Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell, Pat Murphy (TOR, 2001){ Blackstone Audio, 2004; Narrator: Johanna Ward}

Grade: Δ — Solid read, but only buy it if you like the genre.

 In brief:

Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell was a fun read that ties together other books by the same author under different pen-names.  In some ways, the book was little more than an intellectual game played by the author, but in others it proved to be an enjoyable book that explored concepts of identity. 


A cruise ship travelling through the Bermuda Triangle.

In Depth:

I enjoyed this book, though I felt that it really was little more than the author’s romp with her own identity and novels.  In essence the story can be summed up as follows: possibilities come face-to-face with probabilities when a young woman attends the writing classes of an author with many pen-names while on a cruise through the Bermuda Triangle.  That is a dreadful oversimplification of the plot, but to say too much more about the plot might ruin the story, and even that might be a bit of a spoiler.  Still, it was fun.

My primary problems with the text represent personal biases towards the story.  For one thing, the story went on too long.  On the audioversion there was a least half-an-hour of epilogue that followed the climax, and truth be told, it could have been summed up quite nicely in five minutes.  It was as if the author did not trust the reader (or perhaps her own ability) enough to leave off the story when it had finished. ‘Tis a pity, because had it ended earlier it would have been a much more enjoyable read.

Perhaps more problematic, I did not like the protagonist: Susan Galina.  A quiet and repressed librarian with a domineering mother and an ex-husband who has left her, Susan is a character from a different era.  I’ve seen her too many times in different forms in too many different novels from the past.  If this were the 1960s, or even 1980s, I might have had more sympathy for a woman who emerges from her repressed upbringing and marriage and discovers herself through adventure, but in 2011 (or even 2001 when the book was first published), she is boring. 

In the post-feminist world I inhabit, I just don’t have that much sympathy for an educated, upper-middle class woman in her thirties who just discovering herself. Take away any of those elements, then she might have worked, but as it stands, that woman has been done to death.

As a credit to Murphy’s writing, however, I still enjoyed this book despite what should have been a crippling fault.  Indeed, I am even vaguely tempted to check out the other books she’s written (particularly those she wrote as Max Merriwell). To that end, while this would not be the first on my to-read list, I enjoyed the book and think it would be a good option for mind-candy while on a cruise. 

Notes about the Audio Edition:

As ever, Blackstone Audio did an excellent job of presenting this novel. The narrator, Johanna Ward, provided an admirable read of the text, and kept me involved throughout her performance.  She in no way intruded on the story, and was likely responsible for part of my enjoyment of the book. 

About Thomas Evans

I'm a writer of mysteries, espionage, and speculative fiction. In my previous incarnation I was an archaeologist specializing in gender and identity in Iron and Bronze Age Europe. Mostly, however, I was known for my works with the use of geomatics, multiscalular spatial analysis and landscape theory within archaeology.
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