by A.R.R.R. Roberts
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The works of J.R.R. Tolkien have always been ripe for parody between their beautiful prose and their excesses, between the influence they have had on subsequent literature and the direct imitations they have spawned. By far, the most famous parody was the Harvard Lampoon's Bored of the Rings, which condensed the sprawling Lord of the Rings trilogy into one short book. Now, Adam Roberts, writing as A.R.R.R. Roberts, tackles The Hobbit with his parody The Soddit, or, Let's Cash in Again.
Roberts's novel follows the plot of The Hobbit quite closely, with chapter titles parodying the corresponding titles of chapters in the original work. While most of the action is also a close parallel, it isnít exact. Roberts introduces several twists to the storyline which raise it above the straight parody it could have been.
Characters in The Soddit die, including characters whose Tolkien counterparts live to the end of the story. Roberts also tackles several of the more obvious questions in The Hobbit, such as why the Bowman is called Bard when he is an archer, not a singer. Roberts also provides interesting takes on characters such as Gollum and Beorn. Perhaps the most surprising take in some ways is his portrayal of Smug the Dragon.
It is not surprising that few of the characters in The Soddit are fully realized. What is more surprising is that some of them, notably the dwarf Mori, is as well defined as Roberts has made him. Otherwise, the dwarfs who accompany Bingo Grabbins on the quest for gold at the Only Mountain, all seem interchangeable. Bingo, himself, is a good parody of Bilbo Baggins, and, while naive to the ways of the world, does have the ability to use reason and figure things out, although while he adheres to Occam's razor, the world of The Soddit seems to have missed that aspect of Medieval philosophy.
Roberts has apparently decided he enjoys writing parodies, and has not only written a sequel to The Soddit, but has tackled other science fiction and fantasy works in his parodies. His talent in doing so is demonstrated by the fact that he manages to make the parody last throughout the entire 340 pages of the book while making the reader want to know how it is going to end and how it differs from the source material.