In the first of an occasional series here is a review of a book that came out a while ago but I only just got round to reading. I mean, you don’t expect me to buy books do you? I borrowed this one. This blog is, like, so current…
As you may know, And Another Thing was published about a year ago to ‘celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’. The book is written as the sixth book in the ‘increasingly inaccurately named’ trilogy.
Now, I wasn’t too sure about all this. I have been, since my early teens, a huge Douglas Adams fan and have read the original five books many times and, as such, I am possibly a bit precious about messing with Adams’ legacy. However I was also excited. The fifth book, which is in many ways rather, erm, final, did leave some questions open, some mysteries and I was interested to see if these would be resolved and how.
The task of reanimating the much loved characters of Adams’ universe (galaxy?) fell to the author Eoin Colfer. Best known of his Artemis Fowl series of books for young adults I wondered if Colfer would have the necessary sharpness for the job and indeed Adams’ gift for infrequent and well timed crudeness. Also would he have the imagination to come up with a new direction to take the characters in? A new head spinning concept, such as Mostly Harmless’ ‘Guide 2’? The answers is, for the most part, no.
As I mentioned I have been a fan of Adam’s work for over twenty years and his style is so familiar that any attempt to emulate it would be tough job, however, it’s not the style that lets AAT (if I may) down, it’s the lack of imagination.
For the most part Colfer recycles characters, plot ideas, turns of phrase and just about everything else from the earlier books. And not just major characters. Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged features heavily, the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Trall and Eccentrica Galumbits are regularly, almost lazily, invoked, people say ‘Zark!’ ALL THE TIME. In many cases new characters or references could have been created but Colfer seems afraid to move away from Adams’ pre-existing creations. And sometimes he just gets it wrong. A fairly major character is a chap named Hillman Hunter. In choosing this name Colfer is clearly referencing Ford Prefect’s ‘named after a car’ schtick. Except it makes no sense. Ford, an alien, chose his name when, due to poor research, he mistook cars to be the dominant species on Earth and thus ‘Ford Prefect’ was an inconspicuous name. Hillman Hunter is from Earth, very much human, and therefore there is no reason for the joke other than to reference Adams. Again.
Finally the plot itself is just too linear. Adams’ stories would swim uncomfortably backwards and forwards in time, space, parallel universes and any direction other than a straight line. Here, after a bit of exposition, the major players are thrown together to complete the adventure as a big adventure team. Like the human, the elf, the dwarf, the magician and what have you in some pulp fantasy novel. In Adam’s work he would leave people stranded on their own, throw people together, even suck people out of existence, just to keep us on our toes. Colfer shows no such flair.
I didn’t want to be disappointed by AAT, I wanted it to be a fitting conclusion to a series that, before his death, Adam’s had said had another book in it, and yet sadly this is not that book. The final, touching denouement to this effort is not enough to redeem it and the whole exercise serves only to show what a wholly remarkable talent Douglas Adams was.