Book review: And Another Thing … by Eoin Colfer (Michael Joseph, 2009)
An Englishman’s continuing search through space and time for a decent cup of tea …
Arthur Dent’s accidental association with that wholly remarkable book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has not been entirely without incident.
Arthur has travelled the length, breadth and depth of known, and unknown, space. He has stumbled forwards and backwards through time. He has been blown up, reassembled, cruelly imprisoned, horribly released and colourfully insulted more than is strictly necessary. And, of course, he has comprehensively failed to grasp the meaning of life, the universe and everything.
Arthur has, though, finally made it home to Earth. But that does not mean he has escaped his fate.
For Arthur’s chances of getting his hands on a decent cuppa are evaporating along with the world’s oceans. Because no sooner has he arrived than he finds out that Earth is about to be blown up … again.
And Another Thing … by Eoin Colfer is the rather unexpected, but very welcome, sixth instalment of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. It features a pantheon of unemployed gods, everyone’s favourite renegade Galactic President, a lovestruck green alien, an irritating computer and at least one very large slab of cheese.
The title comes from a quote from Douglas Adams, namely:
The storm had now definitely abated, and what thunder there was now grumbled over more distant hills, like a man saying “and another thing” twenty minutes after admitting he’s lost the argument.
Which is rather apt. In 2001 the giant genius of a man known as Douglas Adams departed from this world. In 2009, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the first publication of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, part six of three was released. It’s written by Irish author Eoin Colfer, famous for the Artemis Fowl books for young adults, which I now have a hankerin’ to read.
The story begins with how the lives of the different Hitchhiker’s characters have panned out. Arthur Dent is happily making sandwiches in a beach hut, Ford Prefect is livin’ it large at a big leisure and pleasure resort, Trillian is flying around the universe being a famous reporter, and Random has become the President of the Galaxy. However, they soon realise that it’s all an illusion, created by the Guide Mark II. In fact, they’ve never left Stavro Mueller’s Beta restaurant, and the Earth is still under attack, but the bird-shaped book is running out of batteries, and can’t sustain the virtual reality any longer. Also, it’s not happy with the way things are working out.
Luckily, a most improbable thing happens – Zaphod Beeblebrox arrives with the Heart of Gold, whisking them all away to outer space, leaving the Earth to bubble away into space. They end up sharing a ride with Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged, who has started to find the whole buzzing around the galaxy insulting people not having the same appeal as it used to. In fact, he’d rather die. Good thing Zaphod knows a deity with a reputation management issue …
In an interesting similarity with Thor, Asgard is a planet here too. When I saw that movie earlier this month, having recently re-read this book, I couldn’t help but expect Heimdall to be wearing a ski mask and Thor to be brooding. The Rainbow Bridge reminded me of Zaphod trying to cross it while dodging dragons. In fact, I was wondering where Hel and her missiles were!
The big question anyone would ask about this book is naturally, “is it any good?” or “is it funny?” Yes, on both accounts. “Does it live up to the original trilogy in five parts?” Yes, I think it does. I enjoyed it the first time I read it (last year), and I enjoyed it even more now. It’s very funny, and it’s clever (the whole cheese cult on Nano is hilarious – “Appease the Cheese!”).
Even more importantly, “Can Eoin Colfer compare to the genius that is Douglas Adams?” and “Can he make it justice?” Yeah, kinda. Granted, it’s different. Eoin Colfer isn’t Douglas Adams, and I think the novel works best when he’s not trying to be Douglas Adams. Adams used Guide notes sparingly, and when he did, they were at least half a page long. Here, they’re common and normally just a short paragraph, and not as satirical somehow.
The way Adams could turn a phrase is legendary, and Colfer misses the point a bit with them. Adams rarely used phrases along the lines of “actually, that’s just what the *ians on planet X do”, but when he did it, it was remarkably clever. Here, they’re over-used and not as brilliant. You don’t read them and go “hah, that’s amazing!” but more “oh, another one” and well, it’s different.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very funny book, and I thoroughly enjoy it, and I will be reading it again. It’s a great way of continuing the story and I love how the characters are accurately portrayed. The plot is light-hearted and it references back to the original Hitchhiker’s books constantly. Colfer knows his Adams, clearly. He is also more skilled as a novelist – the prose flows freely as does the plot; it’s well-paced, well-structured and it fits in with the previous books. While Mostly Harmless was dark and depressing, this is much lighter. Where So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish didn’t really work, this one does.
Adams isn’t here to continue writing (or procrastinating, to be fair), but Colfer has taken the characters we’ve known and loved for over 30 years and made them his own, and I love it, I really do. The only thing I’m waiting for is for him to write another one, because I want more, damn it!
I’m sticking my neck out here, but 5 out of 5 cheeses.
2011 marks the 10th anniversary of the death of British comedian, author, genius, procrastinator and technology geek Douglas Adams, which I think is something worth commemorating and will therefore be posting several posts related to him and his works spread over the year.
Today we celebrate Towel Day, in his memory! It’s the day fans of Douglas Adams show their continued admiration by having a towel on display. Do you know where your towel is?