14 November 2013

The Road to Samarcand, by Patrick O’Brian

Posted by Callan Bentley

samarcandThe week before last, I finished a fun adventure novel, The Road to Samarcand. This is the first book I’ve read by Patrick O’Brian that’s not part of his epic (21 books!) Aubrey-Maturin series. I chose it because it was available as a (free) download from my public library, which meant I could “read” it while driving in the car back and forth from the Fort Valley to Annandale. I’m getting so many more books read now that I have this commute – definitely a silver lining to what is at first glance, a bit of a slog.

This book is a fun adventure that feels like a product of the 1950s, which it is. It’s a rollicking adventure in the style of Indiana Jones or Tintin, with one-off characters of diverse skills and personalities. The protagonist is a teenage boy, recently orphaned while his parents were serving as missionaries in Asia. He joins a seafaring American uncle, his Scottish partner, and an intellectual British cousin on a voyage into the heart of Central Asia. Chinese, Kazakhs, Mongols, and Tibetans all play important roles in the story as they go along. There are battles, subterfuge, archeological insights, linguistic dalliances, harsh weather, feats of endurance, and even an appearance by the Yeti. It’s totally fun. If you like Tintin’s adventures (HergĂ©), then you should dig this book. The kid even has a dog for a sidekick! And the British cousin, the academic archaeologist, is a dead ringer for Professor Calculus from the Tintin books. Hilarity ensues, in the classic Patrick O’Brian style. Recommended.