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The Road to Samarcand: An Adventure Hardcover – July 17, 2007


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The Road to Samarcand: An Adventure + The Unknown Shore + The Letter of Marque (Vol. Book 12)  (Aubrey/Maturin Novels)
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This stand-alone adventure novel from O'Brian (1914–2000) saw British publication in 1954, before the Aubrey/Maturin historicals that made his name. In the years before WWII, the teenage Derrick, orphaned by his missionary parents, sails the China seas aboard the schooner Wanderer with his American uncle Terrence Sullivan (who is the captain), his elderly English cousin Ayrton (a professor of archeology) and Sullivan's business partner, Mr. Ross. Ayrton wants Derrick to leave the sea and attend school, but first they'll all embark on an archeological expedition to Samarcand (in what is now Uzbekistan). Marauding rebels capture Ross and Sullivan early on, and Ayrton (the most intriguing of the adult characters) pretends to be a Russian weapons expert to free them. Earthy, sly humor keeps the action set pieces perking along: frigid temperatures, militaristic Tibetan monks and even the Abominable Snowman await. Six decades later, O'Brian's richly told adventure saga, with its muscular prose, supple dialogue and engaging characters, packs a nice old-school punch. (July)
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Review

"Earthy, sly humor keeps the action set pieces perking along: frigid temperatures, militaristic Tibetan monks, and even the Abominable Snowman await. Six decades later, O'Brian's richly told adventure saga, with its muscular prose, supple dialogue, and engaging characters, packs a nice old-school punch." --Publishers Weekly --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (July 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393064735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393064735
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #996,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In addition to twenty volumes in the highly respected Aubrey/Maturin series, Patrick O'Brian's many books include "Testimonies," "The Golden Ocean," and "The Unknown Shore". O'Brian also wrote acclaimed biographies of Pablo Picasso and Sir Joseph Banks and translated many works from the French, among them the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Lacouture's biographies of Charles de Gaulle. He passed away in January 2000 at the age of 85.

Customer Reviews

It is an excellent business trip book since it is a fast read or it was for me.
Charles from Redondo Beach
The reader will be rewarded with an entertaining book and a large helping of Chinese history.
Paul Wirtz
Lots of action, but the characters are not well fleshed out (for adult readers).
BillF

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By MR LIAM B KEELEY on June 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Given O'Brian's cult status, I'm surprised not to see any reviews of this early work up. Briefly, it is a "Boy's Own" type adventure set in Central Asia. Some of the adult character were featured in some of O'Brian's early short stories. I can't prove it, but I'm inclined to think it owes something to Fritz Muhlenweg's "Big Tiger and Christian," which I read as a teenager. I guess I would have to look at the respective dates to build a solid case. The other related fact which springs to mind is that O'Brian's translated "The Horsemen", Joseph Kessel's novel set in Afghanistan, which I suppose is some kind of indication of O'Brian's ongoing interest in Central Asia. "The Horsemen" was later made into a film (1970), starring Omar Sharif. If you enjoy the "The Road to Samarcand", I am pretty sure you'd enjoy "The Horsemen" and "Big Tiger", too.
I think O'Brian was adept at reading something like "Big Tiger and Christian" for background and then being able to write something with a similar setting, which as a result of his background reading, coupled with his writing ability, conveyed great authority. There are some marvellous throw away lines which serve to deliniate the charcters, such as the brief mention of a barroom brawl in which an ear was bitten off and a lasting friendship formed. I see the character of the professor in "The Road to Samarcand" as very similar to that of Stephen Maturin, and indeed prehaps prefiguring him - vague, gentlemanly, but capable of ruthless, coldblooded action when necessary. In some ways he is the most strongly drawn charcter. The presence of the adults makes this book rather different to "Big Tiger and Christian", in which the focus is on the resourceful two boys of the title. I can't help thinking that in the hands of someone like Miyazaki Hayao, the story would make a marvelous "anime manga" along the lines of his "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" or "Porco Russo."
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By to read is to live on September 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Judging from this book, Patrick O'Brian was a fan of James Hilton's "Lost Horizon," the classic 1930s paperback that is said to be the first US paperback bestseller.

Hilton's wistful look at life in the remote Himalayas (in a fictional village he called "Shangri-La") was written in the 1930s in the shadow of the coming war, whereas O'Brian's book, though written in 1954, is set back in that same time period. And as the journey to Samarcand unfolds, O'Brian's heroes ultimately enter a land of icy, incredibly remote mountains strangely reminiscent of Hilton's lost horizon. Readers of both books will discover still more connections and resonances between them as they get to the later portions of the Road to Samarcand.

Still, there's much more to this book to like, particularly the deadpan humor and the deepening character development of what initially seem to be stock comic figures, in classic O'Brian style.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on September 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Patrick O'Brian published "The Road to Samarcand" in 1954, even before "The Golden Ocean" and "The Unknown Shore," the two "juvenile" nautical novels that in many ways were precursors of his later great series of novels featuring Captain "Lucky Jack" Aubrey and Doctor Stephen Maturin. "The Road to Samarcan," itself a novel written for a youth audience, is less clearly ancestral to the later series, but there are at least faint foreshadowings, including the Professor Ayrton, the archaeologist cousin of the teenaged central character. Ayrton is both a formidible intellectual presence as well as a source of humor (he is utterly unable to master American slang, despite his easy confidence that he can speak the jargon like a native).

Although "The Road to Samarcan" does contain nautical elements (it starts aboard the schooner "Wanderer" in the South China Sea), most of the book involves wild, somewhat improbably adventures in the wilds of western China and Tibet, with encounters with bandits and murderous monks, along with the even greater peril of nature. As might be expected in a Patrick O'Brian tale, the narrative dances through a wide array of subjects, including wildlife, Chinese history, and Tibetan culture. It all makes for a "fun" read, even if it is not up to the level of the Aubrey-Maturin books.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Paul Wirtz on August 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Written only a short time before "Master and Commander," this book gives no hint of the series of 21 "Aubrey/Maturin" books which the "New York Times" book review editor said were probably "the best historic novels of the (20th) century."

This is not to say that the book is not well-written or interesting; while there is a portion dealing with the sea, most of the actiion takes place in the Chinese/Mongolian desert a century or so ago. The time element is somewhat confused by the introdction of a "deus ex machina" in the form of a sturdy and easy-to-fly helicopter, before a practical one existed. The reader will be rewarded with an entertaining book and a large helping of Chinese history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jack R on April 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I will admit it, I am an ultimate Patrick O'Brian Aubrey/Maturin series fan boy. I have read that series of novels repeatedly and enjoyed each one every single time. When I learned of this book I immediately bought it.

It was disappointing in comparison to the Aubrey/Maturin books. I agree with the reviewers who have characterized this as a 'boy's book'. The adventure is wildly implausible, the characters are much more heroic cardboard cutout than his later protagonists and the dialog (something he was clearly gifted with later in his career) seems false.

I am not sorry that I read it, as I said, it was more of a quest than a choice for me, but don't expect the same experience as you have had (or hopefully will have) with his later works. Buy a copy for your favorite 12 - 14 year old nephew, it will be a great introduction to Patrick O'Brian for him, then read it carefully before you put it in the gift wrap.
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