places. However, it is memorable and in the end, “The Portal” is a good read.
I look forward to reading more works by Alan Zendell.
4.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed reading this book..., March 6, 2012
By Megan at Goodreads.com
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. I really enjoyed reading this book. At first it took me a little while to get into, but about halfway through I couldn't wait to find out what happened, and got very emotionally attached to the characters. I loved the ending, and definitely started to get teary eyed.
4.0 out of 5 stars One step at a time..., February 26, 2012
One step at a time Harry changes the world around him, and it is an amazing thing to behold. I love how he never lets anyone dissuade him from what he truly wants, and even though he may often fail, he is smart enough to learn from his mistakes. Tragedy strikes at his heart more than once, but he perseveres and becomes a better man for it.
I really enjoyed the direction this story takes, and how Harry helps a country heal itself instead of just relying on an easy way out.
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! October 17, 2011
By Dan, Baltimore
I really didn't know what to expect with this book. I bought it from the author during a book festival in Baltimore the other day because the story sounded interesting. I'm glad I did! The writing itself is good, though it could have been better in a couple places. For example, Harry is almost a little too good at times (he's what I'd like to be as a person, but in reality most of us fall far short), and the author skips some large portions of Harry's life in getting from one part of the story to another. I think he could have made the book at least 50 pages longer and still had a very strong story. I would have liked to have known some other things that happened in this world.
But what really struck me is that this is one of the greatest STORIES I've ever read. The premise itself is fantastic. Its almost epic in scale in terms of what's happening in the background, but the story itself always feels much more intimate. It never feels like science fiction, though that premise lurks in the background. It felt more like it took place during the 60's, but with a VERY realistic dystopian bit thrown in as well. Think "The Sandlot" with love, economic collapse, and a sprinkling of sci-fi. And of course, baseball.
The book had an idyllic, innocent feel to it, despite its darker passages. The dystopian vision I think was by far the best and most well though-out I've seen. And the concepts that Harry and the president devise to revitalize the country were fantastic. They could really work, even now, to a degree. I truly felt attached to the characters, and found them to be very well thought out too. From Harry's mom's hangups, to Mindy's neediness, to the almost mystical bond Harry has with Lorrie...I get them all.
This was not your typical sci-fi, but it is one of the best things I've read in a long time and was immensely satisfying. I can't wait to read more!
No Star Rating, October 1, 2011
The Portal by Alan Zendell is one of the most smoothly written self-published novels I have experienced. Zendell's writing is of a good quality, and there are very few mistakes that registered while I was reading my .mobi copy of this book. He has a very natural quality to his prose that kept me entertained throughout.
I enjoyed the story a great deal, but felt that there could have been a great deal more emphasis on the futuristic aspects and the drive to inhabit other planets in a bid to escape the mess created on this world. Zendell pitched a good idea here, but didn't fully explore it. Rather, we have more of a psychological thriller - as Lorrie disappears from Harry's life, and we discover the emotional impacts this will have on his future. This saddens me a little, because I would have preferred much more concerning the state of Earth and the reasons for looking towards the stars. The areas of The Portal that dealt with this really were of high quality, and presented a dark future of what might happen to our own world.
I would recommend taking a look at The Portal as a decent example of what self-publishing can achieve. Zendell is a writer with talent - one of those who probably would be able to gain a publishing deal with future novels if he continues to turn out work of this standard. Definitely worth reading if you are sceptical about the quality of self-published novels.
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant Story that Will Tug at Your Heart, September 30, 2011
By Misty, "Gamer Mom," Kentucky, USA
I am a self-proclaimed helpless romantic. However, I like to write (and read) love stories that don't fit the usual mold. Alan Zendell does just that in this bittersweet sci-fi romance set in a dystopian future, where hope is almost a thing of the past.
The story is told as a recollection. It begins with the narrator, the young Harry Middleton. He's a special kid of super-high intelligence, so much so that it overwhelms him at times and keeps him from relating well to his parents. His grandfather is the only one who really understands him, until Lorrie Grissom comes along. Despite being only fourteen, the two of them know that they have something very special. Even with his shaky relationship with his parents, Harry's life isn't too bad. Lorrie's, however, is quite different. Her mother, after becoming a widow, has turned to drugs and a very dangerous man.
Harry's world gets turned upside down when Harry's grandfather dies. When Lorrie disappears, he thinks his life has ended. Yet, like tragedy in real life, the ones left behind have to move on or drown in grief. Mr. Zendell handles this aspect masterfully. Harry decides to get on with his life, and though the reader (and Harry) longs for him to find Lorrie again, his decision to make positive strides starts a chain reaction that benefits everyone. He never forgets Lorrie, though, and within the pages of Harry's progression, I found myself on the edge of my seat, wondering when she'd reappear.
I won't give any more away, and the only negatives of the book were that some long political and introspective passages bogged down the pace for me. By the time I reached the last few chapters, however, I couldn't read it fast enough. The climactic ending was superbly done.
I'd recommend this book for adults, particularly those who enjoy sci-fi, dystopian, and your non-formulaic romance. Grab your copy today!
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing Story of Love and the Future, August 30, 2011
By Jonathan Brazee, Bangkok, on Amazon
The author asked me to read his Wednesday's Child to review, which I did. As almost an afterthought, he included The Portal, which he never asked me to review. I almost didn't read it, but with my Kindle out of other books while on a flight I pulled it up. In almost every way, The Portal is a much better book, one which ranks up with some of the best fiction being written today.
I found myself totally caught up in the tale of Harry Middleton in a diminished United States.The story starts out with a young Harry in a United States where a century of economic decline has changed the landscape. Despite huge technological advances, most Americans have a very low quality of life. With a mother who doesn't seem to connect with him, Harry's saving grace is his grandfather, a man who takes him under his wing, a man who understands him. When his grandfather's declining health relegates him to a nursing home, Harry is lost, and he watches with despair as his grandfather's mind slips away. Then he meets Lorrie, a young, pretty girl with whom he starts a slow-burning, slow-developing relationship, one which gradually grows into love.Unfortunately, an incident takes Lorrie away from him, and his anchor is broken once again. Harry has one huge advantage, though. He can play baseball, and along with Carlos, a teammate at school, he gets a scholarship, then gets drafted into the bigs. While the future salaries are not what present major-leaguers make, still, the hefty salary opens many doors for him.
While this is going on, the nation is captivated by a star mission, a step out into the universe which is supposed to pull the country out of its depression.Harry grows up in the story. He makes a good living, has his loves, children, and experiences life. He starts a microfinancing company with Carlos, and becomes a posterboy for economic development, which the president is only too happy to recount. Despite his life, though, there is always the ghost of his long-lost love, Lorrie.
One thing I like about this novel is that when Harry is a child, the book rings true. I feel I am reading about a child, not a hollow construct of an adult pretending to be a child. This is rare in fiction. And I really care about what happens to him.Zendell's portrayal of the USA is very interesting, and unfortunately, a possibility. I don't think it is a probability, but it is certainly reasonable given current trends.While the term "microfinancing" is never used, Harry and Carlos set up a classic microfinancing venture. Zendell's description of it is pretty accurate.
While I really enjoyed the novel, one aspect jarred my sense of reasonability, and that revolved around sex. Harry, in many ways, is sexless. Oh, he has a lot of it with his university girlfriend, and that seems OK, but when he is younger, he has no real interest in it, and decides to wait for it with his relationships. Not many teenage boys in my experience could be described as having the same outlook on the subject. But there are other things as well. The impetus for him to break up with his university girlfriend is when she sleeps with another man (one not in as good physical condition as Harry, which seems to particularly bother him). This might seem reasonable, but couple that with the description of a swingers party young Harry and Lorrie observe, where the tone of the writing is that anyone swinging is utterly and hopelessly depraved, well, the outlook on sex is a discordant note the otherwise smooth narrative, perhaps more especially in that Zendell so admirably refrains from being preachy when writing about the economic, political, and criminal decline of society.
Despite that one conflict for me, this is really a superb story, better than the novel Zendell originally asked me to read. It is at heart a love story, but it is so much more. I highly, highly recommend it.
4.5 out of 5 Stars, Neither time nor space will pull Harry and Lorrie apart in this marvelous love story, August 23, 2011
By Zee Bell, on Fire Pages: Romance Edition
Harry’s love for Lorrie is the driving force of this tale. As a teenager, completely alone, and with only the company of his schoolmate Carlos, Harry decides that he will do whatever it takes to find and become reunited with Lorrie, his soul mate who has disappeared. Throughout his life, and amidst the backdrop of highly advanced technology, a plummeting economy and an important star mission, every decision Harry makes has Lorrie in mind. I found their connection, although brief and while they were young in age, to be quite powerful,… powerful enough to change lives and hearts. Harry’s commitment to Lorrie’s memory and his dedication to finding her was very moving. I believed in Harry and Lorrie’s connection because Harry was so invested in their love and their eventual future together. Sure there were other women who came in and out of Harry’s life, but until he found Lorrie, there was no way he could really commit himself to another.
I loved Zendell’s dark background in which this story is set in. The government and the desperate decisions it makes in regards to the star mission, the pessimistic mood of the people as a whole, and the helplessness felt by the citizens and by Harry come alive in Zendell’s novel. Because of this dreary attitude that blankets Harry’s world, every emotion feels amplified, more real. Watching Harry grow up and listening to his thoughts made his life more than a journey; it was like watching his soul evolve, knowing that maybe your own soul is capable of such an experience.
This is the first novel I have reviewed for Zendell, but I was immediately taken with his writing style. Even though there is a science fiction element to the story with the Portal, advanced technology, and star mission, I never felt overwhelmed, and the use of technology was never a distraction from the main love story, making it very easy for me to relax and enjoy the story. I think the Portal is an excellent love story and a job well done by Alan Zendell.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great science fiction with a romantic heart, June 24, 2011
By Cindy Young-Turner, on Amazon
The Portal is at its core a love story. In a somewhat bleak futuristic world, teenage Harry and Lorrie meet and realize they are soulmates. When the outside world intrudes and pulls Lorrie away, Harry goes through life still carrying her in his heart. The Portal has romance, politics, even baseball--all set against a believable and fully developed vision of the future.
Alan Zendell's writing brings this story to life, offering an interesting take on the future and well-drawn characters. The shadow of Lorrie seems to affect all that Harry does, and how he will resolve his feelings for her adds tension and intrigue to a plot with some interesting twists and turns. I was pulled into the story by the characters, from Harry's beloved and opinionated grandfather, to a young precocious Harry, to the troubled and wise beyond her years Lorrie, and then Harry's streetwise friend and teammate Carlos. This is a great science fiction story that has a little something for everyone.