And Another Thing… is the continuation of the late Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s “Trilogy” except that it’s not written by Adams — being late and all. No, this installment is written by Eoin Colfer, who was approached to write the sixth in the series for two reasons:
- Few (if any) liked the ending to Mostly Harmless.
- Adams said, “I suspect at some point in the future I will write a sixth Hitchhiker book. Five seems to be a wrong kind of number, six is a better kind of number.“
So Colfer was asked by Adams’ widow to write the next one. So he did.
If you’re reading this review, then you’re probably familiar with Adams and his Hitchhiker’s work. So the biggest question is, would an Adams’ fan enjoy this book?
In regards to concepts and humor, yes, an Adams’ fan would consider this in keeping with the universe (both literal and literary-al?). For instance, I found this Colfer joke to be very Adamsian:
“Folfangan slugs judge a number’s worth based on the artistic integrity of its shape… [so] supermarket receipts are beauteous ribbons, but their economy collapses at least once a week.”
But then, Colfer also does this:
“Tricia McMillan, or Trillian to use her cool spacey name.”
The only real problem is that Colfer seems trapped by his own fandom (I’ll get into that more in a bit). The novel does rein in the characters and tell a story that’s within the mythos Adams set up, but not much more than that. I stress that it’s within the mythos because it doesn’t build upon it — until the end, but I’ll get to that later.
Mostly Harmless left our heroes dead; vaporized and dead. So for the first trick, Colfer is going to bring them back. Colfer does this quite well.
They all live out their lives in a simulation due to the inter-dimensional Guide. It expands the few seconds they had left to live into a lifetime until it runs out of battery. Everyone lives as you would imagine and it feels in character and quite canonical. Trillian is (or rather becomes) a reporter who is battered and splitting at the seams from all that she’s done on-the-scene (covering wars and stuff); Ford Prefect is enjoying cocktail after cocktail after cocktail after…; Random has found a husband in a ferret-looking alien and is now President of the Galaxy; Arthur Dent found a beach where he can think of nothing but his long-lost Fenchurch.
Then, they realize that they’ve just lived out the last 50 (or however many) years in a simulation and they never escaped Earth. In fact, Colfer even references the audio book alternate ending in Mostly Harmless and promptly does away with it — a nice touch. Then, because the Vogons are not blowing up the planet, but the Grebulons are, it’s not destroyed instantaneously, it takes a laboriously long time (as far as planetary destruction goes). During which time, none other than Zaphod Beeblebrox hops onto the scene to save everyone, but then his ship can’t escape the beams and they’re saved by none other than… Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged — a cameo character from the second novel.
That’s about as much of the summary as I’ll give you because this is a good stopping point to further explain what I mean. Zaphod returned? Why? What does he have to gain from these people? And Wowbagger? He was a cameo; a character who dedicated his immortal life to insulting everyone in the Universe in alphabetical order (hence why Arthur Dent) got a visit. It is an impossible task that made for an excellent setup and subsequent payoff in the second novel, but that’s it. So why use him? The only reason I can think is because he was pre-established. He’s a throwback to fandom, and that’s why the novel isn’t great, because there are ounces of Adams, but throes of fan fiction.
On its own, the novel isn’t Adams enough to be Adams and it’s not Colfer enough to be original.
Each one of the HG2G added something, whether it was space travel, time travel, inter-dimensional travel, or even a self-contained love story. And Another Thing… is incredibly indicative of its title; it’s another thing. I can’t say this is bad as Colfer goes on to say, it’s the intent.
The origin of the title comes from Adams himself, although while each of Adams’ titles came from the first book, this quote comes from the fourth:
“…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.”
Fittingly, “twenty minutes after he’s lost the argument” may as well be “twenty years” after the last novel came out… well, shy a few years, but close to two decades later. The quote itself is by no means bad and it certainly provides an image for what this novel represents, but to fit with the pentology, you would think Colfer would embrace the continuation with more excitement and go with “Don’t Panic” right on the cover. I think, like any Adams’ fan, that’s what I would need to soothe my doubts and curb my expectations (plus, all the other book titles are from the first book).
The book then begins with a disclaimer that states that the original pentology is beautiful and what you are about to read is the appendix of the Hitchhiker’s Guide (you know, that part of the body that’s no longer necessary).
But the book is not bad. Despite my tone, potshots and nitpicks, it is not bad. It’s just that… well, I think the James Bond title “Quantum of Solace” sums it up best; it’s “a little bit of comfort.”
See despite what Colfer says, he does fall victim to the Adams legacy:
“The danger was finding myself unable to get out of my own head because I was too aware of the legacy” — (Interview with Wired).
So much of the novel is a callback that it feels like it’s trying to revive something that’s dead. I know, I know, for many people, they probably hadn’t picked up HG2G since 1992 — I get that — but I felt like Colfer should’ve taken it further; done something more. But rather than build on the mythos, it’s a safety sequel. It’s just enough to not disappoint, but not engage. And, I’ll be honest, that is part of the reason I find the novel to be a success; it’s just timid enough to not piss anybody off.
But the timidity is what I feel and being an avid Bukowski fan, I firmly believe in the words, “What a writer has to sell is confidence.”
This wouldn’t be so apparent, except that Colfer’s setup for the seventh installment is mouth-wateringly grand! I could not believe he vowed not to write another because I was actually excited.
The novel ends…
Instead, Zaphod goes off to run for reelection against a Headless Horseman-ish foe — a natural opponent given Zaphod’s two heads. Random is working her way up, in the real world, to become President of the Galaxy. Trillian and Wowbagger are romancing away. Ford is making new entries in the Guide and Arthur gets sucked through the universe onto a planet that’s about to be destroyed by Vogons (again). Between Random, Zaphod, and Arthur, you’ve got the makings of a Hitchhiker’s Opus, especially since it kinda seemed like the planet Arthur was on, was the planet the Ruler of the Universe lived on.
I know Colfer had to wrap up the last one, but this kind of setup is too good to go unused and is a testament of what could’ve happened.
Adams said he always struggled to reunite his characters (across the expanse of the universe) and it is hard because they all live very different lives. It’s why most of the novels feature the characters following their own journeys and only end up together at the very end. Colfer however, sidesteps that by uniting them in the beginning and then separating them, but the separation is so much more organic. Frankly, Zaphod should be running for reelection already and instead Colfer could’ve had the characters on Earth saved by Wowbagger (since they were anyway).
But alas, it was not to be. Instead we get a subplot of Zaphod and his misadventures with Thor (remember Thor? The cameo from the third novel?). And Zaphod is suddenly buddy-buddy with everyone and that’s why he’s trying to save the day, but Zaphod was never buddy-buddy with anyone (not even with his cousin); Zaphod is the most popular man in the universe; he is all about me, me, me.
But I digress. The humor is good, the concepts are good. The dialogue isn’t great, Zaphod gets shoehorned in, but all and all, I respect Colfer’s addition to the series and consider it canon.
However, Eoin Colfer did end his Wired interview with this…
“I do think someone should write another… I think it’d be interesting to see other Hitchhiker’s books from different authors — to see how different imaginations and different voices present that universe.”
Interestingly, Primitive Screwheads is all about multiple authors tackling a canonical story in turns (the basis of combo fiction). And the title, Don’t Panic, is still up for grabs…
R.I.P. Douglas Adams (1952 – 2001)
“…nowhere in the Universe is there a single gravestone that reads, He Loved Everything About His Life, Especially the Dying Bit at the End.”
PS. Okay, my one fan-boy complaint. There are 23 instances of the word (or some variation of) “Froody” in Colfer’s one novel whereas Adams — in the entire pentalogy — uses that word 7 times. C’mon man!
And Another Thing… (2009)
By: Eoin Colfer
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