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The Road to Samarcand Paperback – 2 Jun 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; paperback / softback edition (2 Jun. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007262779
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007855117
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 358,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Patrick O'Brian, until his death in 2000, was one of our greatest contemporary novelists. He is the author of the acclaimed Aubrey-Maturin tales and the biographer of Joseph Banks and Picasso. He is the author of many other books including Testimonies, and his Collected Short Stories. In 1995 he was the first recipient of the Heywood Hill Prize for a lifetime's contribution to literature. In the same year he was awarded the CBE. In 1997 he received an honorary doctorate of letters from Trinity College, Dublin. He lived for many years in South West France and he died in Dublin in January 2000.

Product Description

Review

'You are in for the treat of your lives. Thank God for Patrick O’Brian: his genius illuminates the literature of the English language, and lightens the lives of those who read him' Irish Times

'Any contemporary novelist should recognize in Patrick O’Brian a Master of the Art’ Sunday Telegraph

‘The best historical novels ever written’
New York Times

From the Publisher

This stand-alone adventure novel from O'Brian (1914-2000) saw British
publication in 1954, before the Aubrey/Maturin historicals that made his
name. In the years before WWII, the teenage Derrick, orphaned by his
missionary parents, sails the China seas aboard the schooner Wanderer with
his American uncle Terrence Sullivan (who is the captain), his elderly
English cousin Ayrton (a professor of archeology) and Sullivan's business
partner, Mr. Ross. Ayrton wants Derrick to leave the sea and attend school,
but first they'll all embark on an archeological expedition to Samarcand
(in what is now Uzbekistan). Marauding rebels capture Ross and Sullivan
early on, and Ayrton (the most intriguing of the adult characters) pretends
to be a Russian weapons expert to free them. Earthy, sly humor keeps the
action set pieces perking along: frigid temperatures, militaristic Tibetan
monks and even the Abominable Snowman await. Six decades later, O'Brian's
richly told adventure saga, with its muscular prose, supple dialogue and
engaging characters, packs a nice old-school punch. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All
rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Henk Beentje TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 July 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read a rather bad review on this book, so approached it with care - but I was very quickly drawn in, and immersed in the proper Patrick O'Brian atmosphere. Within a few pages, the schip's boy is told to "pipe down.... you must learn how to parse..... now cut along"
The book was written in 1954, and plays in the 1930s (or possibly 1950s), and for me reads like a precursor, a finger-exercise, to O'Brian's Magnum Opus. It *is* rather 1950s, with a funny talking Chinaman and Norwegian (or possibly Swede)and the problems are sometimes solved in a slightly deus-ex-machina manner; but, for the O'Brian fan, this is a real o'Brian, with pre-echoes of Aubrey & Maturin. And even of another familiar character: "Auntie is a very strong-minded woman, not at all unlike a Mrs Williams, the wife of one of my colleagues."
A most enjoyable book, and if you love the Aubrey/maturin series, you might very well love this. If you do not know OBrian, please start with 'Master & Commander' and read that series before you read this - and I envy you, because you have the treat of a lifetime in store.

The Road to Samarcand has a touch of the Biggles series about it, and would not do for a first taste of O'Brian. But for the aficionado, cut along and buy this book. There are good protagonists that you can warm to, even if they are rather bloodthirsty at times; landscapes a-plenty, with long travels through the heart of Asia, plenty of interesting characters to meet, lots of scrapes and problems to be solved: a yarn to say 'Sir' to. In Sullivan there is a proto-Aubrey, and in the Professor a strong dose of Maturin. I recommend it to your pleasure!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Henk Beentje TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 July 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read Chris Barker's review on this book, so approached it with care - but I was very quickly drawn in, and immersed in the proper Patrick O'Brian atmosphere. Within a few pages, the schip's boy is told to "pipe down.... you must learn how to parse..... now cut along"
The book was written in 1954, and plays in the 1930s (or possibly 1950s), and for me reads like a precursor, a finger-exercise, to O'Brian's Magnum Opus. It *is* rather 1950s, with a funny talking Chinaman and Norwegian (or possibly Swede)and the problems are sometimes solved in a slightly deus-ex-machina manner; but, for the O'Brian fan, this is a real o'Brian, with pre-echoes of Aubrey & Maturin. And even of another familiar character: "Auntie is a very strong-minded woman, not at all unlike a Mrs Williams, the wife of one of my colleagues."
A most enjoyable book, and if you love the Aubrey/Maturin series, you might very well love this. If you do not know O'Brian, please start with 'Master & Commander' and read that series before you read this - and I envy you, because you have the treat of a lifetime in store.

The Road to Samarcand has a touch of the Biggles series about it, and would not do for a first taste of O'Brian. But for the aficionado, cut along and buy this book. There are good protagonists that you can warm to, even if they are rather bloodthirsty at times; landscapes a-plenty, with long travels through the heart of Asia, plenty of interesting characters to meet, lots of scrapes and problems to be solved: a yarn to say 'Sir' to. In Sullivan there is a proto-Aubrey, and in the Professor a strong dose of Maturin. I recommend it to your pleasure!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Crookedmouth HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a very early Patrick O'Brien - published around 1950-something or other - so it predates O'Brien's wonderful Aubrey/Maturin series by quite some way. It tells the story of young Derrick and his adventures with his uncles and friends as they travel accross China, some time between the two world wars. It is written very much in the style of a "Boy's Own" adventure, so expect pirates, bandit warlords, absent minded professors, camel trains and the young lad saving the day for his elders and betters.

Put that way it isn't very promising for a "grown-up" reader is it? but actually it is a hugely engaging read and despite being an early O'Brien, all of his trademark wit is there in bucketloads and it's written as well as any of his later work. Admittedly, there is a certain naivety to the writing and the characterisations of many of the various characters is rather overdone (even mildly racist to the particularly sensitive reader). However, bear in mind that the book was written at a time when such treatment was more acceptable than it is in today's highly PC world, and if you read it carefully you'll realise that it is done in a good-hearted, kindly and (importantly) funny way - more "Tintin" than "Ming the Merciless".

So, if you enjoyed the Aubrey/Maturin series this is just as good in its own way and it is a an essential addition to your library.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Seamus Martin on 17 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
This is the first Patrick O'Brian novel I have read and I really enjoyed most of it. It features a cosmopolitan cast of characters who start off on a sailing ship on the South China Sea then embark on an overland expedition to central Asia via Beijing, Mongolia and Tibet.

The era in which the novel is set is difficult to decipher. At first I thought that we were dealing with the 19th century, But then a car makes an appearance. So early 20th. Then Russian communists pop up. 1920s? Then to my astonishment in the final chapter a helicopter appears. Rather confusing!

The ending was really disappointing. A new baddie appears. Out of context with no back story. And there is an improbable deus-ex-machina moment. The final chapter seems horribly rushed, as if O'Brian had reached his quota of words and prematurely fast-forwarded his characters to the end of their journey. Most unsatisfactory. If only he had continued in the same fine vein as the rest of the novel, I would have happily given it five stars as most of the book was a joyous and gripping adventure tale.

Despite my disappointment with the ending, I will nevertheless be keeping my eye out for other O'Brian novels in future.
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