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Literature: There and Back Again

Pat Murphy's novel There and Back Again is the story of Bailey Beldon, a simple, respectable norbit who is content with his sleepy life in the Asteroid Belt until a cyborg adventurer and a clan of clones hijack him for a grand adventure to hunt a Snark and win back a lost treasure at the center of the galaxy, forcing him to grow out of his comfortable little world. Along the way he encounters swashbuckling pirates, seductive Trancers, greedy Resurrectionists, and other fantastic characters and creatures before coming face to face with the Snark itself — which is, naturally, a Boojum.

Sound familiar? It should.

Tropes featured include:

  • Altum Videtur: The Latin phrase Eadem mutata resurgo ("Though changing, I arise the same") recurs throughout the book.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Farr Station is inside an asteroid thicket around Epsilon Eridani; the book justifies it by saying the asteroid belt hasn't been around long enough to thin out.
  • Author Avatar: The Curator, whose real name is Pat Murphy (no relation to the Murphys who live on Ceres).
  • Brain Uploading:
    • Myra Farr, the original Farr clone, uploaded her mind to a computer in preference to dying of old age.
    • Fluffy is a composite of an adventurer and her cat, involuntarily uploaded by the Resurrectionists to serve as an automatic pilot for one of their space fighters.
  • Brown Note: The Trancer's rhythm, which gets lodged in everyone's head and takes their mind over.
  • Disability Immunity: Bailey is tone-deaf. This makes him immune to the Trancer's rhythm, and he can break its hold over other people by singing.
  • Expendable Clone: The Resurrectionists believe that all clones are expendable. Since most of the main party is made up of clones, this is problematic.
  • Future Imperfect: The Hunting of the Snark is apparently still remembered perfectly (and remnants of the Old Ones' civilization are called "snarks" in reference to it). However, it's remembered as an actual how-to guide — that is, people believe there was a real Earth animal called a Snark that could be hunted as per the poem.
  • Gender Flip: While The Hobbit has no female characters whatsoever, There and Back Again has almost no male characters except Bailey himself. In particular, Gitara (the Gandalf-equivalent) and the Farr clones (who include the equivalents of all the dwarves) are all women.
  • Mirror Chemistry: Every time anyone passes through a wormhole, they get mirror-flipped. This makes cooking dinner for a group of interstellar travelers difficult.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: In order to open the tunnel that leads to the Boojum, Bailey has to recognize the Fibonacci numbers. In base 12.
  • Portal Network: People traverse the galaxy using wormholes. Unusually, they only go one way — you have to find a different wormhole to take you back.
  • Precursors: The Old Ones, creators of the portal network as well as most of the other artifacts in the book.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: Yes, this is The Hobbit AS A SPACE OPERA. Very much so.
  • Sapient Ship: Fluffy.
  • Space Pirates: Several different flavors of them; the purest examples are Blackbeard's crew (who play the role of The Hobbit's Wood-Elves).
  • Stable Time Loop: At the end of the book Bailey contrives to leave the note for himself that he found at the beginning, as well as sending a key message that lets the Curator and 'pataphysicians arrive in time to save the day.
  • Time Stands Still: Bailey's Mobius strip allows him to speed up or slow down time in a bubble around him. It's not quite a ring of invisibility, but it serves much the same purpose...
  • Was Once a Man: Anyone who's spent enough time being experimented on by the Resurrectionists; Rattler is the most plot-important example.
  • Wetware CPU: The Resurrectionists' modus operandi.

The Turner DiariesScience Fiction LiteratureThere Will Come Soft Rains
Red Mars TrilogySeiun AwardDiaspora
Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory CultureLiterature of the 1990sThey're Made Out of Meat

alternative title(s): There And Back Again
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