claire murphy

On Dit: Threshold

threshold-1steditionThere’s hope for us Adelaidians yet! The woman who wrote this book is not only a Ph.D.-holding South Australian, she’s also an ex-Adelaide University student! What a legend. Sara Douglass’ new book, entitled Threshold, is a bizarre mix of magic and mathematical formula.

The setting is a world ruled by evil magi who strive to form the perfect union with the “one” (a mathematical formula equivalent to a god). The only way the magus can form this mystical connection is by building a pyramid so perfect in formula that when connected with the sun it will transport the magi into infinity and beyond (no, it has nothing to do with Buzz Lightyear). The main character is a young girl who was sold into slavery when her father accrued a few too many gambling debts. It is their skill as glass-craft workers that bring them to the building site of Threshold (aka big mathematical pyramid thing) where they are forced to produce massive sheets of plate glass to cover the entirety of the formation. From this moment on the story takes you through many a surprising doorway. The idea behind the story is awesome, the originality is refreshing and the author has managed to create a cast of characters surprising in their contrast.

The only thing I found rather unfortunate about the book is something I find disappointing in all (dare I say) ‘fantasy’ novels. It is that if a character needs a certain object or something of the like to get out of a situation, they simply magic it along. This doesn’t show a hell of a lot of imagination. The only other thing was the obligatory happy ending, slightly predictable, but with a twist that made it more interesting. The entire novel becomes connected by, believe it or not, frogs, and the author has the weird ability to endear the ugliest, foulest, slimy amphibians.

Overall I found Threshold to be great, if only because it does not give the impression of being written to a plan. It’s an excellent story, an excellent idea, and if you’re a mathematician it’s probably your ultimate fantasy. If you’re not in the mood to read any heavy statistical data, then Threshold is a great escape.

©1997 Claire Murphy / On Dit – the University of Adelaide student newspaper, April 1997. Reproduced from