Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

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A post-New Year Review: The Road To Mars

Eric Idle may always be a Python, but The Road to Mars shows him to be a thoughtful and inquisitive novelist. Billed as a "post-modem" novel, it intersperses snippets of a thesis on the nature of comedy with a cross-solar system caper reminiscent of John Varley's The Golden Globe.

Two comics and their robot dresser are working their way through the outer system habitats and colonies, trying to make the big time on Mars. It's a sad and lonely life, long weeks of travel and a few hours on stage. In their wake are failed marriages, lost friendships and mounting debts. Meanwhile, their robot is secretly using them as source material for its study of comedy. Then everything changes. In a few short hours they get a chance at the big time, and a glimpse of love. Then it's all snatched away. Suddenly they're trapped in a conspiracy that mixes rebellious ice miners, lost daughters, spies, a diva, and her husband. It's a story that will leave friends dead and habitats wrecked.

Idle wraps his space opera in snippets from the robot's study of 20th century comedy (a thesis that mixes white faced and red nosed clowns, and the tensions between manic and depressive), and with the self-justifying unreliable narration of an failing academic 70 years or so later. In a complex work like this, by someone unfamiliar with the everyday trappings of SF, it's easy to forgive a few minor lapses of physics and to just go with the flow of the story.

Well worth reading.
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