Eoin Colfer – And Another Thing

When it was announced that a sixth book in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy[1] was to be written, I had severe misgivings. Well, actually, I thought it was the most mind-bogglingly bad idea since, err, the last very bad idea. Even the fact that the author selected and approved for the job was Eoin Colfer, whose Artemis Fowl books are rather good, didn’t inspire much confidence. I’ve got nothing against Eoin – he’s a good writer with a nicely warped imagination, but he’s no Douglas Adams. For a start, he keeps to deadlines, which is completely wrong.

But the book appeared. I didn’t get it in hardback, but when the paperback appeared recently, I cracked and bought it. And now I’ve read it. Well, I suppose I had to, really. Just like I had to go and see the  movie version.

And well. It sort of follows on from the last book in the series, with the usual suspects being reunited in suitably improbable ways, Vogons on the demolition path and lots of extracts from the Guide itself. Some minor characters from earlier books are given big parts. Marvin’s still dead, so he’s not in it. Zaphod’s still annoying. Arthur still wants some tea. And it’s a story with a beginning, a middle and a hanging ending that could lead to another book.

And while it’s not actually bad, it’s just not that good either, when compared to its predecessors. If it had been a stand-alone story about some other characters, I might well have liked it better, but as a follow-up to some of my favourite books, it doesn’t really work for me. Eoin didn’t attempt to imitate Doug’s style, and put in lots of his own touches, which in his regular books, I enjoy. They just don’t fit into Doug’s universe.

But it’s not all bad news. Apparently many of Eoin’s readers, having heard he was writing the sequel, made sure to read the five books of the actual trilogy first, and that is a Good Thing.

And reading this did inspire me to listen to the radio production of the Tertiary Phase of HHGTG, based on Life, the Universe and Everything, and featuring most of the cast from the original radio series. And that was quite wonderful.

Tip: read the original five books. Listen to the radio versions (available on CD and quite probably download). Watch the TV version, if only for the completely froody animations used for the Guide[2]. After all that, give this book a try. You might like it more than I did. I am notoriously curmudgeonly about such things.

Oh, and I have to include a token Pedant Point. It appears that editing is becoming a Lost Art, as a moderately egregious braino[3] managed to get past Eoin’s fingers, any editor that Penguin might have employed, and indeed anyone else who might have had some kind of control over the production of the book. If it had just been in the first edition, I’d have let it go, but for it to still be there for the paperback is somewhat annoying. A character is referred to as:

…as imagined by an ex-patriot Celt….

So, that’s a Celt who used to be proud of his country, is it? Not that “Celt” is a nationality, for that matter. Hint to Penguin editors: the word you’re looking for is expatriate. No hyphen required. Picky? Me? Yup. :yes:
[1] Yes, yes, I know
[2] Quite lovingly and insanely hand-drawn. And with details you need a fast finger on the pause button to appreciate.
[3] I don’t think it’s just a typo