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.)
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