[SF Signal welcomes the return of guest reviewer Jason Sanford!]
REVIEW SUMMARY: A very good continuation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, although not equal to the first four books by Douglas Adams. But hey, that would have been asking the impossible (unless you’ve already done six impossible things this morning).
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Despite previously dying as every earth across the multiverse was destroyed, Arthur Dent and the Hitchhiker crew return for more hilarious fun, this time involving the Asgardian god Thor and an insulted Zaphod Beeblebrox, who’s determined to kill an immortal jerk who can’t be killed.
PROS: Way better than the last book in the series. Too many laugh out loud moments and brilliant turns of language to count, including the new catch phrase “Appease the Cheese.”
CONS: Lags a bit at the beginning and the end, although this seems to result from cleaning up the mess of a storyline left over from Mostly Harmless.
BOTTOM LINE: Fans of the Hitchhiker’s series will enjoy this book.
Be warned! Like an ancient god of wrath and bluster, the law is being laid down, and the law it this: There’s only one Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and I am its biggest fan!
I’ve read the books dozens of times. Listened to the radio shows. Seen the horrible starship crash of a movie. Now I await only the overpriced Broadway play and related coffee table book before I can disembark this mortal plane for a connecting flight to obsession.
So yes, when it comes to Douglas Adams’ classic series, I’m a bit biased. In my view, the first three books—comprising The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and Life, the Universe and Everything—can be counted among the literary classics of the 20th century (at least by anyone who remembers that novels should be fun to read). Their combination of wonderful satire, biting humor, great writing, and pitch-perfect characters are something rarely found in literature.
Don’t believe me? Then write my statement on a piece of paper, twine the paper around an electric drill bit, and insert revolving metal and paper into your skull until the truth penetrates your tiny brain. For especially dense individuals, repeat as necessary.
This isn’t to say all Adams’ books are equal. While the first three books in the series are great, the fourth book, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, doesn’t quite measure up, although it’s close and can be counted as near great. And Mostly Harmless, Adams’ final Hitchhiker book? Better to call it “Mostly Painful.”
No, Mostly Harmless isn’t a good book. The laughs are few and far between as Adams destroys each and every thing readers love about his series. And for good measure, he gifts us with the most irritating character of all in Random Dent, the eternally nasty teenager who simply refuses to rise above the cliché of herself. The novel reads like Adams’ constipated frak you to the world.
But despite this, at least Douglas wrapped up his series. Or so I thought.
Then came Eoin Colfer’s And Another Thing…, the sixth book in the Hitchhiker’s trilogy.
When I first heard about this book, I was appalled. You see, I’m not a fan of new authors writing in a dead author’s universe. It feels cheap. Like someone’s only in it for the money. And not in a Zaphod Beeblebrox “I’m cheap and only in it for the money but hey, I’m Zaphod Beeblebrox!” sort of way.
To express my disgust, I wrote the deceptively silly “Don’t Panic: 42 Reasons Not to Read the New Hitchhiker’s Book.” This was my way of stating I had no intention of spending my money on this affront to common literary decency.
But lucky for me, I’m also a cheap bastard. So when Colleen Lindsay offered to send me a free copy of the book if I’d look at it, I couldn’t say no.
And imagine my surprise. I actually laughed. I laughed a great deal. I laughed at brilliant turns of language which Douglas Adams would have greedily cribbed. I was once again at home with all my favorite characters as they stumbled through the destruction—Good God, how often must our planet die?—of earth. I even learned to like the character of Random Dent, which is something the great Douglas himself couldn’t force me to do.
This doesn’t mean the book is as good as the first four Hitchhiker novels, but that would have been an impossibly tall order. But And Another Thing… is a worthy continuation of the series, and is way better than Mostly Harmless. And to the long list of classic Hitchhiker catch phrases like “Don’t Panic!” and “Mostly Harmless,” Colfer contributes one of his own: “Appease the Cheese!”
We would all do well in life if we only appeased the cheese.
This is a very good novel. The only times Colfer falls flat are in the beginning—when he’s trying to clean up the mess Douglas left in Mostly Harmless —and in the dénouement starring Arthur Dent, where Colfer seems to be setting up the next sequel. But overall, anyone who enjoyed the original series will enjoy this book too.
So where does this leave us with regards to my Hitchhiker’s law? Well, in my view there is still only one Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And I guess I’m still its biggest fan. But more importantly for anyone reading this review, And Another Thing… isn’t such a bad thing to exist alongside the original series. When I need a laugh I’ll occasionally open the book and reread my favorite parts, just like I do with the first four books in the series.
Millennia from now, when our culture has sputtered into the great eternal night like only cultures eating a ton of beans can sputter, our literature will remain. Scholars will likely study our novels and books to understand the absurdities of our primitive ways of life. It is my hope that when this happens, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will be used to club said pretentious eggheads over and over until they are dead.
And if they turn out to be merely stunned, I’d recommend someone grabbing a copy of And Another Thing… to continue the beating.
There’s truly no higher praise one can give a novel.