Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Abandoned Books: And Another Thing... by Eoin Colfer

It would be unfair, and arguably wrong, to say that Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker series went straight downhill from the beginning. Even the most crazed fan has to admit that the records were just as good as the original radio show, and that the Infocom game is possibly even better. But, if the conversation is restricted to the books, then there would be much less argument. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the funniest and best of the lot, both The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and Life, the Universe, and Everything have real strengths, and So Long and Thanks for All the Fish is only faintly embarrassing. (We don't talk about Mostly Harmless, the book reportedly finished on a flight into Los Angeles for a major book trade show, because it's not nice to speak ill of the dead.)

There is no sign at all that And Another Thing..., the unnecessary but inevitable continuation of Adams's series by Eoin Colfer, is anywhere near as bad as Mostly Harmless. In fact, it's probably, by all objective standards, a better book than So Long. But it's not by Douglas Adams, and that becomes apparent in a thousand small ways as the book goes on -- the characters speak in un-Adamsly ways, are overly emotional (and the wrong kind of emotional), and the plot shows suspicious signs of actually having been thought through and kept organized. Another Thing is at least a half-decent humorous SF novel featuring characters named "Arthur Dent" and "Ford Prefect," but it doesn't succeed at raising the ghost of Douglas Adams. It couldn't have done that, of course. But all those of us who try to read it are hoping for that. Another Thing also has the usual fault of a continuation by other hands: it relies too heavily on the reader's memory of the original Douglas Adams jokes (lots of bits supposedly from the Guide itself, the return of Vogons, the Heart of Gold, and so on -- I'd be willing to bet a large sum of money that Marvin shows up before the end, too) instead of doing the same sort of thing in a new way.

So I gave up on Another Thing about ninety pages in, roughly a third of the way through. It's not Adams, and I'm no longer the ten-year-old who first read Hitchhiker. You can't go home again, death is final, but commerce is eternal.

But I just might try one of Colfer's own novels; he's funny pretty consistently here, though the Adams-isms are sometimes too florid and overworked. (Not to say that Adams didn't get that way himself, because he did. Again, this is better than about half of the writing Adams did in this milieu.) I wish this book didn't exist, but the world doesn't exist to please me. I can only hope that most readers of Another Thing are happier with the beating-So Long part of it than they are disappointed with the Colfer-isn't-Adams part. Don't let me stop you from reading Another Thing -- but go into it with reasonable expectations, please.


Michael A. Burstein said...

Could I have your copy, then? :-)

madscientistnz said...

As much as I love Douglas Adams work, I will never read Mostly Harmless again.
I picked up And Another Thing from the library, looking forward to reading it with curiosity, not with expectations of Adamsy goodness.
Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl books are quite good, if your boys are old enough, they'll probably love them.

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