And Another Thing ... Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Part Six of Three (Hitchhikers Guide 6) by Eoin Colfer
|And Another Thing ... Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Part Six of Three (Hitchhikers Guide 6) by Eoin Colfer|
|Category: Science Fiction|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A welcome final glimpse at the world's biggest sci-fi comedy trilogy. This certainly captures the spirit of Douglas Adams - with all the qualities and failings that implies.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: October 2009|
|Publisher: Michael Joseph|
|External links: Author's website|
Of all the big books announced for this year, this one must have raised more eyebrows than many. Why try and write a new Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book, when way before the end, its creator Douglas Adams was proving quite hopeless at such a task? And why approach an Irishman, Eoin Colfer, when the originals - tempered with their humour which could only be described as Monty Python doing a sci-fi Terry Pratchett, and with their cups of tea and dressing gowns, could only be described as very English? Well the answer is most evident - Colfer is a world-beater when it comes to knocking up a story.
Colfer it also appears is a grade A mimic - reading this, one instantly falls into the rhythms and mental voice of the earlier volumes, however long it's been since one has picked them up. He has nailed all that goes on with Adams and his writing, and one of the big questions - was Colfer a good choice of the estate? - is answered immediately with the affirmative.
And so to the plot. We start with Ford Prefect living a life of luxuriating in a haze of alcohol and exuberance, and never knowing a morning after. Arthur Dent seems to hazily remember things pertaining to the first few books, but is just happily retiring from all that is annoying about life (other people, his planet being destroyed, that sort of thing) on a beach. Trillian is a reporter, tasked with interviewing her daughter by Arthur, who happens to be the President of the Galaxy.
Except none of that is true - although in sci-fi - and in Douglas Adams - terms - it can be true and false at the same time. You'll get to used to that, if you haven't already by reading the first five books in the trilogy. And here's a familiar approach to the Earth - its destruction - and a familiar spacecraft, and its familiar pilot, Zaphod. And then we're off, hurtling around the typically abstract, daft and familiarly unfamiliar universe of the series.
Cue further glimpses of Vogon poetry, Norse gods, Zaphod grovelling in tones that would have the Sucky Crawlers of Sycophantasia reaching for their sick-bags (to quote one of the funniest, most Blackadder-ish lines), and lots of pormwrangling - for good or bad.
There are also hosts of in-jokes, going beyond Adams quoting his own earlier books for the titles of his later ones, to prove than Colfer really knows his stuff. He's writing as a fan as he thrusts both Irish characters into things, as well as countless references to Adams's life, career and more. Also you can easily see how this is more modern than the old volumes, with more references to an Internet-style entity, biological terms, and so on.
So to write for the sake of the fan of the series I have to confirm that everything about this book is as one would want it - the spirit of the original has been fully restored with another wacky and energetic ride around the galaxy, with man-made planets, a lust for home and a good cuppa tea, and lots more. This is the book people have been waiting for, since Mostly Harmless was given us in 1992 - and possibly even since before then.
To return to my opening paragraph there was a frustration in my household, if not elsewhere, about the later H2G2 books. The machinations of the characters just did not gel with me, the humour did not work, the wackiness was entirely forced. The bulk of The Salmon of Doubt, unfinished or not, might as well have remained unpublished in my view. And drat it if some of those old feelings didn't pop up in the corner of my mind like the residual, edge-of-consciousness feeling that living with a Babel fish in one's ear would give.
It's not to say Adams completely stained the prestige of his earlier efforts, but things weren't quite right. And I think if people were to start the series with this book, I think many would wonder what the fuss was about. Yes, there is drollery aplenty, silly names and asides from the Guide itself, gnomic facts about the galaxy that are perfectly in keeping with all the rest of the fictions. But still we have characters tasked with fulfilling the plot because they have to, the author going all-out crazy because he can, and non-sequiturs entering things because sci-fi deserves to be scoffed at at times.
If the world of 42 and all its relative questions is one you're accustomed to, this is more than froody, and would be five stars. But perhaps there is too much of the confused delirium of the later books for me and many others to call this a total success. In fact it mirrorred the original series in miniature for me - I don't think I exactly laughed for the last 100 pages. I certainly was not particularly disappointed, and this is one of the better entries to the series, but it could not match the cohesion of the first and second.
Finally, it's been said elsewhere, but to repeat - Colfer says this is definitely the only time he will write a Hitchhiker's book. I can see the success of this leaving people wanting more, but whether anyone else will channel Adams so well, I doubt.
I must thank Michael Joseph's kind people for my review copy.
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