It could only happen in a Douglas Adams story – the man whose original Hitcher’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy ran to five books follows up with a sixth: from beyond the grave.
That’s right, Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer has released And Another Thing… an official Part 6 of 3 in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series – reprising all our favourite characters: Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Trillian.
Now, a funny thing happened on the way to this unlikely sequel – over the summer, I re-read all the previous five books. And though I remembered loving the absurd humour of the series as a teenager, by the time I’d completed Mostly Harmless, I was totally burned out on the Guide. My abiding feeling about the end of the series was that it was thin on plot, think on inane babbling and I closed the book feeling that the franchise had been flogged to death.
Colfer, to his credit, does a great job at picking up from where Adams left off. And he earns his fanboy credentials by resurrecting Adams’ bizarre universe from the Vogon destructor fleets to Wowbagger The Infinitely Prolonged (who gets a romantic storyline in this book). I have very little complaint with Colfer’s narrative – he does a good job of channeling his inner Adams.
The problem I do have is that the Hitchhiker’s books became increasingly banal. It’s hard to concentrate on plot when you’ve got a ton of inane dialogue interrupted by constant asides and digressions. I mean, Zaphod visits the home of the Gods, in order to revive Thor’s flagging career. Trillian begins a love affair with Wowbagger – causing him to question his core beliefs: that his campaign to personally insult everyone in the universe (alphabetically, by name) is flawed.
Arthur and Ford are sadly underused, up until the point where the Vogons attack, and then Ford frantically runs up to Arthur telling him to grab his towel. A nice hark back to the original novel, but just not enough for my liking.
Zaphod gets the lion’s share of the action in this story, the funniest one-liners and finds himself dumped in the funniest situations. There’s little doubt that Beeblebrox is the most fondly regarded, froody character in the book. Devious and dumb in equal measure, Zaphod’s antics comprise some of the most memorable moments in this book.
However, maybe I’m just less patient a reader, but I found myself just wishing that Colfer (likewise Adams in Mostly Harmless) would cut the glib commentary and just telling the muzzer fuzzing story! Which is why, in a bizarre way, Colfer picks up from Douglas Adams nicely – his narrative style was met with exactly the same impatience! But to be slightly contradictory, I have to agree with this blogger, who said:
we get Douglas Adams’ characters in Douglas Adams’ settings, written in a way that’s not forcing itself to be Douglas Adams. And I can’t understate just how great it is to see them all again.
Ultimately though, I have to offer an “it’s not you, it’s me” to this review. Fans of the original Hitchhiker’s Guide series should enjoy seeing the classic line-up of characters revived for another (final?) outing. For me though, I think I’ve outgrown the series and grown bored of the absurd, attention-defecit narrative style. Which is why I’m going to avoid re-reading those old Terry Pratchett books as well.