Review: …And Another Thing

(Cross-posted at Seven Deadly Divas)

Okay, yes, I’m a couple of years late to this party.  But there’s a reason for it.

My junior high school had a fairly decent library up on the second floor.  I’m sure the passage of time has made its actual dimensions bigger in my head than they are in reality, but the selection of books was good.  While some of my classmates spent their study periods doing homework or writing notes to their friends, I spent mine with my nose in a book.  If I finished the one I brought from home, I knew I’d be able to find something in the stacks to entertain me.

Funny thing is, there’s only one book I can distinctly remember taking out from there.  I don’t remember how exactly I came across it — surely I didn’t go consciously seeking science fiction.  It wasn’t my thing at the time — I was already on my Stephen King kick by seventh grade, so if our library had sections devoted to genre, I surely would have been poking about the horror titles.  It’s possible everything was jammed together under “fiction.”  The more I think about it, the more likely it is that I just started at A and took down the first title that sounded interesting:

Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

I have a vague recollection of thinking I had an astronomy book in my hands, or some sort of fanciful travel guide to the Milky Way.  What I got was something altogether different — something that would stick with me nearly as strongly as The Stand. And here’s how it started (I bet some of you can even say it with me, can’t you?)

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

I picked up that first book and didn’t put it down. From there, I went immediately on to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, the Universe and Everything and So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. My parents read them, seeing how much I’d loved them.  When they first rocketed into the computer age and set up email addresses, they took theirs from the trilogy.  It gets quoted at summer barbecues (“Let’s meet the meat!”)  I think the only reason I got to read Mostly Harmless first when it was published was that I was the faster reader.

Adams had stated that there was, perhaps, another Hitchhiker’s book in the works, but he died suddenly in 2001, and the sixth book of the trilogy remained unwritten.

Several years later it was announced that Jane Belson, Adams’ widow, had chosen Eoin Colfer to write the final book.  I was familiar with Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books.  I’d sold them, and while I thought they were a fun YA series, I couldn’t see how he could possibly be a successor to Douglas Adams.

…And Another Thing was released in October of 2009.  I saw it on bookstore shelves.  I hemmed at it.  Hawed at it.  Picked it up and put it back down.  The Hitchhiker’s books are nearly as sacred to me as The Stand, and I suppose I was afraid that if Colfer didn’t do it right, it would taint my memory of the books that came before it.  Still, I stuck it on my wishlist at IndieBound. The curiosity was still there despite the worry.

This year, my dad drew my name in a Christmas grab.  The book was still on my wishlist.  And so, a few days after Christmas, the box o’books arrived, with Colfer’s book right on top.  Still I held off.  And off.  And off.  Until a couple of weeks ago, when we got slammed with a snowstorm that knocked out our electricity.  I curled up beneath a blanket and a cat as the temperature in our house dwindled downward… and cracked it open.

I loved it.

The book opens right after Mostly Harmless leaves off, and it feels like coming home — with Arthur maudlin and mourning, still in search of a decent cup of tea; Ford all too happy to pickle himself into oblivion; and Zaphod, who is just as froody as ever, though minus one of his heads.  The Vogons are still out to (really, this time, they mean it) destroy all traces of Earthlings.  Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged wants Zaphod’s help in getting the whole living forever thing over with already, which is a job for a god.  Specifically, a disgraced Asgarian ex-rockstar who isn’t too happy to see Zaphod on his doorstep.

Colfer weaves the plot threads together deftly, and breaks in with occasional asides from the Guide itself.  These were probably the only part of the book that occasionally missed the mark for me.  While the entries themselves were amusing, quite often the names within them are puns (a Betelgeusian car dealer named “Carmen Ghettim,” for example).  My guess is Colfer was going for a play on such things as the jynnan tonnix from the original, but after awhile, they get a little groan-worthy.

Partway through (once our electricity and internet came back), I went looking to see what Eoin Colfer had said about taking on such an ambitious project — was it daunting for him?  How did it feel continuing a series that’s so widely beloved?  I was at a panel at DragonCon a few years back, where a representative from Jim Henson Studios announced he’d been working on The Dark Crystal 2. Someone from the back of the audience yelled, “DON’T FUCK IT UP.”  I wondered how Eoin Colfer felt about the millions of Douglas Adams fans — myself included — aiming the same sentiment in his direction.

Then I came across his blog post on the subject.  Go read the whole thing.  It was exactly what I needed to hear, especially this:

My first reaction was semi-outrage that anyone should be allowed to tamper with this incredible series. But on reflection I realised that this is a wonderful opportunity to work with characters I have loved since childhood and give them something of my own voice while holding onto the spirit of Douglas Adams and not laying a single finger on his five books.

Colfer’s respect for the series shines throughout …And Another Thing. He nails the style and voice of the original books.  If you find yourself missing Ford, Arthur, Trillian and Zaphod, you won’t be disappointed at the continuation of their stories.

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