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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Space Is a Riot
Brought to us by Monty Python alumnus Eric Idle, The Road to Mars is a sardonic and often hilarious exposé of the entertainment field that comes in the form of a science fiction novel. Filled with sharp-witted parody and an abundance of laughs, The Road to Mars follows the unlikely travails of a comedy duo romping across the galaxy as all manner of absurdity takes place, from bombing at the solar system's biggest party to hightailing it from imploding planets. In his own peculiar fashion, Idle turns his mighty talents to satirizing the entertainment industry at large, showing us how ephemeral, variable, and incomprehensible humor really can be. Idle clearly enjoys the work he's doing, and the author's own merriment underscores the novel throughout, adding to the reader's amusement.
Our narrator is William Reynolds, a professor of micropaleontology — which is the study of "the evolutionary implications of the last ten minutes" — who now researches the dynamics of humor even while mooning for his younger lover, Molly. Reynolds has found himself a new subject to write about: Carlton the android. Carlton, who looks like a "young rock god," is traveling with the comedians Alex Muscroft and Lewis Ashby in an effort to understand the nature of comedy. After flopping on Saturn on New Year's Eve (an event that comes around only once every 50 years on Saturn), Alex and Lewis hit the "road to Mars," the solar circuit of space platforms and planetary coloniesleadingback to Mars, the height of show business.
Soon though, the duo manages to bounce back and land the job of a lifetime aboard the luxury space cruiser the Princess Di, owned by wealthy Emil Keppler. The star of the trip, though, is the talentless diva Brenda Woolley, who promenades on board, acting by turns snobbish and insincere. Unknown to them, Keppler is married to Brenda, and after Alex makes several jokes about Brenda to Keppler, the comedians find themselves fired from the cruise. Immediately, all their other gigs are canceled as well, but not before Carlton is able to download some secret files from the onboard computer. After Alex discovers that a gift given to him by the beautiful Katy Wallace is actually a transmitter sending info to a distant planet, a conspiracy seems to be in the works.
Reynolds and Carlton's observations on humor are deliciously intelligent, honest, and sharp. The author begins each chapter with a blurb from a famous comedian, and the commentary ranges from the sublime to the riotous and wicked. Because Idle's own sense of humor is so skewed and wide ranging, the jokes in the book are equally varied. Idle brings a clever and intriguing blend of humor, farce, and often genuinely rollicking SF elements to the rapidly paced story line. A reader can accept Idle's work as science-fantasy satire with a message or as a madcap romp full of some of the most diverting characters, circumstances, and imaginative one-liners you're likely to stumble upon this side of Douglas Adams. Either way, the reader is in for an engaging indulgence of the imagination and a hard knock to the funny bone.
Tom Piccirilli is the author of the critically acclaimed supernatural novel Pentacle, as well as the dark suspense mysteries Shards and The Dead Past. His short fiction has appeared in many anthologies, including The Conspiracy Files. His two latest, an exciting mystery called Sorrow's Crown and a horror novel called Hexes, have recently been released.