The 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.
question: What makes Monty Python so funny? Before you run for cover, fearing
bands of TV-mad academics and 12-year-olds with the complete script of ''Dead
Parrot'' at the ready, ponder this analysis: ''Five limeys and a Yank. No girls;
they did drag. Typical Brits. They're never happier than when dressing up as
women. ... It's all very silly nonsense. They seem dangerously cuckoo to me.''
This dismissal - written by the fictional professor William Reynolds at the
tail end of the 25th century - is the work of Python veteran Eric Idle himself.
His new novel, ''The Road to Mars,'' brings the philosophy of humor into the
future - which, in Idle's vision, is populated by almost-human robots, divas
with an intergalactic audience that puts Murdoch and Turner to shame,
cruiserlike spaceships with enough live entertainment to last a light-year, the
requisite fancy computer gizmos, multiple identities, and your garden-variety
The philosophy part of it all is the preoccupation of professor Reynolds,
who's actually narrating a story that takes place 80 years earlier, in the late
2300s. Way back then, a robot named Carlton - ''a 4.5 Bowie ... a handsome,
good-looking thing, built on the image of a young rock god from the 1980s'' -
puts a lot of work into a dissertation on what makes humans laugh. He calls it
''De Rerum Comoedia: A Discourse on Humor,'' and by the time he's done, he feels
(or thinks, anyway) that he's hit upon the Unified Theory of Everything.
This fascinates Carlton because of whose droid he is: two comedians', Alex
Muscroft (the short manic one) and Lewis Ashby (the tall laconic one). In fact,
Carlton concludes excitedly, if his calculations and deductions about comedy are
right, ''now they might not even have to do it anymore.'' But Reynolds, having
discovered this treatise in some abandoned university files, has a nefarious
plan to use Carlton's conclusions for his own fame (and to win back his fickle
The bulk of the novel, though, concerns the adventures of Muscroft and Ashby,
as they're known on the circuit, and their run-ins with a host of sci-fi
personalities: the villainous ship's captain, the beautiful woman with a habit
of flirting with men and then planting explosive cybermines on the premises, the
mysterious old man from a renegade planet, and, of course, the ubiquitous diva
whose ego and sense of hubris could easily eclipse the sun.
Stuff blows up; people pop into History Bars, where the 20th century is
undergoing a kitschy revival; wisecracks abound; and all the while Carlton,
''tintellectual'' extraordinaire, is trying to make sense of it even though, as
his Oz counterpart lacked a heart, he's minus a funny bone.
All of this is, as the hapless professor Reynolds would say, very silly
nonsense. But like everyone with a shipshape sense of humor, Idle knows not to
take himself too seriously. ''The Road to Mars'' has the quality of the gently
nutty Python sketches - the proper newscaster oblivious to the tide coming in,
the broad satire of the courtroom scenes, the surreal animation - rather than
the pure brilliant rage of a John Cleese explosion.
But if there were only one way to make humans laugh, the world would be a
very dismal place indeed. Eric Idle continues to make sure it isn't.
Former Monty Python trouper Eric Idle gives a lively performance of this amusing, tongue-in-cheek sci-fi parody. Idle's many years in comedy have served him well, and his deft timing and comic delivery add greatly to the humor here.
Idle, a founding member of Monty Python's Flying Circus, reads this audio version of his much-anticipated sf novel. The narrator, professor Bill Reynolds, is a micropaleontologist who studies the impact of the last ten minutes on human evolution. Reynolds's first-person introduction quickly becomes a third-person tale of two 24th-century comics, Muscroft and Ashby, and their android, Carlton. The latter is traveling with the two comics as they perform in the backwater mining stations that litter the road to Mars, the entertainment center of the galaxy. Carlton is studying the history of comedy, which allows Idle to mention Monty Python, in an attempt to understand the role humor plays in defining what it is to be human. Along the way, the android and his companions are embroiled in a rather wacky, irrelevant terrorist plot, and it is left to Carlton to save the day while still finding the time to complete his doctoral dissertation. Idle does a fine job overall with the narration but has a tendency to the occasional slightly manic breathlessness that is a throwback to his Python days and lacks the careful enunciation employed as a matter of course by experienced audio readers. The droll, ironic Pythonesque humor that pervades the recording will be appreciated by Python fans but would play better in a visual format. Many of Idle's jokes fall flat when read by a single narrator, particularly one who does not provide distinct enough voices for the central characters. Recommended only where demand dictates.--Leah Sparks, Bowie P.L., MD Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Eric Idle has been recruited by NBC to pump some humor into its laugh-challenged sitcom "Suddenly Susan" this fall. On the basis of the one-liners that overflow in his new novel, the network might want to let the former Monty Python member write the show as well. ...Given how successful Idle is at making an android funny in The Road to Mars, Brooke Shields should be a piece of cake.
Science-fiction comedy-thriller from the ex-Monty Python star and children's writer. Narrator Bill Reynolds, a professor of evolutionary theory, unearths an old Ph.D dissertation that perceptively examines the wellsprings of comedyand that was summarily rejected because its author, Carlton, was a robot. Carlton's ideas are too good to waste, thinks Reynolds, who investigates with larcenous intent. Carlton was the property of a bush-league comic duo, Lewis Ashby and Alex Muscroft, who worked the circuit between Saturn and Mars. Their adventures begin when Lewis and Alex audition for a gig aboard the huge luxury interplanetary liner Princess Diana but, fatally, insult the unspeakably dreadful celebrity Brenda Woolley. With their other gigs suddenly and inexplicably canceled, they decide to head for Mars. At the colony world H9, Alex falls headlong for gorgeous Katy Wallacebut her terrorist associates promptly sabotage H9. While mentally constructing his comedy thesis, Carlton rescues Katy from the imploding planetoid, then saves everyone from a reproducing bomb aboard their own ship. Afterward, stranded and slowly freezing in the cold of space, Carlton experiences a revelation: levity, the opposite of gravity, is the fundamental force that causes the universe to expandat the speed of laughter! Now he even understands irony. Once thawed out, Carlton must protect his humans from the terrorists who wish their silence. Often delightful, with fair-to-middling thriller elements and a merry yet thoughtful analysis of comedy: should entertain everybody bar the terminally unamused.