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
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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.
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