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The Road to Mars: A Post-Modem Novel Hardcover – August 31, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st edition (August 31, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037540340X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375403408
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #701,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Road to Mars is the second novel by Eric Idle--yes, that Eric Idle, the guy from Monty Python's Flying Circus. No, the book isn't like a Monty Python skit (and a good thing too, since silly sketches are no basis for a successful novel). Yes, Monty Python is mentioned in the book, but the self-referentiality is blessedly confined to two paragraphs. Yes, The Road to Mars is funny. It's also genuine science fiction. And it's satirical, sharply characterized, well-written, thoughtful, fun, and more complex than you'd expect from its picaresque structure, in which a stand-up-comedian odd couple and their robot knock around the outer planets in search of decent gigs. Well, Alex and Lewis are looking for work (and sex); their android, Carlton, unfazed by his own irony impairment, is trying to write a thesis about comedy. The trio quickly find themselves mixed up with a mysterious beauty, a famous diva, the captain of the solar cruise ship Princess Di, and a band of terrorists determined to blow up Mars.

In addition to The Road to Mars and Monty Python scripts, Eric Idle is the author of the SF/fantasy novel Hello Sailor (1975), the play Pass the Butler (1982), and the children's book The Quite Remarkable Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat. --Cynthia Ward

From Publishers Weekly

The latest romp from Monty Python alumnus Idle (Hello Sailor) almost has it all: torrid sex, huge disasters in outer space, outworld rebels plotting to save their people from annihilation, quirkily anthropomorphic robots, impossibly rich space moguls, enough one-liners to choke a brontosaurAand philosophy, too. The absence of an interior to any of the book's characters wouldn't be a fatal flaw if the jokes were funny enough or the plot sufficiently absorbing. However, the narrative meanders for long stretches with scene after scene whose only point is to set up a weak jokeAthe sort of thing that works so well as TV farce but, when passed off as a novel, is tedious. The book is ostensibly the work of one William J. Reynolds, chronicling the revolutionary theorizing of robot Carlton on the nature of comedy. (Oddly, Idle puts forward as Carlton's main theory a White Face/Red Nose classification that in fact has been a commonplace in clown theater for at least a century.) We follow the misadventures of two interplanetary stand-up comics, Muscroft and Ashby, quipping their way through exploding space colonies and sabotaged ships, looking for work. Churning around amid the levity are lumps of melodrama: narrator Reynold's recurring rage at being jilted; love-interest Katy's agonized childhood; beatings and deaths by the hundreds. There are some good laughs, but too many of the jokes are pointless and cheapAlike the book's subtitle, "A Post-Modem Novel"Aand the whole is strung together by oddments of erudition and sci-fi, with an ad hoc feel that begs for a blue pencil. Typically, Carlton's crowning insightAthe theory of levity as anti-gravityAis silly enough for a giggle, but insufficient as the high point of a novel. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

The continuing exploration of comedy and its origins I thought were very well thought out.
J. Surowiecki
There are too many holes, things not explained enough or not explained at all, and things meant to work on screen that in text form just don't make it.
S. Gibson
The first part of the story reads like bad Douglas Adams, but then Idle just starts trying too hard and the book gets worse.
J. Fuchs

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By S. Gibson on December 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I must admit serious amusement and minor shock over the venom being unloaded on this little confection of Eric's. I mean hey, it's just a book. Chill out, kids.
I own a copy of Hello Sailor and I can assure you all this is four million light-years better than that book. Eric has advanced mightily from that 1976 effort, moving on from the strange calculus of politics and sex (its main character's goal was to bed all the daughters of the British government's cabinet) to the richer, more rewarding issues posed by science, comedy, the future of humanity, and how the three relate to each other in turn.
That having been said, I tried to give this book 2 1/2 stars but can't do so under this system. And in the interest of full disclosure, I am compelled to state I'm exactly the sort of person who would watch a test pattern with Eric on it (hey, I videotaped Nearly Departed, for cryin' out loud). I ran out to buy this in hardback. I am also a great flaming fan of Pratchett (sp?) and Adams as well as the Red Dwarf series and Blackadder.
I feel the book is not as good as it should be, given Eric's prodigious talents, but not as bad as others would have you believe. In other words--wait for the paperback.
The schooled Python fan should have fun with this one, as RM's flaws are flaws one finds in Python productions--the female characters are poorly drawn (especially the romantic lead). The only female characters that threaten to be interesting are Brenda Wooley and the Sammy character, but both are cliches and the latter is killed before she can be rescued from one-dimensionalism. In fact I find it a bit disturbing that the android has more depth and complexity to him than any of the women in the book.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Rob Banzai on December 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Good lord! Such venom over a pleasant little book. Come on people, it's not supposed to give you the meaning of life. If you hated the "theory of comedy" theme, hated the characters, hated the plot and hated the setting what the hell were you doing picking this up in the first place? My suggestion: read the liner notes next time so you can run away screaming when you disagree with the content. Idle has done a good job of writing a funny sc-fi book. Not a Python sci-fi book, but simply a funny one with all of his usual clever verbal humor. yes, he bungled the ending and didn't manage the competing plots very well, but my book reading satisfaction isn't derived wholly from the ending! It's an amusing read and I look forward to his next effort. But I'll read the liner notes first.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Madeleine BAROUKHEL-MOUREAU (madeleine@baroukhel.claranet.fr) on November 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is not pythonesque, it is not this kind of book badly written by some star who can only get it published because he/she's a star. It's an elaborate, two-sided metaphysical thriller where lots of thought and personal experience can be found. One side is the story (the plot is quite prominent), which deals with very modern - sorry, modem - Gibson-like science-fiction, yet cleverly managing to keep the cartoon elements of your good old Star Wars space opera. The other side is the philosophy - a very acute backstage insight into the meaning of comedy as an explanation of the universe and a relief from humanity's burden. Like in the quantum theory, the narrator is part of the story and transforms it. There are also a satire of the charity business, rather pessimistic observations on the mechanics of political change, and a lot of strong and colourful (but not particularly likable) characters. I got quite hooked by the book and found it great in many ways. But I think it was wrongly advertised as a Douglas Adams-like piece of entertainment. It's complex and ambitious. Well done, Eric !
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Eminence Front on November 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I must admit that I adore Eric Idle, so I am biased, but truly this is a fantastic piece of fiction.
Idle weaves the story of two comedians, Alex and Lewis, who are trying to make it in a futuristic world of greed and sexuality. The human race is corrupt and Idle makes sure we realize it. Along their struggle for fame, Alex and Lewis meet up with a mega-diva Brenda Wolley (who represents the evils of fame) a mysterious, seductive young woman (isn't that always the case?) and various, notorious individuals. All of this is watched by Carlton, their curious android who has taken to studying comedy. Carlton provides many insights into why comedians do what they do, and the theories he creates are brilliant. One almost feels it's a pity Eric didn't just publish his theories so they'd be taken seriously.
Narrating all of this is the most dynamic character of the book- William Reynolds. Reynolds takes an active narrator roles in telling of his own problems with his girlfriend. Reynolds eventual spiral into corruption provides the most compelling story of the novel.
At the end, all of the story lines come together for a fantastic, albeit shattering, conclusion.
Idle inserts several hilarious in-jokes, plenty of one-liners, and enough comedy to keep it from over-drama. Still, the book is dramatic and, in several places, can be quite shocking. Inserting a heart-breaking passage about himself (a forgotten comic from the 21st century) Idle creates a self-aware, and touching, commentary on comedians.
Read this book. Twice. I didn't fully understand everything the first time, but I truly appreciate it on a re-reading. Anyone who wants to be a comedian should read this. In fact, you should just read this book when you get a chance. It's not flawless, but it is nearly so.
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