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There and Back Again Mass Market Paperback – October 15, 2000

22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Pat Murphy, writing as her imaginary friend/alter ego Max Merriwell, presents a view of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit through the lens of space opera.

Bailey Beldon, a norbit who loves a good tale of adventure from the comfort of his asteroid belt home, unexpectedly becomes an unwilling protagonist when adventurer Gitana and a group of powerful Farr clones show up on his doorstep to retrieve a message pod he has scavenged. The message--from another Farr clone--includes a map of previously unknown wormholes and the tantalizing promise of a glorious Snark, the Farr term for alien artifacts left behind by the Old Ones.

Bailey suddenly finds himself light years from home and in the company of an oddball assortment of characters, including a 'pataphysician named Gyro Renacus, who, along with Gitana, appears in Murphy's Wild Angel, and Fluffy, a fighter pilot who is part cat. (Max Merriwell even writes Murphy in as a character.)

Assisted by his tone-deafness, his pragmatism, and a Mobius strip that can slow time to a crawl, Bailey pits himself against Resurrectionists who use the clones as spare parts, trancers who hypnotize with music, pirates, gigantic metal-eating spiders, and the Boojum--the Snark left to guard the treasures the adventurers seek.

Murphy's prose sparkles throughout. Her tone ranges from the dazzlingly descriptive (as in her portrait of the heart of the galaxy) to the crisply active to a fairy-tale tone that brings to mind the soothing voice of Maurice Evans, making There and Back Again a choice novel to cozy up with on a rainy day. --Eddy Avery --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Purporting to be a space opera by the prolific hack "Max Merriwell," this latest and disappointing novel from top fantasist Murphy (Nadya, etc.) is a transparent translation of Tolkien's The Hobbit and Carroll's "The Hunting of the Snark" into SF. One day Bailey, a chubby "norbit" who lives contentedly on an asteroid, is visited by the adventuress Gitana and seven members of the Farr Clone, who are on a quest. They seek to rediscover a lost colony and a rumored treasure of the Old Ones, those ancient beings who created the wormhole system that crisscrosses the galaxy. Gitana, over the Farrs' objections, insists that Bailey is exactly the additional member the group needs to form a cohesive whole, despite his lack of obvious talents. Readers who have read The Hobbit and are familiar with the conventions of space opera can probably guess the rest of the plot. Murphy seems to be having a lot of fun with her pastiche, but it founders. Although there are some lovely bits involving Bailey and a feisty spacecraft named Fluffy (after the cat who makes up part of the craft's cybernetic AI), too often the tale reads like what it purports to be, a second-rate space opera. There aren't enough humorous moments or brilliant variations on Tolkien to make up for the recognizabilityAand thus predictabilityAof the story line. In an afterword Murphy reveals that she's working on a fantasy novel, The Wild Angel, to be published as by "Mary Maxwell," one of Max Merriwell's pseudonyms. Hopefully, Murphy as Max as Mary writes with more panache than Murphy as Max. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Science Fiction; 1st edition (October 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812541723
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812541724
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,326,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Suzdal (espana@catch22.com) on November 18, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The plot is, of course, The Hobbit In Space but the story is told in such a way that you never have the time, nor the desire, to sit back and dissect the similarities. Rather you'll find yourself half a page into a fabulous retelling of one of Bilbo's adventures when suddenly it hits you.
Murphy manages to assimilate the feel of good old-fashioned Space Operas with modern SF conventions and up-to-date science. I bought this book Sunday afternoon and finished it on Tuesday evening... it sweeps you along with norbits, wormholes, clones, pataphysicians and space pirates (!) and all-around good humoured adventure.
(As for the Max merriwell angle, I'd recommend checking out the author's website for a more coherent explanation than I could give)
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By dandeliondreamer on November 29, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Yes, there are some Hobbit-y tendencies in this book; Murphy is quite deliberate in her homage-- BUT as one of the afterwords points out, what the story really relies on is the same thing that Tolkein did-- the heroic quest myth wherein the inexperienced novice encounters adventure, learns to test him/her self, gets helped out by wider-adepts, grows & aquires wisdom, and then, with newly gained wisdom, helps his/her community grow & change....
The book is the perfect length for a night on the couch with hot tea and an afghan over your knees-- (something the story's hero would like as much as you, gentle reader).
I really grew to like Bailey-- and his companions in adventure (especially Fluffy). If you liked The Hobbit, Star Wars, the Narnia Books, Harry Potter, The Odyssey, The Robert Jordan "Wheel of Time" Series, King Arthur's tales, or *any* other "hero myth" at all, you should also like this book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Susan Fahrbach on December 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
My 12 year old son received this book as a Christmas gift. I picked it up on Dec. 26 and finished it two days later. My son then stayed up all night and read it in one sitting! The busy, page-turning plot pays homage to The Hobbit in all the essential details, but adds new charm and new adventures. We liked both the retelling of the classic adventure and the confidently presented details of what humans might be like as they move beyond the solar system. There was just enough biology and physics to make the plot details plausible, but the writing never bogged down, and Bailey won our hearts not just as a Bilbo-clone, but on his own merits. Readers of all ages who love The Hobbit will enjoy this book, but my son feels that reading this book first and then The Hobbit would also be a great way to approach this tale.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Horton on August 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Pat Murphy's new novel, _There and Back Again, by Max Merriwell_, purports to be a space opera by one Max Merriwell, who Murphy in an afterword suggests is a 50ish SF writer from a sort of alternate timeline. There's also an afterword by "Merriwell", in which he acknowledges the obvious fact that this book borrows its plot very directly from _The Hobbit_, as signaled by the title. It's a very enjoyable book, though rather light. Some have complained that it takes the ambiguous and dark aspects of _The Hobbit_ and nicens them too much. This is a valid criticism, but perhaps it asks more of the book than Murphy intended. It is what it is. It's not as good as Tolkien, it's not as true as Tolkien, but I think it does what its trying to do. To that end, the parallels with _The Hobbit_ work as a game for the reader, though perhaps not a very difficult one: they are thumpingly obvious. And indeed, Murphy does back away from the darker implications: her Ring-analog is not nearly as dangerous as Tolkien's Ring, her Gollum-analog is only briefly onstage. But it is fun to see her ways of making science fictional parallels with the elements of the Hobbit: for example hobbits become norbits (people who live "in orbit") while the Shire becomes the homey Asteroid belt. There are also nice references to Lewis Carroll's poem "The Hunting of the Snark": Murphy uses quotes from the Carroll poem as chapter headings, and builds the plot around a search for a particular Snark, which is the term used in her future for the mysterious and valuable but dangerous artifacts of the "Old Ones" (vanished aliens).Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Keto on April 1, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a fan of Tolkien's work, the Hobbit and the Rings trilogy. When I initially became aware of this book, I was a little skeptical that the author might be using Tolkiens great story as a crutch for a mediocre writing style. Despite my reservations, I picked it up.
And I was glad I did. This author definitely has her own style, which is solid and distinguishable from Tolkien's. The story does not run parallel to the Hobbit in all ways, which is good.
All in all, this is a good, fun read for sci-fi and fantasy enthusiasts alike.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien's Hobbit is this story of asteroid dweller Bailey, who is snatched from a lazy and safe life in his limited home by clones with a thirst for exploration. Bailey only longs to return home; but when he realizes home has become impossibly changed he is faced with new space adventures and challenges of his own in this warm, absorbing story. Tolkien readers will especially relish the similarities and differences in plot and characterization.
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